Are Backlinks From .edu Domains a Google Ranking Factor?

By Jonathan Griffin. Editor, SEO Consultant, & Developer.

· 4 min read

This article discusses whether backlinks from .edu domains offer ranking benefits over other links.

In other words, is a backlink from a .edu domain a ranking factor?

What are .edu Domains?

A .edu domain is one of the original seven generic top-level domains. It is short for “education”, and was created specifically for US educational and academic institutions.

The United States Department of Commerce is the primary authority for the .edu domain. EDUCAUSE has undertaken day-to-day management of the domain since 2001.

EDUCAUSE is a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education through the use of information technology.

Notice

You can find the eligibility requirements for a .edu domain and how to apply in the FAQs at the end of this article.

Why are .edu Domains Highly Sought After?

Google’s goal is to reward high-quality sites. Google uses a number of signals to determine this, including the number of high-quality sites that link to those sites.

Because some educational institutions have been around for a long time, those institutions tend to publish quality content, attracting more links from other sites.

For this reason, .edu sites tend to be highly authoritative on the subjects they cover, and as such, any links they make to other sites tend to convey significant PageRank.

As such, many SEO’s will try to obtain links from .edu or other governmental sites.

EDUCAUSE only took over the management of the .edu domain in 2001. Despite strict eligibility requirements, there are still many domains registered before 2001 that are not subject to these requirements. It is these domains that are most abused.

This is not to say .edu granted since 2001 are always high-quality. Many contain directories, forums, commenting systems, student pages, or other places that spammers can target.

Let’s take a look at what the Googlers \ Experts had to say:

Google’s John Mueller said in September 2018 that it is a “misconception that .edu links are more valuable”.

Mueller continued, “these sites get link-spammed quite a bit, and because of that, we ignore a ton of the links on those sites. Ideally, they should just nofollow all of those links instead of us having to ignore them.”

In January 2010, Matt Cutts was asked about how Google rates links from Twitter and Facebook.

In his reply, Cutts stated that “links don’t really matter whether they come from a .gov or an .edu.” Cutts made the point that they treat all links the same by looking at “how reputable those links are”, not where they come from.

In essence, PageRank is what matters.

You can view the whole conversation on Youtube below:

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible to buy an .edu domain?

To obtain a .edu domain, the purchaser must meet stringent eligibility requirements.

Institutional Eligibility:

  • They must be US-based post-secondary institutions
  • They must have institutional accreditation from a body recognized by the US Department of education
  • Your institution must be freestanding in its own right, not a program, branch campus, or part of an institution.
  • Only one .edu domain is allowed per institution.

System / District Office Eligibility

  • They must be a University system office, state coordinating office or board, community college district office, or equivalent entity in the US that manages or governs accredited institutions.

Association / Consortium Eligibility

  • Nonprofit entities are eligible to register a .edu domain if at least 75 percent of their members are themselves eligible for their own .edu domain.

Domain Name Choice

  • The domain name must reasonably represent the name of the registrant institution or organization.
  • Generic names are not permitted.
Notice

Any .edu domain in existence before EDUCAUSE took over management in 2001 is not subject to the eligibility requirements. This is subject to the registrant renewing their domain and following domain policy (such as not transferring the domain to another entity).

How do you apply for an .edu domain?

EDUCAUSE administers the .edu domain. If eligible, you can apply here.

Before the domain is issued, you will be required to complete the .edu Customer Service Agreement and agree to the domain policy in the .edu Cooperative Agreement.

The cost of an .edu domain is currently $77.