We’ve all heard of the age-old link building advice of getting links from as many high-quality and authority sites as possible, like .gov and .edu backlinks.
However, is there any real backing to it now?
While it’s true that many .gov and .edu sites tend to rank very well, it’s not solely because of the .gov or .edu part of the domain.
People seem to think that .gov and .edu backlinks have some sort of hidden powers that can instantly launch you to the highly coveted number 1 spot on the search engine result pages.
We wish we could tell you that was true, but it’s not — at least not entirely, since the whole “high-quality and authority” part that we mentioned in the first paragraph still matters a lot.
Keep reading to learn more about these backlinks.
Are .gov and .edu Backlinks Valuable?
While it may have seemed far-fetched for universities and government organizations to enter the blogosphere some decades ago, believe it or not, things have changed.
The .gov and .edu backlinks are links to your site from websites with the Edu or Gov top-level domains (TLD) at the end of the URL.
We’ve heard stories of sites that gained a .edu backlink, and their ranking began to soar, and there is truth to this.
➤ A .edu or a .gov backlink can and will make your ranking go up. However, you can rest assured that it’s not because of the domain.
Google doesn’t give preference to .gov or .edu domains over a .com or .net, for example.
So, where does the extra SEO power these sites seem to have come from?
How .gov and .edu affect Google ranking requirements
It all becomes clear when you take a critical look at the matter.
We know for a fact that Google aims to reward high-quality and authoritative sites.
They have a ton of metrics they use to assess these things. The .gov and .edu sites tend to hold value mainly because of their high authority and quality.
The government and universities have been uploading useful information online for as long as they’ve been on the scene.
Simply put, they meet Google’s ranking requirements much better.
On very specific topics, it’s quite hard to get more authoritative than the government.
When it comes to things like forms and taxes, .gov domains are the go-to places for getting official information.
Despite the widespread assumption that Google gives more weight to the .gov and .edu top-level domain names, the fact is that college and government sites are very good at providing value, which is Google’s overarching aim and the reason for all the ranking algorithms.
These sites create unique, valuable and well-edited content, and they’re usually well-coded.
What’s more, they don’t have to do much link building.
They automatically get lots of backlinks whenever they publish useful information, which further adds to their value.
What Makes .gov and .edu Links so Unique
One of the reasons why many attribute a special power to the .gov and .edu sites lies in the process of registering these domains.
We can’t simply go to our local domain registrar and request for our very own .gov name.
We’d need to provide a lot of paperwork to prove that we’re a legitimate government organization.
It’s not any different for .edu domains. We’d still be required to show our legitimacy as an educational institution to qualify for such a domain.
Let’s just say that it’s the internet’s way of preserving the authority and trust people have in these domains.
After all, we all turn to the .gov and .edu sites for precise information and essential purposes.
Just think about the drastic consequences it would cause if the information on those sites were incorrect, spammy or outright scams.
Google wants to rank valuable content regardless of the domain extension, and it recognizes that these .gov and .edu sites can provide that value to their users.
Actually, they don’t have a choice not to.
However, the bottom line is that you could get the same link juice from a .com or .net site with just as high authority.
Are .edu and .gov Websites Overrated?
Despite all the fuss about .edu and .gov backlinks, they may not be as valuable as they once were.
The black hat SEO industry tries to finds its way around including followed links on these .gov and .edu domains, with or without the domain knowing about it.
It’s also possible for a link in the comment section to be followed, giving you all that link juice — until it’s discovered at least.
While a link in the site’s main content would be ideal, it’s not always possible. Hence, the reason people resort to various backdoor tricks.
Here’s where things start to get interesting, though.
Because of this increasing association with link spamming tactics, it’s entirely possible that Google begins to lessen the impact of links from these domains.
In fact, Google’s John Mueller once tweeted: “Because of the misconception surrounding how Google treats .edu links, these sites receive a significant amount of link-spamming”.
He further highlighted that Google ignores a ton of the links on those sites as a result.
Of course, the government and educational sites are unlikely to be penalized themselves. However, the sites that attempt to force in their links will be.
Is It Still Important To Get .gov and .edu Backlinks?
When it comes to authority and content, it’s hard to compete with the government or a university.
They’re right at the top of the ladder (mostly).
However, it would be a terrible mistake to rule out the .coms and .nets.
Some of these sites are able to provide highly relevant content, and as such, are highly authoritative.
Though they won’t be able to compete in content like a common form, for example, they can definitely hold their ground when it comes to blog articles.
That said, we’d rather focus our efforts on making sure we’re uploading content that our audience is searching for, matching their search intent and providing them value.
Where does that leave my link building strategy?
On the link building front, we’d first make sure we’re not limiting our chances by focusing on the limited available .gov and .edu links.
In fact, we wouldn’t even worry about the top-level domain of the sites we’re targeting.
Instead, we’d channel that effort into searching for high-authority links that can have a much better effect.
After all, there are as many .com sites with just as high authority out there. Plus, it’s much easier to get a backlink from them.
One thing we’ll not do is try using black hat methods to shove unnatural backlinks into authoritative sites.
We won’t be using unmoderated comments either.
We’d instead focus our link building efforts on authority sites in the same niche as ours, be they .coms, .nets, .orgs or even the .govs and .edus.
Again, the value is in the authority and relevance, not the domain name.
We’d also focus on earning our links.
Google frowns upon and likes to penalize sites that pay for links.
We wouldn’t want all our efforts to go to waste a few months or years down the line. Believe us when we say that it’s not worth it.
Wrap Up: Are .gov or .edu Backlinks Crucial For Your Site?
Will a .gov or .edu backlink help your site? No doubt.
Are they easy to get? Not at all.
Can other top-level domains provide just as relevant easier-to-get backlink juice? You bet.
You’d probably need to spend more resources and use worse tactics to get those .gov and .edu backlinks than you would a link from a similarly-ranked .com site.
Remember that Google is not showing any favoritism to these sites. It only places heavy restrictions and stringent requirements on them to preserve their authority.
The owners of these .gov and .edu sites are responsible for providing quality and value to their visitors.
So, at the end of the day, all the fuss about focusing on these specific top-level domains is overstretched at best.
And if you are looking for a smart way to get those precious backlinks, read our blog post on how interactive content can help!