One of the bigger link building hot topics is the impact that IBL (inbound links) originating from .edu locations can have on your link popularity and search rankings. Lost in the discussion is that the quality of IBL’s from within the .edu domain varies significantly.

Rather than making this concept more complex than it needs to be, let’s boil it down by example. A link from a student homepage or school paper web site isn’t as valuable as a link from a professor’s page, or better yet, the University library site. Why? because it’s easy for those who are into black hat stuff to buy links from students, wheras a librarian isn’t likely to be bought. Thus the content EARNED the link, and the source and citation can be trusted. Engines know this and will tweak algos until they get it right. I hope, anyway. Give me 10 library links instead of 100 student page links any day.

Likewise with .gov and others. Any TLD has crap, and any TLD has gold.

Another linking topic that gets folks excited is geographic IBL variety. This is another way of saying you need links from a bunch of countries. Not true. Links from around the world may not matter one IOTA for your particular site.

More fallacy regarding directory inclusion. I can say with complete certainty that the older the site the more useless those directory IBLs are. I rank 1st for all key terms and I’m in only two directories. Why do I rank? Simple. Because a). I never went after rank, and B). I stayed true to my content and expertise. That said, since I do rank high I can reverse analyze my links and learn why, but just because I can tell you doesn’t mean you can get those links. You have to earn them via meritorious content.

For a newer site, the game changes. The new site’s IBL profile or “link transcript” or “link signature” needs to slowly percolate towards becoming something that looks natural and trustworthy. I see evidence every day that the links that help me rank 1st will not help every site site rank 1st.

So what works for one site WILL NOT work for every site, which is why it’s such a challenge to create software/tools that can analyze links with any degree of confidence. In the end, a human still has to make some very tricky decisions about whether or not ANY link is worth pursuing. The answer will be different for every site, and thus the potential link target sites need to be different as well.


Eric’s Note: I included the updated version of the above article as it appears people are as in love with .edu based link targets today as they were many years ago. I base this on several inquiries I received, the last one of which I have included below.

Dear Mr. Ward,
We are a manufacturer and seller of high end playgound equipment designed for municipalities. Our site is http://xxxxxxxx. We would be very interested in a quote from you for the following
– obtaining 100 .edu based inbound links

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  1. says

    You wrote that the potential gain of submitting to directories becomes less as the site gets older. What about a site that was registered and has had consistent content since 2000 but contained all or most of its content within Flash?

    If that site is rebuilt to be more seo friendly would submitting to directories possibly help it even though it does have a well established URL? Is there any downside other than the time/cost to submitting to directories? Is it true that if I submit my site to 500 directories Google might see that as an attempt to simply improve search results and then penalize my site?

  2. says

    At some point we all grew bored with trying to attract links and just focused on writing about what interests us. The funny thing is that as our Technorati ranking has dropped our readership has continued to grow. We have far more readers (and hopefully influence) now than we did when we had a higher Technorati ranking.
    john edwin
    Link Building