Why .Gov and .Edu Backlinks Are a Worthless SEO Fad

SEOBlog Why .Gov and .Edu Backlinks Are a Worthless SEO Fad

Conventional linkbuilding wisdom holds that you should, if at all possible, try to get backlinks from as many .edu and .gov sites as possible. People attribute these domains with an almost mythical power, claiming that a .edu site backlink can be worth as much as ten .com backlinks. A string of links from a reputable .gov site is like the holy grail for a business, a golden ticket to the glory of the #1 result spot.

This is all bunk. It’s all a terrible lie based on half-understood truths.

The Value of .Edu and .Gov

Nonsense, they cry! Webmasters everywhere will tell stories of their sites, or the sites of people they know, who gained a .edu backlink and watched their ranking soar. It’s true, of course. It’s a measurable phenomenon that a .edu or a .gov backlink can and will make your ranking rise.

Why, though, does your ranking rise when you receive one of these links? It’s not because of the domain, that’s for sure. Matt Cutts has said it, and others will confirm, Google doesn’t treat .gov or .edu domains any differently than it does a .com, .net or .org. There must be some factor about these links that gives them extra power for SEO. Otherwise sites wouldn’t value them so highly.

Thankfully, it all becomes clear when you take a moment to investigate the matter with a critical eye. The value of these links comes from something, but it’s not the domain. What is it?

The Value of Value

The answer lies in the process of registering a .gov or .edu domain. You can’t just go to your local domain registrar and ask for your very own .gov. You need to provide a mess of paperwork proving that you’re a legitimate government organization. The same goes for .edu domains; you need to be a legitimate educational institution to qualify for a .edu domain. It’s the Internet’s way of preserving the authority of these domains, and their trust. Users turn to .gov and .edu sites for very specific, very important purposes. If the information found on those sites is incorrect, spammy or leads to scams, it can very easily bankrupt a family or lead to drastic consequences.

Therein lies the key to the puzzle. The link juice from a .gov or a .edu site is powerful because that site is a trusted authority. That site is recognized to provide value to its users; in fact it must, or face stiff consequences. Google recognizes that these sites provide value, regardless of their domain extension. You could, in the right situation, get the same link juice from a .info or .biz site.

In fact, your goal should not necessarily be to get backlinks from a .gov or .edu site; it should be to get backlinks from highly rated, authoritative sites. If the sites in your niche happen to relate to .gov and .edu sites, that’s fine. Go for those links. If you’re unrelated, and getting those backlinks involves posting in guestbooks and sneaking your link in unmonitored forums, you’re probably trying too hard.

Why .Edu and .Gov are Overrated


There’s another reason that .edu and .gov links are overrated. A small but notable black hat industry has risen around finding ways to include your followed link on these domains, with or without the domain really knowing about it. A link in the comments that happens to be followed may give you the juice, until it’s discovered. A link in the actual content of the site would be ideal, of course, but it’s not always possible.

It’s entirely possible, however, that Google will begin to lessen the impact of links from these domains, for exactly that reason. The domain links are so sought-after that they begin to gain an association with spam tactics. The government and educational sites themselves will not likely be penalized, but the sites that try to force their links in very well may be.

What You Should Really Do

Chances are you’re spending too much time focusing on the narrow availability of .gov and .edu site links. The same amount of effort, refocused on searching for high authority links instead, can have a much better effect. Here are a few tips.

  • Stop worrying about the top-level domain of the sites you’re targeting. There are just as many .com sites with high authority out there, and many of them are much easier to get a backlink from.
  • • Don’t try to shove an unnatural backlink into an authoritative site, particularly if you’re using unmoderated comments or other older techniques. One of the primary targets of the Penguin update series is unnatural links, and you don’t want your effort to go to waste.
  • • Target sites in your niche for backlinks. If they’re .edu or .gov sites, fine! Relevant sites that include links to your content are valuable. It’s always good for your site when an authority, be they government, educational or commercial, links to your site. The keys are the authority and the relevance, not the domain.
  • • Earn your links, don’t buy them. Paying for links is something that Google likes to penalize. You may be able to get away with it for a few months, maybe even years, but sooner or later it will catch up with you.

Remember, Google is not showing any sort of favoritism to .edu and .gov sites. It’s simply a matter of the heavy restrictions on those sites, and the requirements they follow to remain authorities. The entities that run these sites – governmental organizations and educational institutions – have a responsibility to provide quality and value to their visitors. The welfare of their visitors depends on it moreso than with business sites, as businesses only need to worry about their own bottom line.

Will a .gov or .edu backlink help your site? Yes, almost definitely. Will that link be easy to get? Probably not. Chances are good that you’ll need to spend more effort and use worse tactics to gain those links than you would getting a link from a similarly-ranked .com site. The fad of focusing on these specific top-level domains is a distraction at best.


  1. Eric, thank you for your explanation on this. I was being told gov and edu links are the best links you can get and I should buy some, but I’m learning that they’re practically useless unless they’re organic and contextual.

  2. what a difficult task promoting a website,first index it in google,create a sitemap,rich snippets,backlinks,meta tags….my god it never ends

  3. Thank you Eric! I was browsing over to learn more about back-links and how we should do this in the right way. I never trusted paid links. Google is much smarter than what we think. I guess the best way is to build one by one on our own starting with high authority sites.

  4. Hay Thank you Eric for the nice post. I was struggling to the backlinks from .gov and .edu websites but after reading your post that it is not worthless if it is not from your niche. Thanks you!

  5. Looks like i just got on the right post about .edu .gov links. I knew that relevant websites, blogs and est. are the best links. I’ looking for every possible link building strategy for my carpet cleaning company in New Orleans and i don’t see how i can use edu and gov link that easy. I guess i’ll stick to business related sources. This is a great post about that.

  6. Where i will get the list of Edu and Gov ?

  7. Very interesting. Before reading I search only for backlinks from .edu and .gov sites. Now i understand what the process involve. I will have to focus on getting backlinks from top quality niche sites irrespective of .edu or .gov site. Thanks for clarifying concept behind .edu or .gov backlinks

  8. On majority of the blogs I noticed, people leave comments just for the sake of getting backlinks, how it is helpful for other, on a closer look and after reading so many articles there is no solid evidence about SEO, it is more prone to trial and error, what an absolute money making scam created by google

  9. Where I will get .edu and .gov links for education websites

  10. That’s right! People usually pay for such links and end up paying a huge amount and they have no guarantee if that link would end long. You can easily get good links from other .com domains by guest posting too. People should concentrate more on contextual and relevant backlinks than .edu which is nothing as compared to relevant links.

  11. Thank you for the information Eric. I’ve been trying to get backlinks for my commercial cleaning company but it’s not the only thing that goes into play when trying to optimize a site. It is hard work out there.

  12. So what u say is, Gov and Edu backlink is Overrated now?, thanks for your article Eric, i spend many time foccusing to have backlink gov or edu, and that consuming my time, to make another Backlink. Thanks for the artilce Regards Mugianto

  13. Thanks Eric, For this nice post, From last 2 days i am thinking and searching about how i can make edu backlinks but after reading this article you changed my mind. thank you

  14. good info

  15. Thanks alot Eric

  16. Thanks Eric Sornoso for sharing this informative post! Its really helpful that our sites have .edu and .gov backlinks which coming from government organization & educational institutions. They have high authority in eyes of Google. So thank again for this post.

  17. Thanks for sharing such a nice Informative post it is a really helpful for us

  18. Agreed, most of the websites don’t have edu & gov backlinks And its not that easy to generate those

  19. How many backlinks do you have to get for a new site to start to see google begin to rank it? Also, what is the time frame should I expect before I see some real results?

  20. I heard today that Google was going to change their ranking algorithms starting in 2018. Do you think it will effect old back links that are building rankings to an established site?

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