In one of the most recent posts on Search Engine Journal, one author claims that a marketing agency was recently hit with a manual link penalty for using scholarships as a way to build links for SEO. However, are scholarships as a link building tactic outdated and frowned upon by Google?
Let’s find out.
What we know so far
In the case discussed at Search Engine Journal, the website that got a manual penalty from Google used a variety of different link building tactics. Besides scholarships and guest posting, they also purchased links from other websites. As the author himself states, it is likely that the website had a number of shady, unnatural links built and that the scholarship ones were taken as examples only.
Are scholarships safe for link building?
Absolutely. They have been used for link building purposes for over a decade now and it is one of the more legitimate ways to build links. The problem is, even though the intention is good, there are companies that abuse this link building approach and overuse it to the point where Google starts ignoring those links.
The problem that many business owners don’t realize is that every website has a backlink portfolio, consisting of all the links pointing to it. The portfolio should include:
- Dofollow links
- Nofollow links
- Social media links
- Links from aggregator websites
- And of course, links from .edu websites, among others
When a website has an abnormal ratio of these backlinks, Google immediately flags this as unnatural and takes a deeper look. Unless you have a proper educational institution or you work in that industry, a large number of .edu links will tell Google that you are running some type of link building scheme, which they do frown upon.
How it works
If you publish a scholarship, you can promote it on a variety of websites and it will eventually be picked up by universities, cities, counties, and other government websites. Once they publish a link to your scholarship, you get an inbound link to your website, which improves your online presence and has a positive effect on your SEO.
This is the case largely because of the quality of links – in the eyes of search engines, .edu and .gov links have more weight to them than the regular .com or some other top-level domain. This is the main reason why so many businesses and agencies launch scholarships. Their main goal is not to help students in need – they primarily want to build links to their websites.
What can I do if I want to build links with scholarships?
The first thing to do is keep in mind that your link building efforts should be natural and that you shouldn’t run 10 scholarships at once. The best practice we have at ScholarshipApp and ScholarshipOwl is to have scholarships that are annual or take place twice per year or so. Anything more than that will do more harm than good.
If you are willing to give out more money to students in need, my recommendation is to give more awards at once to multiple students instead of running multiple scholarships per year. That way, you’ll still help many students while not looking suspicious to search engines for manipulating the algorithm.
And the most important thing
While building links with scholarships is a commonly used tactic, start from the right place. Your main aim should be to help a student in need, rather than get someone to link to your website. Once you start from that perspective, you’ll be doing scholarships for the sake of helping others, rather than building PR buzz around your name.
And if you’re looking for a great way to launch a scholarship, you can try ScholarshipApp for free! All of the tools you need to start a successful scholarship are there in one place, so you can get started in 15 minutes. Sign up today for free!