Is Scholarship Link-Building Still Relevant in 2024?

Aaron Marco Arias
Last edited on Jun 21, 2024

Scholarship Link-Building is a strategy used by some website owners and SEO professionals to improve their website's search engine rankings. The process involves creating and offering scholarships to students or educational institutions and reaching out to universities, colleges, schools, and scholarship directories to promote these opportunities.

The main goal of this strategy is to obtain a backlink from a .edu domain, to improve a website’s organic search visibility. 

All in all, it sounds like a good strategy to apply and improve the metrics. After all, .edu domains are really well regarded by Google and other search engines. It’s a reliable source of traffic to domains pertinent to education and related topics. However, as you may have inferred through the title of this article, it might not be the case anymore.

Let’s dive in and find out why.

How Does Scholarship Link-Building Work?

As stated before, Scholarship link-building consists of creating a scholarship website page within the actual website you want to position. The goal is to have this page linked to educational institutions website’s to increase the domain rating of the home site. It has proved to be an effective way of improving the domain rating of a given site… when done ethically. This means, involving a real scholarship for the development of a community. In other words, the home website business should act as the sponsor for an actual scholarship.

We can break the process down into 5 steps:

  1. Creating a scholarship program
  2. Promoting it
  3. Reaching out to educational institutions
  4. Attracting backlinks
  5. Gaining authority and visibility

Create a scholarship program

The process starts with creating a scholarship program that supports education. The scholarship should have clear eligibility criteria, application requirements, and a fair selection process.

Promote the scholarship

Once the scholarship is established, it needs to be promoted to the target audience. This includes students, educational institutions, and scholarship directories. Promotion can be done through the sponsoring website, outreach emails, social media, and other marketing channels. As you can guess, all these promotion efforts can turn into a whole marketing and PR strategy on its own. 

Reach out to educational institutions

To attract backlinks, the scholarship website owner or SEO professional reaches out to universities, colleges, schools, and other educational websites, to inform them about the scholarship opportunity. The goal is to encourage these institutions to feature the scholarship on their websites and link back to its website for more information.

Attract backlinks

Educational institutions that find the scholarship valuable and relevant may choose to feature it on their scholarship pages or other relevant sections of their websites. These pages will usually include a link back to the scholarship website, providing the desired backlink.

Gain authority and visibility

As more reputable educational websites link to the Scholarship website, its authority and trustworthiness in the eyes of search engines will improve. This can positively impact the home website's search engine rankings and visibility, potentially leading to increased traffic.

Even though this is the ideal way of pursuing Scholarship link-building, it’s not always how it's been done: there have been many cases of misuse. For instance, setting up sites for scholarships that simply didn’t exist, or link-spamming forums of educational institutes. This abuse led Google to penalize Scholarship Link-Building around 2015, labeling it as a manipulative practice. Later on, in 2021, it was labeled as a Link Scheme. 

Having said all that, you may be wondering: What’s the effectiveness of Scholarship Link-Building nowadays?

Is Scholarship Link-Building Still Worth it? 

The short answer would be a resounding no. But if you take a closer look at the subject, “it depends”.

Why? Because of the fact that Scholarship link-building can have a bigger impact than just positioning your website on the SERPs when applied morally. Doing an honest campaign, with a true scholarship in the mix, and looking forward to building a better community through it, can result in other benefits.

Those other benefits are related to the PR and marketing. Launching a successful scholarship can boost immensely the reputation of a business or institution. It’s also a great way to reach other marketing channels like news sites, social media, and word of mouth. And, naturally, that can bring much more organic traffic to that business site than an old fashion (ill intentioned) Scholarship Link-building strategy.

Of course, you have many topics to consider before adopting a Scholarship Link-Building strategy. For example:

  • If the scholarship you are offering is related to your industry
  • If colleges and schools in your area are accepting scholarships (because these institutions have become acutely aware of this practice and started to avoid those who foster it)
  • If the backlinks that you will receive are useful to the users of your site.

But all in all, it comes down to the pros and cons of the strategy at large.

4 Pros of Scholarship Link-Building
Some of the pros of the strategy are the following:

High-quality backlinks

If executed properly, scholarship link-building can lead to high-quality backlinks from reputable educational institutions. These backlinks can positively impact a website's authority and search engine rankings.

Increased website traffic

As the scholarship is promoted by various educational websites, it can attract relevant traffic to the Scholarship website. This can lead to increased brand visibility and potential conversions.

Positive brand image

Offering scholarships reflects positively on the sponsoring brand or website. It demonstrates a commitment to supporting education and can help build a positive brand image among students and the academic community.

Long-term value

High-quality backlinks from scholarship link-building can have lasting benefits. Unlike some other link-building strategies, these links are less likely to be taken down or become irrelevant over time.

5 Cons of Scholarship Link-Building

Some of the cons of the strategy are the following:

Ethical Concerns

You could argue that scholarship link-building is manipulative since their  primary purpose is to obtain backlinks rather than genuinely supporting education. This raises ethical questions about the practice.

Cost and Effort

When done correctly, creating and promoting a scholarship program can be resource-intensive. It involves expenses for the scholarship itself, outreach efforts, and time spent on vetting applicants and institutions.

Link Quality Variability

While some institutions may genuinely appreciate the scholarship opportunity and link back, others may do it solely for the link-building aspect. This can lead to links from websites with low relevance or authority, which sabotages the link-building effort itself.

Google's Guidelines

Scholarship link-building practices have caught the attention of search engines like Google. In the past, Google has penalized websites engaged in manipulative scholarship link schemes. This can result in lower rankings or even deindexing.

Competitive Landscape

As scholarship Link-Building gained popularity, it became more competitive, making it harder for smaller websites or those with limited resources to stand out and attract valuable backlinks.

Now, we must be honest and face the facts: Scholarship Link-Building is an outdated practice. And it shows when you look at its results and the way search engines penalize it.

5 Reasons Why Scholarship Link-Building is an outdated practice

If you still want to try Scholarship link-building, you should be aware of why the SEO community has labeled it as an outdated and risky practice.

The reasons are the following:

Google's Algorithm Updates

Over the years, Google has continually refined its algorithms to provide users with better search results and combat manipulative link-building techniques. The search engine giant has become more adept at recognizing and penalizing websites engaged in link schemes, including scholarship link-building.

Link Quality vs. Quantity

In the past, link building was often focused on obtaining as many backlinks as possible, regardless of their quality. However, Google's algorithm updates have shifted the emphasis toward the quality of links. Obtaining links from reputable, relevant, and authoritative sources is now more important than sheer quantity.

Risk of Penalties

Google's guidelines strictly prohibit manipulative link-building practices. Scholarship link-building, when conducted with the primary intention of obtaining links rather than genuinely supporting education, can be seen as a violation of these guidelines. 

Evolving SEO Strategies

As the field of SEO evolves, more effective and sustainable strategies have emerged. SEO professionals now focus on creating valuable content, building relationships, and earning organic backlinks through authoritative content marketing, guest posting, and social media outreach.

Changing Perceptions

Scholarship link-building has been widely discussed and debated in the SEO community, and its perception has shifted over time. Many see it as a dated and ineffective tactic, and some even consider it an unethical attempt to manipulate search rankings.

So Is Scholarship Link-Building Worth It In 2024?

Scholarship Link-Building used to be a surefire way of improving metrics and getting high domain authority, but not anymore. The vast majority of the SEO community has moved away from these practices and has adopted more natural link-building strategies, aiming to improve not only the quality of the backlinks received but also the quality of the content produced to get said backlinks. 

However, there is still room for Scholarship Link-Building in today's landscape. It has been proved that, when done right, and for the right reasons, it can boost the image of a business in ways not even considered before. Still, its main impact won’t be on the SEO aspect of it but the PR.

Many agencies claim they can still produce up to 6% of ROI from Scholarship Link-Building. However, even though it’s possible to get those numbers, we believe it is a highly risky strategy to embark nowadays. 

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