Kellogg’s Cereal has space-themed nutrition lessons in downloadable PDF files. Orkin Pest Control has a virtual insect designed to offer an alternative to classroom dissection. Ben and Jerry’s has interactive games about the environment. Big companies have, for years, been putting educational materials online and getting benefits in the form of coveted .edu links and serendipitous traffic.
Smaller sites can do the same. They usually don’t, but the benefits can be significant. High-quality sites that would never link to your commercial website’s homepage will link to your educational page. You can also list your educational page in high-value places like Google groups for educators or Teacher’s Sourcebook – as long as you’ve got actual educational materials.
The first step is to identify the teachable aspect of what you do. Sometimes it’s obvious: a solar energy company can have lessons on solar energy and a pet store can have lessons on pet care. Sometimes, though, you have to think outside the box.
We made an environmental education lesson for an electronic payment company, because paying your bills electronically saves paper.
For a web firm, we went with a classroom technology lesson plan. A rock band with a song about snow got a lesson on the science and math of snowflakes. Chances are good that there is something about your business that hooks up with what gets taught in schools.
One place to look for that connection is in the McREL  database. The Mid-Continent Regional Educational Laboratory has a collection of classroom standards that is used nationwide, and you can search the database with your keywords and see what comes up. Once you find the point of connection, you’ll have the right terminology for your educational materials (for example, a jeweler should write about gemstones, not jewels) and the right to say that your materials are “standards-based.”
Make the effort to match your materials to the format teachers are used to, and you’ll look like an insider – a plus when you request links. The example below shows the standard format: objectives (get those from McREL), materials, and procedures.
Go easy on the commercial connections; your educational materials should have their own page and your company should be listed as the “sponsor” or have a logo on the page, not anything obviously sales-oriented.
If possible, have someone try the lesson out with some actual kids. If the lesson really works, you’ll have the benefit of the teacher community’s habit of sharing. You know how fast a virus goes through schools? It’s the same with a viral web page. We had 25,000 visits at our Bunsen Burner Day lesson plan on March 30th and 31st this year – far more than the site normally sees.
Then it’s time to request links. Use the keyword for your educational materials page plus terms like “lesson plan,” “worksheet,” and “classroom theme” to identify the sites to ask for links. “We believe that our lesson on gemstones will be of value to the educators who visit your site,” you can say. Give a snippet of code with anchor text that includes your preferred keyword or even the name of your company for the sake of citations.
Don’t skip home school sites, either. These are frequented by parents, and can sometimes offer you a more varied audience than sites that caters to teachers. Traffic isn’t the main goal for this strategy – you really want those high-value links – but you never know who might want to buy what you’re selling.
This is a guest post by Rebecca Haden, the owner of Haden Interactive , a content-focused web firm serving clients on four continents. She has been writing for the web since the 20th century, and has been an SEO copywriter since 2007. Rebecca's degrees are in linguistics: B.A. from the University of California San Diego and M.A. from San Diego State University. She lives in Fayetteville, AR, with her husband, kids, and dogs. She also operates an educational site, FreshPlans , and teaches college writing classes in her spare time.