The Ark of the Covenant of Backlinks: .mil & .int

Backlinks from quality websites are great. If you’re here, you know that backlinks from .gov and .edu websites are some of the best you can get. Of course, it’s probably a myth that these top-level domains (TLDs) have any inherent special value, but regardless, you still know they’re authoritative. They’re given out by committees and used to seed trust databases and carry a lot of weight no matter what.

Hey, any asshole can buy a .com or a .org – it takes an asshole with government approval to get a .gov or a .edu.

Backlinks from these sites can be very hard for the average site to acquire. That’s why link builders refer to them as “the Holy Grail of Backlinks“.

Of the eight core TLDs, there are two others that are just as valuable – if not even moreso – that I almost never hear anyone else talking about. I’d like to introduce them to you today. Say hello to the .mil and .int domains! Since “Holy Grail” is taken, it’s obvious that these two TLDs should be referred to as “the Ark of the Covenant of Backlinks.” Sorry, but this is beyond debate.

A backlink from God.

A backlink from God.

(In case you’re wondering, the eight core TLDs are .edu, .gov, .mil, .int, .us, .com, .net, and .org. All of them were laid out in 1984 besides .int, which we’ll get to in this article. Beyond the scope of this article is a ninth original domain, .arpa.)

So what are these domains?

The .mil Top-Level Domain

Back in the days of the Internet’s birth, it was a much different beast. A lot of us forget that the military had quite the hand in helping develop it too. The .mil TLD was one of the very first laid out in the original networking specs, back in 1984. It’s only natural that the military wanted to guarantee it had its own space laid out in this new digital world.

Call it a "digital occupation".

Call it a “digital occupation”.

The .gov and .edu domains are primarily only used in the USA, as both require approval by US-based organizations. It’s the same for .mil. So it’s a fair bet that any .mil site you find will be about the American military.

A lot of military organizations also use .gov and .com TLDs too, and a lot of the time they have both, or all three, and one may redirect to another. As with most of the American government, it’s all very confusing and there’s not really a set plan in place. The US Coast Guard only falls under the military during wartime, but it still gets a .mil domain anyway.

Naturally, all of these websites are just for public-facing information. You’ll find job boards, recruitment information, and all kinds of disclosures and FAQs, plus plenty of PR. Some will be deserted wastelands, but others will be surprisingly active.

Actual military and intelligence officers obviously don’t use these sites for their day jobs, nor do they use any sites on the public Internet, for that matter – they use SIPRNet (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network) for classified data transmission, email, and websites. Trying to get a backlink from SIPRNet? Yeah, good luck with that.

Notable .mil Websites

Check out this more expansive list for more.

The .int Top-Level Domain

While the .mil TLD is on about the same level as .gov and .edu, the .int TLD kicks it up one level higher – it is by far the most tightly restricted and hard to get domain. It’s short for “international,” and the only ways to get it are to be an organization established by an international treaty, agencies of the United Nations, or official Observers at the UN. To apply for it, you literally have to cite a UN treaty. How many UN treaties can you cite?

UN logo

I can cite something about international waters and a bunch of stuff about space exploration and debris from the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs.

In the early years of the Internet, .int meant something different. It was used instead for data crucial to the infrastructure of the Internet itself, and presumably stood for Internet as well. This is also what .arpa is used for.

In the late 80s, when NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) wanted a website, none of the current TLDs worked for it. It wasn’t part of the American government or military, it wasn’t for commerce, and it wasn’t a non-profit organization… and back during these days, the TLDs were kept a lot cleaner than they are now. The best option at the time was to simply create a .nato TLD and give it to NATO. This presumably means that in the late 80s, NATO’s website was nato.nato.



Recognizing that this was stupid and not scalable, the .int TLD was instead coopted for international organizations. At first it was given out somewhat freely. The YMCA grabbed one, as did Palestine, the Egyptian Friendship Organization, and others. After tighter restrictions were put in place, some were grandfathered in, along with some old Internet infrastructure sites too.

(The .nato TLD was unceremoniously deleted in 1996.)

Honestly, you should spend some time looking through some .int sites. They’re massively educational and not things we usually see on a day-to-day basis. Come on, get exposed to some culture! Many of them are also well-funded, and thus rather modern and user-friendly. These are great resources for the whole world.

Notable .int Websites  – The UN, obviously.  – The World Health Organization.  – The Red Cross. Okay, this website could be improved.  – INTERPOL: Connecting police for a safer world.  – European Space Agency.  – The World Nature Organization.  – The African Union.  – The Council of Europe.  – The ICC, or International Criminal Court. The CPI in the URL comes from the French version, Cour Pénale Internationale.

Check out this more expansive list for more.


Obviously, this is just your introduction to these domains; we’ll be going over various strategies on earning backlinks from sites on these TLDs later. I’ll be touching on many other TLDs another time too – there are a lot of interesting stories and history here that may not be integral to marketing, but are still worth knowing.

The .mil TLD is at the same vague level as the .gov and .edu TLDs. But that’s still a very valuable level. Meanwhile, the .int TLD is probably even more valuable than any other that exists. Of course, the value isn’t inherent in the domain itself, but in the authority of the organization or entity behind it. But what’s more authoritative than an international treaty organization?

(Maybe a .earth TLD? TLDs for all eight planets? A .planet TLD? How about a .solsystem TLD? Perhaps .milkyway or .galaxy? One day…)

So when you’re going after the Holy Grail of Backlinks, don’t forget to search for the Ark of the Covenant, too.

Just be careful about looking at it directly.

Just be careful about looking directly.

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  • True, True : )
    Surprising well written article, long time when am bothered to read something to the end..with out skipping.
    Simple, but clear.

    Thanks Ethan

  • Thank you, Margus. I’m glad you enjoyed it!