Off-page SEO refers to techniques you can use to improve a website’s position on the search engine results page (SERP). Many people associate off-page SEO with link building, but it is not only that.
Optimizing off-site ranking factors involves improving the search engine and the user’s perception of the popularity, relevance, reliability, and authority of a website. This is done by other accredited sites on the Internet (pages, sites, people, etc.) that link or promote your site and effectively “vouching” to the quality of its content.
We will take you from the beginning …
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization is the term used to describe a set of processes that aim to optimize a website for search engines.
SEO is not only important to get high-quality search visitors, but it is also a way to improve the usability of your website and increase its credibility.
Search engines are using complex algorithms to determine which pages to include in their index and the order in which they appear in search results.
SEO is the way to “talk” to search engines in a language that they can understand and provide you with more information about your website.
SEO has two main components, On-Page and Off-Page SEO.
What Is On-Page SEO?
On-page SEO refers to the settings that you can apply on your website to optimize search engines.
The most important On-Page SEO tips are:
- Have optimized titles and descriptions
- Appropriate URL structures
- Easy to use navigation (breadcrumbs, user site maps)
- Optimized internal links
- Text format (using bold, italics, etc.)
- Properly optimized H1 tag and other headlines
- Image optimization (image size, appropriate image names, use of ALT text)
- User-friendly 404 pages
- Fast page load
- Pages optimized for mobile devices
- High-quality evergreen content (this is always the most important SEO factor!)
- External links (no broken links or links to “bad” sites)
What Is Off-page SEO?
Unlike on-page SEO, off-page SEO refers to activities you can do outside of your website. The most important are:
- Link Building
- Social Media Marketing
- The brand mentions
We’ll examine this in detail below, but first, let me explain the importance and benefits of off-page SEO.
Why is off-page SEO important?
Search engines have been trying for decades to find a way to return the best results to the researcher.
For this, they take into account on-site SEO factors (described above), some other quality factors, and off-page SEO.
Off-page SEO provides a very good indication of how the specific site is perceived by the world (other sites and users).
A useful, high-quality website is more likely to have referrals (backlinks) from other sites.
You are more likely to have brand mentions on social media (Facebook likes, tweets, pins, etc.) and more likely to be bookmarked and shared across like-minded user communities.
Benefits Of Off-Page SEO
A successful off site SEO strategy will generate the following benefits for website owners:
Ranking increase: The site will have a higher ranking in the SERPs and that also means more traffic.
Increase in PageRank: Page rank is a number between 0 and 10, which indicates the importance of a website in the eyes of Google.
It is the system invented by Larry Page and Sergey Brin (founders of Google) and one of the reasons why Google has been so successful in showing the most relevant results to the researcher.
Today’s page rank is just one of 250 ranking factors Google is using to rank websites.
Higher Exposure: Higher rankings also mean higher exposure, because when a website comes in first: it gets more links, more visits, and more mentions on social media. It is like an endless sequence of events in which one thing leads to another and then to another, etc.
Establishing Trustworthiness: In addition to the above, Google recently introduced the concept of Expertise, Authority, and Reliability (E-A-T), which plays an important role in rankings and is directly related to off-site SEO.
In simple terms, Google wants to rank sites that demonstrate knowledge and authority on a topic and one of the ways to ensure the reliability of the sites chosen by the algorithms is through the number of the type of links received.
Link building is the most popular and effective off-page SEO technique. Basically, by building links to your website, you’re trying to collect as many “votes” as possible, so that you can bypass your competitors and get a higher ranking.
For example, if someone likes this article and references it on their website or blog, it’s like telling search engines that this page has good information.
Over the years, webmasters have tried to link to their sites for higher rankings and have “invented” various ways to increase the link count. The most popular forms were:
Blog Directories: Sort of like yellow pages, but each post had a link that pointed to a website.
Forum subscriptions: Many people commented on the forums for the sole purpose of obtaining a link to the site (including links in the signature).
Comment link: The same concept as subscriptions to forums where you would comment on another website or blog to retrieve a link. Worse still, instead of using your real name, you can use keywords. Instead of writing ‘Alex Chris comment’, you wrote ‘comment by SEO rules’.
Article Directories: By posting your articles in article directories, you can get a link (or 2) to your website.
Some article directories accepted only exclusive content, while other directories accepted anything from rotating articles to already published articles.
Shared Content Directories: Sites like ‘hub pages’ have allowed you to post content, and in return, you can add some links that point to your sites.
Link exchange schemes: instead of trying to post content, you can contact other webmasters and exchange links. In other words, I could link your site to mine and you could do the same.
In some cases, you can make exchanges even more complicated by creating a three-way link: link to your site on my site, but you link my site from a different site.
Please note that I used the past tense to describe all of the above methods, because not only do they not work today, you shouldn’t even try them.
If you try to “trick” search engines into creating artificial links, you’re more likely to be penalized, rather than increased ranking (especially when it comes to Google).
The Birth of the SEO Black Hat
Link building was an easy way to manipulate search engine algorithms and many spammers tried to take advantage of it by creating link networks that gradually lead to the creation of what is generally known as black hat SEO.
Google became very smart in recognizing black hat techniques, and with the release of various algorithmic updates, they were able to control the problem and protect their search results from spammers.
The most important are:
- Panda: Initially launched in February 2011, targeting low-quality sites and content farms
- Penguin: Introduced in 2012, targeting link farms, low-quality links, and super-optimized anchor text
To “follow” or “nofollow”
In addition to the above, and to offer webmasters a way to link to a site without passing any “link juice” (for example, in the case of ads), search engines have introduced what is known as a “nofollow link”
This is a special tag that you can add to a link that tells search engines not to count the specific link as a ‘vote of trust’ on the referring site. For example:
<a href="http://www.somesite.com" rel="nofollow">Some Site</a>
This was done so that you can link to other sites of yours without risking being caught for selling or exchanging links.
As a general rule of thumb, you should add the nofollow tag to all of your external links (within your pages) that access sites you cannot 100% trust, ALL comment links, ALL blog links, and ALL banner links.
What is a good link?
So if the links above are not helpful, what is a good link?
First, you must understand that link building is not just a matter of quantity, but also of quality.
In other words, it no longer matters how many links point to your site, but it’s more important where those links come from.
For example, a link to a normal blog does not have the same “value” as a link from the New York Times or a link from the blog Matt Cutts (former head of the Google Quality team) is not the same as a link in my blog.
The obvious question is: how do you get these links?
If you ask Google, they will tell you that all the links pointing to your site must be natural links. Natural bonds are exactly what the name implies. The owner of a website or blogger likes another website or blog and of course, adds a link to his/her blog.
Does this happen in reality or is it another myth?
Certainly, but you have to work hard to get to that point. Take this blog for example. It has a lot of inbound links because other webmasters find the content interesting and I also link to other sites in my articles because I find their content interesting.
This is what natural link building is all about. A link has more value from the reader’s point of view than from the search engine’s point of view.
The best way to attract links is to post link-worthy content that others would like to link to.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is part of “off-site SEO” and, if you think about it, it’s also a form of link building. Note that almost all the links you get from social networking sites are “nofollow”, but that doesn’t mean they are worthless.
Social media Mentions are gaining ground as ranking factors and proper configuration of social media profiles can also boost SEO.
The Brand Mentions
Google loves brands and prefers to rank brand sites based on results. The reason is the same as explained above on Expertise, Authority, and Reliability. Brands are more trustworthy and probably more trustworthy for users, which translates to better user experience and happier Google users.
The difference between brand mentions, link building, and social media marketing is that brand mentions don’t necessarily have a link that points to your website. Your brand can be mentioned in forums, articles, reviews or social networks.
Google crawlers can “catch” these signals and evaluate them accordingly to create a more accurate picture of how others perceive your brand.
As part of your off-page SEO strategy, you should look for positive mentions of your website, products, or authors and respond to negative or misleading comments.
Off-page SEO is just as important as on-site SEO. If you want your SEO campaigns to be successful, you must do both.
When you think about creating links, don’t take the easy way out, but try to get links from hard-to-get places. The harder it is to get a link, the more value it has.
In the past, you could easily get thousands of links and rank higher, but today you need to do more than that. My advice is to forget about link building and put all your efforts into creating a great website, promoting it properly and everything else will follow.