If you want to be on the first page of your target audience’s search results on Google and other search engines, then merely optimizing your website will not be enough. You need to learn and utilize off-page SEO techniques that manage search signals located on other pages to increase your ranking in the algorithm. Below you will learn about these factors and how to incorporate them into an off-page SEO campaign that effectively raises your visibility.
What is On-Page and Off-Page SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of manipulating factors that search engines such as Google use to decide how high your website ranks in search engine results pages for keywords that are relevant for your business. By optimizing your business’s website and managing related outside factors, you can make your website rank higher in the search algorithm, which in turn increases the likelihood of appearing in organic search results for your target audience.
On-page SEO uses elements of your website over which you have complete control to make it more likely to appear in organic search results. SEO strategies that influence your on-page factors include integrating optimized keywords, organizing internal page layout, and improving technical aspects like loading speed. Google’s search spider analyzes the content of your website and determines its usefulness and usability before deciding how relevant it is for different search queries.
Off-page SEO increases your domain authority, which is Google’s indicator of how trustworthy your website is, with links and content outside of your business’s website. The latter can include social media pages, directories, Google My Business profiles, and related industry bloggers. Like on-page SEO, this strategy aims to raise your website’s ranking in search results pages. Unlike on-page SEO, you cannot exert complete control over its factors.
Building links is often seen as the central strategy for off-page SEO, but it can include techniques such as increasing brand mentions or making sure that online information is consistent. Effective off-page SEO has other benefits for your website, including increasing traffic and establishing trust in your business. Traditional marketing activities, whether online or offline, can indirectly affect your off-page SEO factors as well.
Off-Page SEO Factors
In the past, Google placed greater emphasis on the number of backlinks you had, but today it uses over 200 ranking factors to decide where to place your website in organic search results pages. Natural links from websites in good standing verify the quality of your websites in turn. When you curate your collection of backlinks, keep these factors in mind to ensure that your links positively contribute to your off-page SEO.
A website’s authority is the strength of its backlinks and indicates how high Google judges its quality to be. Backlinks from websites with high authority are more likely to increase the authority of your website, increasing its relevance in Google’s search algorithm. While backlinks from high-quality pages will increase your website’s authority, bad links from low authority websites will be detrimental to your off-page SEO.
It is difficult to directly influence domain authority, which is part of the reason why Google uses it as a metric to determine website quality. The only reliable way to increase your website’s authority is to collect backlinks from websites with high authority and remove or disavow links from low-quality pages.
Google previously published PageRank scores that publicly displayed each website’s authority, but they discontinued this practice in 2016. However, various online tools use similar metrics that analyze the quality of each domain’s backlinks to compare their authority to other websites, thus making it easier to choose targets for your link-building campaign.
Despite being less important than it was previously, having links from a wide variety of unique websites still contributes to better search rankings and website traffic. The number of linking root domains is more important to Google than the actual number of links. Similarly, you should aim to create backlinks that target specific pages you want to appear more frequently in search results rather than building more overall links to your website.
When you target websites for link building, you should always seek backlinks from sites covering topics that are relevant to your business. Links from websites with related content are more likely to increase your search ranking and look natural. For example, a blog about baking is not a good choice for a car business looking for new backlinks. In some cases, topical relevance can be even more important than authority.
If you have difficulty finding websites willing to link to your content that cater to your exact niche, you can bridge topics and use content that is still somewhat relevant. Be sure to use your brand name instead of specific keywords in your anchor text so that Google does not penalize you for backlinks from seemingly unrelated websites. What matters most is that the link appears naturally and makes sense in context.
Backlinks from websites that have high amounts of organic traffic are more influential than sites that have less traffic according to rankings of non-branded keywords. It is worth prioritizing building links from sites with more users or traffic, but even pages with less traffic are worth pursuing. Unlike other off-page SEO factors, having low traffic does not prevent a webpage from providing useful links as long as it is relevant and has enough authority.
Dofollow and Nofollow Links
In general, you should prioritize building followed or do-follow links because they transfer PageRank and directly affect your search engine ranking. As long as these links are from websites that are in good standing and are relevant to your field, this association between the referring website and your website will directly increase your domain authority. Dofollow links are the default version of HTML hyperlinks, but some websites use no-follow links that either build very little authority or none at all.
However, you should not neglect no-follow links when you are building backlinks. Having a mix of no-follow and do-follow links to your website makes your backlink catalog look more natural. Even a large number of no-follow links from unrelated websites will not harm your search rankings. Moreover, a no-follow link from a trustworthy site is worth more than a few do-follow links from spam sources. Nofollow links also still contribute to website traffic and click-through rates that provide less direct benefits for your off-page SEO.
The anchor text consists of the highlighted words in a hyperlink that readers click on to travel from one website to another. Google has confirmed that anchor text, along with page rank and proximity information, is a significant search engine factor that influences a website’s rankings.
While there is a correlation between matching anchors, very few off-page SEO techniques such as guest blogging allow you to directly control the anchor text of your backlinks. If you have the opportunity to choose your anchor text, be sure not to oversaturate your content with keyword-rich anchor text or your website will be penalized by Google’s Penguin algorithm. As long as your backlinks include anchor text naturally in relevant text, they will be beneficial links.
Building backlinks is an integral off-page SEO strategy, but there are other off-page SEO factors outside of your website that you can influence to increase your ranking on organic results pages. Practices commonly used in local SEO such as Google My Business optimization, review management, and consistent contact and location information make your webpage more likely to appear when potential customers search for nearby businesses.
Brand mentions also have value for your off-page SEO whether they are linked or unlinked. Links that use your brand name as anchor text contribute to your domain authority when they include the SEO factors mentioned above, but Google also mentions implied links in one of its patents.
These references to your brand without express links still affect your placement in the ranking algorithm despite not contributing to your website traffic directly. Linked mentions are still preferable, so it is worth reaching out to websites that reference your brand and asking that they include a link.
Online tools can automatically monitor other websites for mentions of your brand name, domain, or products to make it easier to convert unlinked mentions into valuable backlinks. You can also increase brand mentions on other websites yourself by participating in guest posts, podcasts, and online events.
How to Do Off-Page SEO Step by Step
Off-page SEO techniques may seem daunting at first, but breaking the process down into simple steps makes it easier to come up with a strategy to increase your website’s search ranking. Before you start off-page SEO, use on-page SEO to prepare your website to distribute domain authority efficiently and create content to which other websites will want to link. Then, use link-building tactics to cultivate a portfolio of backlinks from trusted and relevant sites. Lastly, use platforms like social media and local SEO channels to increase your relevancy without too many links.
Prepare Your Website
While link building will raise your website’s search ranking by itself, you need to prepare your website beforehand if you want to take full advantage of Google’s algorithm. Even top domains lose some of their search engine results page relevancy if they do not regularly optimize their on-page factors. The best ways to prepare your website for link building and other off-page SEO are to organize it with on-page SEO and create high-quality content that will make other websites want to link to yours.
On-Page SEO and Organization
Before you begin building links, you should perform some basic on-page SEO to serve as a foundation for your website’s growth. Even a large quantity of high-authority backlinks will not salvage the results of a webpage that Google views as neglected. Use appropriate keyword density, meta tags, and outbound links to relevant pages to make your website more appealing to visitors and Google’s search algorithm.
Reorganizing your website’s internal link structure is an important SEO technique that will make your off-page SEO more effective. Creating links between your internal pages increases your search ranking by spreading link equity between different pages on your website in the same category. Spreading authority and ranking power to multiple pages on the same website in this way improves its overall SEO. It also creates a better user experience by grouping related topics together.
Infographics and Other Great Content
Creating high-quality content on your website that is informative, interesting, and useful will inspire owners of other websites to share your creations, earning you natural links for your off-page SEO. This includes researching thematic keywords and integrating them naturally so that you reach your intended content. Your content can range from blog posts to informational videos.
Infographics are particularly effective and easy to share. When compared to purely text-based content, infographics and other visual content are in higher demand and allow viewers to process information more quickly. Even websites that share your infographic without a backlink will increase your organic traffic, but infographics also tend to generate more backlinks than blog posts.
Once you have created unique content that you are ready to share, you can reach out to bloggers and other website owners through platforms such as email and request follow links. Audiences are always on the lookout for custom-created content, and while email outreach takes time, its results are clear and easy to measure.
If you do not have the time or resources to regularly create new content, you can still receive high-quality links from repurposed content. Using an infographic or picture that you did not create will still increase visitor engagement as long as you are sure to credit the original creator.
You can also take your old content and convert it into other formats to reach a wider audience without having to put too much work into creating something new. Repurposing the information in a blog post as the basis of a video or podcast will create unique content that Google is unlikely to treat as a duplicate.
Links from other domains play a major role in the Google algorithm and how it determines search engine results page rankings. Not only will more links increase traffic to your website; they will also confer some of their sites’ domain authority to your own. This indicates to Google that your website is a trusted resource and is relevant to topics that those pages cover, increasing your ranking in organic search results.
Broken Link Building
Google does not penalize websites that have broken pages or links as long as they have a proper 404 error code, though they do make visitors frustrated and less likely to visit those websites in the future. However, when you find broken links on other blogs in your industry, they represent opportunities for you to suggest backlinks to your content.
Using off-page SEO tools that automatically find high-ranking blogs and perform backlink analyses, you can easily find dead links on relevant websites. Contact the website’s owner to let them know that their link is broken and offer replacement links including your content. The owner will need to find another high-value resource with relevant content to replace the original link, and they may be inclined to use your content out of convenience or gratitude. This method offers a very high level of control over the quality of your backlinks.
Broken link building is also easier and faster than other backlink strategies, which usually require research for relevant topics and creating engaging content. Online extensions can automatically check if a link is broken on each page you visit as well as list other pages that link to the broken domain. Unlike sending a pitch to bloggers asking them to talk about your content or allow you to create a guest post, you can use email templates fairly successfully with broken link building as long as you include a replacement link that is relevant to the original content.
Blogger Outreach and Influencer Marketing
Blogger outreach involves sending personalized emails or messages on social media to owners of other websites to convince them to talk about your business and link to the content you have on your web page. These websites should match the keywords associated with your content as closely as possible for the best results from the Google algorithm. Similarly, you should research each website’s domain authority and traffic to see which prospects will yield the best results.
Using Google search operators or databases such as Content Explorer, you can find specific content on blogs that matches your website’s posts and choose appropriate bloggers accordingly. Searching referring domains to find bloggers that have linked to articles with the same topic is more time-consuming, but it gives you more detailed information about their domain authority ratings.
Using templates for outreach campaigns may be appropriate when you need to scale later on, but when you begin your blogger outreach for off-page SEO, you should create a personalized pitch for each website. Research the blogger’s previous posts and show that you are familiar with their work, then show how your content is related and a valuable resource. Make sure to end with a clear call to action that prompts the website owner to write a response.
Influencer outreach, on the other hand, is when you contact an influencer with an established following and ask for exposure in exchange for money or free access to your service or product. However, this practice works best if they mostly include no-follow links or unlinked brand mentions in their sponsored content. Google is likely to penalize any do-follow links from bloggers that you have paid or given gifts by classifying it as a link scheme, which will drastically reduce your domain authority. Instead, use influencer marketing as a way to increase your online presence on different platforms and help your brand reach new audiences.
Writing a blog post on another website is another element of content marketing that more directly influences off-page SEO. In addition to creating backlinks over which you have some measure of control, this off-page SEO technique allows you to showcase your expertise to a relevant audience and gain exposure that increases your website’s traffic.
Website authority is one positive trait to look for, but finding an appropriate blog with an audience that is relevant to your industry is also important for off-page SEO. You should also ask to be a guest blogger on a website that has an active audience that shares and comments on posts as well as an owner that actively promotes the content.
Look at other guest posts on the blog to see how well they do in comparison to the owner’s posts and decide if posting on that site will achieve your goals. Researching what types of guest bloggers a website hosts and what type of content they typically produce will help you decide if that blog is appropriate for you.
Finding relevant blogs that accept guest posts can be as simple as searching Google with appropriate industry keywords plus phrases such as “guest post by” or “submit a guest post.” You can also search social media like Twitter or Facebook, which has the bonus of finding a blog that actively shares its content on multiple platforms. If you want a website that other businesses have written for as a part of their off-page SEO practices, you should run a backlink analysis on a competitor’s website to see which blog posts they have written and how much authority their backlinks have.
After you find a suitable website and familiarize yourself with its guidelines, send a personalized email to the owner explaining who you are and why you should be a guest blogger. Include links to other blog posts you have created and emphasize your role as a blogger. The ideal time to send this pitch is when the blog is specifically looking for guest posts or it mentions you or your business, but sending your proposal after it publishes another guest post works as well.
If the blog owner asks for topic ideas, try to include multiple options for more flexibility. Your blog post should have a format and structure that is similar to previous guest posts and focus on information rather than your business or services. Save your promotion for the guest bio at the end of the post, where you can include a high-quality backlink that directs traffic to the pages that you want to be more visible.
As with any effective SEO practice, posting your content is far from the last step. Use your website and social media channels to promote your post. You should also be sure to include a call to action that inspires comments and engages your audience by replying to questions and comments. Besides helping build your online presence as an industry authority, it will show future websites considering your guest post pitches that your posts promote interactivity.
To compare how effective your blog post is compared to other SEO marketing strategies, use online tools to measure its results. Google Analytics can help you determine how much traffic the guest post drives to your website while backlink analysis will show its effects on your domain authority.
Off-Page SEO Factors Other Than Links
These off-page SEO strategies focus on factors that are unrelated to building links but can still affect your business’s search engine rankings. These include increasing traffic to your website through shared links that do not transfer domain authority and making your website more likely to appear in Google Map packs and local searches rather than just organic search results.
Promotion Through Social Media
Google officially stated in 2014 that signals on social websites such as Twitter or Facebook do not directly affect ranking factors. The algorithm uses factors that are more difficult to directly influence such as backlinks to avoid manipulation that makes its ranking unreliable.
While social media does not directly affect your search engine ranking, you can still use it to increase traffic to your website and engage your audience with customer service. Answering consumer questions and posting interesting or helpful content will bolster your online presence and establish your business as a knowledgeable industry expert.
Social media is also useful as an outreach platform to supplement another off-page SEO tactic. You can use your social media channels to build relationships with other related blogs or reach new audiences through influencer marketing. Social shares naturally result in more links and other factors that more directly influence off-page SEO.
Local SEO Strategies
Most off-page SEO techniques focus on building links because of how influential they are in determining search ranking for websites, but there are other factors you can work with outside of your site to make your web page more relevant. Many of these coincide with SEO practices that help businesses rank higher in searches for local information, which account for almost half of all Google searches.
Name, address, and phone number (NAP) citations are online mentions of your business that list your basic information. Finding which websites effectively increase your search results ranking is a difficult but necessary part of ranking higher in organic search results and Google’s local “snack pack.” You can find several online tools that list which websites have NAP citations for competitors that do not list your information yet. To maximize the effectiveness of these listings, make sure that the information is consistent across different websites so that Google can group all of these links and improve your relevancy.
Google My Business is a free profile on Google made specifically for businesses. Claiming a profile for your business and optimizing it is the most important step to take in appearing in the “snack pack” results on Google Maps. It also improves your ranking in local organic searches. Basic information such as your location and business category is necessary to verify your listing, but adding more specific details such as photos, hours, and amenities and making sure that they are consistent across multiple websites will improve your ranking significantly.
Cultivating positive reviews is as important for your relevancy in Google’s algorithm as it is for your online brand image. The search engine examines Google My Business and other trusted websites to increase your ranking if you have positive reviews and decrease it if you have negative reviews. Google, just like potential customers, is more likely to view your website as a trusted brand if the majority of its reviews are positive.
Avoiding Unnatural Links and Google Penalties
Many content marketers and bloggers already know that overusing a primary SEO keyword will result in penalties from Google, but bad backlinks can also hurt your search engine ranking. You can find a comprehensive list of links that are against Google’s policies in the Webmaster Guidelines, but in general, Google penalizes any backlinks from the following in your off-page SEO:
- Spam comments or forum posts
- Sponsored posts with do-follow links
- Hidden links
- Websites without relevant content
- Low-quality websites that duplicate content
- Directories or bookmarking websites
- Banned or penalized websites
Regularly creating great content that is not oversaturated with keywords will help you avoid developing unnatural links. When you do include keywords, they should appear naturally in sentences that provide proper context to users and the algorithm.
Over-optimized anchor text that uses the same keyword or phrases over and over also makes your links appear unnatural to Google’s search spider. Diversify your anchor text by using different keyword phrases or generic terms to prevent too many exact matches in your backlinks. Using your brand name as anchor text is another suitable option that is especially effective when your links appear on other pages that are not closely related to your type of business.
If your website’s traffic decreases or you suspect that unnatural links are reducing your search ranking, run a backlink analysis. This will let you identify low-quality dofollow links and either send a request to the website owner to remove the link or create a disavow report with Google’s online tools. If you are manually penalized, you will receive a notification via Google Webmaster Tools, but algorithmic penalties happen automatically and without warning.
Off-Page SEO Tools
Google itself has several tools you can use to track the results of your off-page SEO efforts. An Advanced Segment created in Google Analytics can track up to 20 of your guest blog posts and gauge their success based on traffic and conversions. Google Webmaster Tools will also let you search your traffic and links to your site to see all of your backlinks and sort by which websites link the most to yours.
Google Analytics also provides data such as organic traffic numbers, which is vital in determining the effectiveness of your off-page SEO methods. This normally has peaks and troughs, but sudden dips that are much lower than usual can indicate warnings and potential penalties from the algorithm. Likewise, Google Webmaster Tools in the search console will notify you of any manual penalizing actions taken in response to unnatural links.
Other websites offer free online tools as well that can help you analyze factors affecting your off-page SEO. Ubersuggest is a comprehensive online database that helps you with both on-page and off-page SEO practices. When you are preparing content that you plan to ask other websites to link to, Ubersuggest will help you find thematic keyword phrases and compare them based on how they perform for other top websites.
When you are looking to build your links, Ubersuggest will also analyze your competitors’ websites to find links that you do not already have and show their domain scores. Filtering these results by content ideas organizes blogs by relevant keywords to make it even easier to find a relevant website owner to whom you can send your pitch.
Ubersuggest even lets you review your analytics, including total links, the number of links per website, which pages are receiving the most links, and the anchor text other websites use to link to yours. This is especially helpful if your traffic suddenly slows down and you need to find where you can make off-page SEO improvements.
Monitor Backlinks is a paid tool with free trials that is especially helpful in finding backlinks that lower your ranking with low authority or relevance. It connects to your Google Analytics accounts and imports all of your links from Google Webmaster Tools. Then, the tool organizes your do-follow links to help you find pages with suspiciously high numbers of external links or that have low domain scores so you can either disavow them or ask for their removal.
Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and Semrush’s backlink analytics are both solid options if you need to analyze multiple websites to determine how useful their links would be for your off-page SEO. They use metrics similar to the discontinued PageRank scores from Google to generate authority scores and rank websites based on which have higher scores. You can also find other data such as the number of unique domains that link to each website.
What is the difference between on-page SEO and off-page SEO?
An on-page SEO strategy increases your search ranking by making your website appealing to both visitors and the search algorithm. This includes creating engaging content, making your website easy to navigate, and choosing thematic keywords.
Off-page SEO generates website traffic using elements outside of your website such as building links or optimizing your Google My Business profile. These are usually factors over which you do not have complete control.
What is the importance of off-page SEO?
While Google considers the content of your website when determining its relevance in search results, it also uses links to your site to gauge your domain authority or quality. Off-page SEO increases your search engine ranking by proving that your website is relevant and an important resource to other trusted web pages. If your marketing strategy only uses on-page SEO, then your web page is less likely to appear at the top of organic search results.
How can I tell if I have bad backlinks?
The easiest way to find out which backlinks are working against your search engine optimization is to perform a backlink analysis. Tools such as Ubersuggest allow you to view the domain score of each link. You can avoid having bad links in your backlink catalog by cultivating links from relevant websites with high domain authority.
What is more important: on-page or off-page SEO?
Both on-page and off-page factors are important in any SEO strategy. Rather than one being more important than the other, they each affect different parts of Google’s search algorithm to make your business more likely to appear in the organic search results of your intended audience. If you have to choose between focusing on one rather than the other due to time or resource constraints, build a strong foundation with on-page SEO techniques such as keyword integration and a user-friendly interface.
What is the most important off-page SEO activity?
Most experts agree that building backlinks are the most important off-page SEO strategy. Ensuring that your website has natural links from relevant websites with strong domain authorities will cause Google’s search algorithm to view it as useful and trustworthy due to the votes of confidence from other high-quality pages. This translates directly into ranking factors, causing your website to appear higher in organic search results lists. Other factors such as brand mentions also influence search algorithms, but backlinks are the most relevant.
What are some examples of SEO backlinks?
A backlink is a link that connects one website to another rather than leading to another internal page. This link comes from a unique domain and can influence your website’s search ranking either negatively or positively. Backlinks can either be do-follow links that transfer some domain authority or no-follow links that have a significantly lower influence on off-page SEO. As a result, you want your backlinks from websites with high authority to be do-follow links.