Struggling to improve Search rankings despite pouring your heart and soul into content optimization? Your off-site SEO—or the lack thereof—might be the culprit.
While Google keeps its search ranking algorithms a secret, it has confirmed that it uses approximately 200 ranking signals when determining organic search page rankings. These include tons of on-page factors and off-page factors, domain-related specifications and numerous technical SEO factors.
Needless to say, the factors that improve your site’s relevance, popularity, authority and trustworthiness—AKA off-site SEO factors—play a significant role in raising you through the ranks in search results.
So, What Exactly Is Off-Site SEO?
Off-site SEO (also known as off-page SEO) involves any activity that drives referral traffic and awareness to your site from other websites — signaling you as an authority in the industry.
For instance, writing content for another website — known as guest blogging — gives you a great opportunity to build relationships with peers in the industry, increases your own brand credibility and attracts traffic back to your website.
Apart from guest blogging, social media marketing, brand mentions and link building strategies are some common off-site SEO activities.
How Does It Differ From On-Site SEO?
Search engine optimization involves two types of activities: off-site and on-site.
While both SEO techniques strive for the same result — to increase a site’s popularity, visibility and ranking on search engines — there’s a clear difference between the two.
On-site SEO embodies any efforts performed on your site to increase rankings, while off-site SEO refers to actions taken outside your site(hence, off-site).
When focusing on on-site SEO, you direct all your efforts into optimizing the site, such as writing quality content, ensuring a solid site structure and mobile responsive design. Off-site SEO, on the other hand, helps you drive hordes of visitors and potential customers to your site by building trust and authority. Both are important pieces of the SEO puzzle.
Off-site SEO activities
Let’s look at some ways you can drive referral traffic to your site and improve its authority:
Link-Related Off-Site SEO Factors
Backlinks are links created from one site to another. They’re also known as ‘incoming links’ or ‘inbound links.’
Backlinks signal search engines that others vouch for the content you’ve published—making them especially valuable for SEO. If your web page has numerous backlinks, search engines infer that your content is worth linking to, and therefore worthy of high-ranking on SERPs.
91% of web pages don’t get any organic traffic from Google mostly because they don’t have backlinks.
There are three main types of links characterized by how they’re earned:
Natural links, the holy grail of links, are editorially given out by other website owners without you having to ask for it. For example, a tech blogger adding a link to a post about top open-source programming languages is a natural link.
Of course, to receive a natural link, you need to give a good reason to do so— and this is where great quality content comes in!
Manual ‘outreach’ links
As one of the most common link-building practices, these links are acquired through deliberate link-building activities, especially if your business is small and unknown. This involves manually contacting the website owners and requesting them to link to you.
It’s important to mention here that you need to contact people and sites that are relevant to your industry and niche.
Self-created links are created by practices like adding backlinks to online directory, to signatures in blog comments, or optimizing the anchor texts in press releases. These tactics are frowned upon and are characterized as black-hat SEO practices.
Google’s search system is built on something called PageRank: an algorithm that gives each webpage a relative score of authority by evaluating the quantity and quality of its links. Among many other factors, these scores determine a page’s ranking in search.
This brings us to other link-related off-site factors that impact your ranking:
1. Number of Referring Domains
A referring domain is another website that links back to your website.
If you get multiple links from one website, all those links are going to count as one referring domain.
For example, if this blog post has two backlinks from the New York Times, it still has one referring domain.
Why are referring domains important?
Simply put, having more links from unique websites (referring domains) equals to higher rankings, and thus, more organic search traffic.
In fact, a recent research showed an interesting correlation: among 1 billion pages that were analyzed, a vast majority of pages without any referring domains didn’t secure any traffic from Google. You can check how many backlinks your website has with our backlink analyzer tool, RankGenie. It gives you access to all your backlink information, at a glance, while allowing you to view your site’s authenticity score for each domain.
2. Link Authority
SEO is made up of three foundational pillars: relevance, authority and trust.
Ever since PageRank, links have been the primary signals used for assessing authority.
Search engines use links the way we treat scholarly citations. More scholarly pages a document cites, the better.
Similarly, link authority indicates the ranking power that a link carries over. The higher the authority of a page, the more authority it passes over to pages it links.
Simply put, link from a high-authority page has more worth than a link from a lowauthority page.
Imagine your webpage sells a book and gets two links. One is from Amazon, and another from a local book store. Which one will you value more as an end user? Amazon, right? It’s because we recognize that Amazon has more authority in this matter.
3. “Dofollow” vs. Nofollow
The only difference between a dofollow and nofollow link is a technical one:
<a href=”http://www.domain.com/” > Link Text </a>
<a href=”http://www.domain.com/” rel=”nofollow”> Link Text </a>
Nofollow links consist of a rel=”nofollow” HTML tag. The nofollow tag informs search engines to ignore that link. In the absence of the “nofollow” tag the link becomes a dofollow.
While the difference may seem insignificant from a technical point of view, this is a big difference in terms of SEO.
Google doesn’t transfer PageRank across nofollowed links.
And if a link doesn’t transfer PageRank (aka ‘link juice’), the backlink isn’t going to help your Google ranking.
While most links on the web are “dofollow”, there are some websites, such as Forbes, that “nofollow” almost all outbound links.
Therefore, if you’re actively pursuing links from a certain website, it pays to ensure their outbound links are followed.
Note: This doesn’t mean that there’s absolutely no value in nofollow links. They drive referral traffic, which ultimately has positive effect on your site’s SEO. However, if you’re putting a lot of effort and time in link building, you might as well prioritize your efforts for dofollow links.
4. Anchor Text
Anchor text is the clickable text in a hyperlink. Not only does it allow you to link to something, but it also makes your content easier to find by search engines.
SEO best practices suggest that anchor texts should be relevant to the linking page, rather than generic text like “click here.” Search engines use this text to interpret the subject matter of the linked web page.
According to Google’s original PageRank patent, anchor text, page rank and proximity information are some of the many techniques Google uses to improve search rankings.
In other words, relevant anchor text can have some influence on rankings. In fact, a recent study found a correlation between phrase match, exact match and partial match anchors.
Note: If you attempt to manipulate search rankings by building links with keyword-specific anchors, your site may be penalized due to the Penguin update—now a part of Google’s core algorithms.
How To Get Natural Links?
The process of getting natural links—natural link earning—is among the fastest, safest and most efficient ways to promote your website. Plus, natural links act as a security blanket, assuring you that your traffic and rankings will not be affected by Google’s algorithmic change.
Here are some ways to get natural links:
Offer value instead of requests for links
For instance, create a relevant blog post and reach out to industry professionals. What will follow will be a natural backlink and word-of-mouth marketing for the content itself.
Create content that’s targeted and purposeful
Creation of natural backlinks requires you to offer something that’s educational and provides a new and valuable perspective on the topic.
Collaborate with influencers
Keep an eye on industry updates from your fellow influencers and reach out to them to create great content when suitable.
Diversify your content types
Take leverage of different content forms, such as infographics, video content and ebooks.
Link Building Vs. Link Earning
Notice how we refer to the process of building natural links as ‘link earning’ rather than link building.
While the two terms share the same goal, link building is more of an old school SEO strategy that focused mainly on quantity rather than quality.
Under the umbrella of link building, SEO agencies started using unfair SEO practices such as posting spam filled comments on other websites that linked them to their own.
However, the Penguin update brought with it the concept of link earning. It’s a newer and proactive approach to acquiring web traffic.
Link earning basically focuses all its efforts on creating great content, which in turn increases your overall backlink count.
With the birth of link earning:
- Building links turned into content curation
- Article submissions turned into guest blogging
- Spammy emails turned into personalized email outreach
- Reciprocal linking turned into building partnerships
Broken Link Building
The internet is broken…literally.
There are a million of broken links that result from expired hosting, site migration issues and typing mistakes. All of these situations create great opportunities for SEO link building!
Broken link building is a content-focused, white-hat link building strategy that typically consists of the following steps:
- Find broken links on sites relevant to your industry
- Reach out to website owners to inform them of these broken links
- Suggest to replace the broken link with a link to a relevant post on your website
Not only is broken link building a great way to earn backlinks, but it also helps you build relationships with peers that specialize in the same content.
Note: This practice will not work all the time. It’s possible that the website owner may not show interest in what you have to offer. It’s a number game; the more individuals you reach out to, the more likely you are to land links.
People often think that off-site SEO is synonymous to link building; however, it goes far beyond that.
If you have a local brick-and-mortar business, which you wish to promote locally (on location-based searches), then you need to pay attention to local SEO.
A variation of the run-of-the-mill SEO, local SEO makes sure your business is found by people at the exact time they’re searching for them at that locality.
In fact, studies have shown that 50% of people who did a local search on their mobile devices, ended up going to the physical store within the day.
Here are some examples of local searches:
- Dentist near me
- Lawyers in New York
Let’s look at some local SEO factors that you need to take into account during off-site SEO.
A NAP citation is simply an online mention of your business, displaying its Name, Address and Phone number (NAP).
So how does displaying your business information help your business?
Search engines, including Google, use this data to determine which companies to show in geo-targeted searches.
Moreover, a large number of accurate citations on different platforms act as evidence to search engines that your business is credible and real; this in turn impacts your local visibility.
Google My Business
Google My Business (GMB) is a robust local business listing that Google offers to everybusiness. GMB Listings allow your information to appear on top in search results when potential customers are looking for your products/services. Let’s assume you have dental practice in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, NY. When a user searches for ‘dentist lower east side,’ you’ll naturally want your practice to appear in the search results—this where your Google business listing comes in.
Since Google also has access to the searcher’s location, the searcher will see “local pack” results in the form of Google Map results, as shown above.
GMB listings are often rich, containing photos, reviews and star ratings of the business. Studies have even shown that GMBs with relevant photos get more clicks, calls and direction requests.
Long story short, if you want to rank for local intent queries (e.g. “plumber near me”), optimizing your GMB profile is one of the most important components of your off-page SEO efforts.
Every savvy inbound marketer knows that blogging is an essential tool in attracting the right visitors to your site.
Guest blogging, also called guest posting, is the practice of writing content for another website.
This is done in order to:
- Attract traffic back to your site
- Reach out to a new audience
- Build your brand’s awareness and credibility
- Boost authority through backlinks
Guest blogging always offers mutual benefits for both the host website and the guest blogger.
How Will Guest Blogging Benefit Your Business?
- Guest posts help you deliver fresh and new content to your audience— and Google loves unique content.
- By sharing your expertise, you establish yourself—and your brand—as an authority figure in the market
- It gives you the opportunity to build relationships with thought leaders in your field
- It exposes your brand to an entirely new audience.
- It gives the guest blogger, as well as the host website, a promotional boost when the blogs are shared within the personal network.
How Find Guest Blogging Opportunities?
Research is key when it comes to successful guest blogging. Look for websites that fit the following criteria:
- The site is relevant to your niche/industry
- The site has engaged readership (their posts have shares and comments)
- The website owner is active on social media
- The site has relatively high domain authority
SEO guest blogging strategy comes down to providing relevant, helpful and genuine content to educate your readers.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is the fastest way to promote your content, generate brand awareness and direct traffic to your site.
Google states that social signals—metrics such as Twitter followers and Facebook likes—do not impact search rankings. However, upon a lot of experimentation, SEO experts found that top social shares received a 22% average boost.
Therefore, the results show that while social signals may not be a direct ranking factor, they certainly impactyour SEO ranks!
Let’s at how we can use social media as part of an off-site SEO strategy:
Forum marketing, also called blog marketing,involves practices like leaving comments on blogs, question-and-answer sites, and forum. Although an old school SEO trick, you can still use forum marketing to your benefit.
Most website owners automatically make all links in blog comment sections and forms “nofollow” but that doesn’t mean these links don’t provide any value.
By participating in a discussion, you can build your reputation as a thought leader in your niche. Plus, if you stick to high-quality forums and blogs, Google will learn to associate you with the right kind of audience, building authority and trust overtime.
Here are some other ways forum marketing can work in your favor:
- Blog comments provide search engines a social proof
- Responding to comments helps you build a relationship with your readers
- Blog comments gives you an insight on what your readers want you to write about
- The act of commenting increases the likelihood that users will subscribe to your newsletter or head over to your site to read more of what you have to say
Influencer marketing is a strategy where brands and businesses work together with influential social media users and bloggers to promote their products/services.
Because these influencers have earned the loyalty and trust of a large audience, they tend to have more sway. When influencers amplify your efforts (by mentioning you on social media, guest posting, etc) your message reaches a larger and relevant audience that’s more receptive to sharing and linking.
In fact, studies show that 92% people trust recommendations from influencers over brand advertisements.
How you build the foundation of a healthy, trusted relationship with the influencer is largely up to you. You can indulge in email outreach, share ideas on industry forums and interact through third-party sites like Twitter.
At a high level, improving a site’s off-page SEO involves improving the user’s and search engine’s perception of your site’s quality. You can achieve this by getting links from reputable and trustworthy sites, shares of your content, mentions of your brand, and “votes of confidence” from sources other than your own website.
However, you need to think holistically. An efficient SEO strategy includes a combination of on-site and off-site SEO efforts to secure top search rankings. On-site SEO fixes your content and website structure so that it’s understandable by search engines, and off-site SEO helps you promote your content and get natural links from other sites to further boost your rankings. Remember, SEO isn’t a hit-and-run marketing approach; it requires patience and consistency.
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