If you want to raise true brand awareness and drive massive organic traffic to your website, then you’re in need of some really effective off-page SEO practices. Big time. There’s little clear-cut and effective content across the Internet on what exactly digital marketers need to focus most of their resources, knowledge, and time on to drive organic traffic to their site from an off-site SEO point of view. That’s where the idea of writing a complete off-page SEO techniques checklist came from. Hope it’ll lend you a helping hand in your digital marketing endeavors.
Most user searches are made because of two reasons: to find information (informational query), or to find information and buy (commercial query). You need both types of users – the ones who seek information, and the ones who want to buy – because either case is a win-win situation: you’ll either convert them into customers, or you’ll win yourself some long-term subscribers.
It’s time you knew the off-site SEO tactics by their name, hence we crafted and put together a complete checklist of everything you should aim at in your SEO endeavors:
Link Building is King
Harness that Social Media Power
Add an RSS Feed Subscription Box
Don’t Shy from Blog Commenting
Guest Posting is Still Hot
Forums Posting Is a Thing
Incorporate Videos and Images
Build Relationships with Webmasters/Influencers
Be Present On the Web
Craft a Sparkling Brand Image
Document Sharing Is Good for You
PR Promo Game
First, let’s take an off-site SEO tour
Before we could even talk about off-page SEO, we should revise our knowledge on what SEO is in the first place. Although this might sound redundant (after all, this is how you landed on our blog, already knowing what SEO is and its very workings), we shall draw a quick picture of what SEO means today. Search engine optimization (SEO) stands for the entire cumulus of search marketing efforts meant to make websites and online presence stand out both in search engines’ and users’ eyes. SEO should make your brand shine in a sea of other brands, all fighting to get among the first position in SERPs. Furthermore, it seeks to satisfy users’ thirst for fresh, high-quality, relevant, and useful information.
You can’t just ‘SEO’ your website and be done. It’s a forever moving goal post.
SEO is an entirely different and exclusive language used by marketers and webmasters to communicate with the search engines. It’s a language bridge between humans and robots if you will. SEO rhymes with friendliness, credibility, authenticity, quality, transparency, fairness, optimization, variety and more. Also, SEO is divided into two main categories: on-page and off-page SEO. What Google asks, SEO strives to deliver.
What’s more, search engines, in general, take into account many factors when ranking a website: on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and other important Google-backed factors.
On-page SEO techniques can refer to loads of things and practices, and it includes optimized titles and snippets, search-friendly URL structures, friendly navigation – breadcrumbs, user sitemaps -, internal links, text formatting – h1, h2, bold, etc -, user-friendly 404 pages, accelerated pages in terms of loading, mobile-optimized pages, high-quality fresh content, image optimization – image size, proper image names, ALT tag -, external links to relevant sites (not broken) etc.
Off-page SEO refers to optimization activities you can do outside the boundaries of your website. Anything taking place outside of your website and contributing to your ranking is considered off-site SEO: social media marketing, influencer marketing, mentions (direct or indirect), guest blogging (sometimes black-hat), so on, so forth.
Also called off-site SEO, this type of search engine optimization gives search engines a glimpse as to how people and digital entities across the Globe and Internet read your website’s overall features. Off-page SEO rhymes with words like link building or promotion activities, yet the whole thing isn’t just about links, but about a whole lot more. We’ll expand on it a bit later on.
By deploying better off-page SEO techniques means you are trying to prove to your readers and search engines that your site is trustworthy, authentic, relevant, and could very well be popular in your industry. The benefits triggered by good off-page SEO tactics are multiple, but let’s name a few: increase in rankings, increase in PageRank, more visits, more social media mentions, and more visibility.
On-page is active doing, while off-page is somehow passive, as it comes AFTER you’ve worked hard to deliver quality and uniqueness. In terms of outcome, what happens off-page is more important and valuable than what’s on-page. Having a truly rich fresh content and a user-friendly website but no following, likes, share, mentions, or links across the web, is nonsense and futile.
However, the on-page SEO greatly influences the future of the off-page SEO. That’s why the end result has to be considered before starting an activity, not after you’ve already done it. Start with on-page first, and then jump to off-page SEO.
Search engines might change the way their algorithms work, or ranking factors might shift to new ones or follow a new order, but off-site SEO will still matter. Because businesses need thumbs up from readers, as well as linking fellows. The user perception of your own site worthiness and quality is of paramount importance to you. The key to winning them is to build the best product out there, not just another one on the market, and consequently, the off-page SEO would naturally do the work – people would talk about you because they are already converted or drawn to you.
Without further ado, let’s get to the ultimate off-page SEO techniques checklist and learn some lessons for future marketing strategies.
1. Link Building is King
Build and chase quality links. That’s the first and most important thing to remember about links. According to our SEO terms glossary, “NoFollow is an attribute webmasters can use when linking to a website that tells search engines to essentially ignore the link. Social networks are notorious for using NoFollow links when linking to external websites. Links without the NoFollow attribute are referred to as DoFollow”. If you’re wondering actually what impact do NoFollow links have on your website, here are some actionable data and tips, all backed up by case studies and Google’s position in this matter.
Link building is the most popular marketing technique deployed by professionals all over the world. It’s the most desired outcome of all – ok, to some extent. It is so important that, even though Google suggests that content is the #1 ranking factor, it’s often preferred by the masses over the principle of crafting and providing quality fresh content. Yet content is still contributing a lot to your linking strategy.
To attract links naturally, you’ll need extraordinary content—truly the best of the best—and a heck of a good promotion plan to make that content visible to the right people.
Links are translated as votes or applause to your website, an overall appreciation of your brand. The same link building effort contributed to the rise of what’s known today as black hat SEO. Sometimes, people are so desperate to gather links that they start playing with fire and perform the following: forum signatures, enroll your website in content directories, link exchange schemes, link networks, blog directories, comment link (a.k.a. comment signature), article directories, and so on.
There are things that make a referring domain, hence a link, valuable (or not), and this are: popularity, topic match between the two domains tied by a link (is the link relevant?), anchor text, link freshness, website trustworthiness, domain authority (DA) and/or page authority (PA), and no. of links used by the “sender” page. Hence, pay attention to whom you’re linking to and how you’re doing it.
Three main types of links populate the web:
natural links: a user/customer/reader knows the content on your page and has a positive view over your services, and links to your business as a sign of trust, appreciation, and endorsement;
manually build links: gained through direct link building efforts; wilfully asking customers to link to your product, or influencers to share your content;
self-created links: when posting your website link in comments a.k.a. comment signature, or in web directories, forums, press releases etc (most of them enter in the black hat category)
The wisest move would be to practice natural link building. The best way to do this is to make your content worthy of links, and links will come naturally. Guest blogging is also a good idea but be careful not to overlink your website and make your contribution more spammy than useful. Also, build your links at a normal, traditional pace, if you will, which is gradually, or else Google will think you’re doing some black-hat magic.
Link building should be about quality, not quantity. Many digital marketers or businesses tend to forget that. Go for the high-quality links. But don’t let this stop you from linking to and getting links from smaller or younger brands and professionals, as long as the domains are good and are related to your niche. They have to meet the further requirements: quality, proper text and keywords, inbound numbers, and others I’ve already mentioned before. In the end, you should have the best of both worlds. And you should target it, even when you think your business is in a boring niche and there’s not much you can do.
The best links are those who pass the most link juice. That’s what your brand needs, and it doesn’t even have to be thirsty. Also, page authority (and general domain trust) is a very clear indicator of a site’s status and overall SEO tactics. And that is because Google is not necessarily and solely interested in links, but in their impact on the online environment and on your website as well.
Huge domains such as Wikipedia do wonders for your brand when gaining an inbound link from them. Today’s lesson: try getting links in and from huge link aggregators like Wikipedia – this is definitely a white hat SEO move. On that same note, inbound links from non-profit (.org) and education (.edu), or official (.gov) sites are especially powerful. These are huge domains that provide extremely high-quality links and also pass some sexy link juice and authority to your page. To check your inbound links, you should try a link analysis tool like Site Explorer and see what, from where, and what type of links you have from “abroad”. Analyze your link profile and see what pages provide the most link juice.
Familiarize yourself with broken link building. Revive those pages or create a smashing 404 page with links to other internal pages. Also, whenever analyzing your link profile, check your website for harmful links, like adult sites referring to you or malware domains sending a link to your website. You can check this by using the aforementioned tool – Site Explorer. Also, check the anchor texts. Many times they happen to not be very relevant to your page topic and can easily mislead Google in “forming an opinion” about your content. Not until recently, I myself realized that anchor texts truly matter and they’re a clear indicator of the relation between your page and the linked one. Hence, I started to pay more attention to the words I add the outbound link on.
Neil Patel teaches us what to do when we spot a broken link:
If you find a broken link on a website, you can contact the owner. Since you did him/her a small favor of pointing out a broken link, they might do you the favor of including a link to your website. You can even offer a replacement link when appropriate.
Never underestimate the magic and power of competitor backlink research. See where your competitors get links from and target the same sources too. This is easy to find when you have any SEO tool at hand, one that does backlink analysis. If you want to master this art of white hat espionage, then you could read this blog post providing a complete framework to analyze your competition, learn their best-kept secrets, and take action like a pro.
Last but not least, it is extremely important that not just standard links should be pursued and taken into consideration, but the linkless ones as well, also known as (brand) mentions. For example, only 9% of tweets mentioning companies start with @. Which basically means that 91% of people are talking about you, not to you (attaching a link to their reference). And this is a pretty strong and sound reason to start using a brand mention monitoring tool. You wouldn’t want to miss anything tasty or, well, sour in regard to your brand.
Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, made it clear that links are one of the most important Google ranking factors. Hence, you should make sure you know your mentions (as they also count as links) and, if possible, turn them into backlinks (by contacting the webmaster or content editor).
2. Harness that Social Media Power
Social signals might matter to Google when ranking a page. You need to win your audience in order to make Google (or any other search engine) like you and rank you high. Especially when mentions of your brand can count as links, as we previously mentioned.
Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Instagram are the buzzwords of the day. They’ve never been so successful and strong in their entire existence. They surely know how to engage people, provide them with the means to be inspired and cheered up, serve them the friends they need (although, most of the times, available only in the virtual world), serve them the share and likes they so much crave for. However, brands and online marketers seized the moment and saw in these social platforms the best playground for brand advocacy and promo.
Shares and likes are the social media magic tricks. They make your business grow and spread like wildfire. Whenever sharing relevant, fresh, and engaging content with your community of users, you win new subscribers, fans, or leads.
Content is fire. Social media is gasoline.
There are three things we’d recommend you consider when activating on social media:
Be responsive – people are bound to talk about you either when they’re satisfied with your services, when someone asks for a recommendation or feedback from friends, or when they’re unhappy with your product. Either way, be sensitive and engage with your following. Customer support can be performed across all channels, be they online or offline, on your support page or on social media channels.
Befriend the Big Brothers – there’s a multitude of thought leaders, influencers, renowned professionals, or just skillful group admins that could lend you a very helpful hand in spreading the word about your brand. One, by sharing your content or mentioning you, two, by following you, or three, by simply influencing your self-development as a businessman or marketer in the field. Build connections with social media gurus and let them shape you by taking what’s good from them, and learning what’s better to avoid. Birds of a feather flock together, they say. Stick with the good guys and results will follow.
Monitor your online reputation – brand mentions are a precious asset to your business, so treat them accordingly. As already emphasized before, brand mentions do count as links in Google’s search algorithms. Fetch a trustworthy brand monitoring tool and see who mentioned you across social media channels (and not only), what exactly they say about you, and use that chance to get in touch and win them as your customers or further clients.
3. Add an RSS Feed Subscription Box
It’s better to have fewer subscribers that visit your site on a regular basis, than a multitude of one-time visitors. This is why all more or less reputable blogs and brands provide an RSS subscription box on their walls. RSS is short for Rich Site Summary. And I think that says it all. RSS boxes/stream RSS/channel RSS, or better known as subscription boxes, make page information available in XML format. People are drawn to the trigger-word “subscribe” and leave their email address to receive information without having to proactively search it on the web.
By using this type of contact form, you not only enrich your contact and subscriber agenda but also have an intrigued recipient whom you can send and communicate your company updates, news, blog post etc. You can opt for this Google Feedburner.
Many times, users are happy to benefit from continuous rich info, data, and news without having to manually look them up, and rather satisfied when receiving them by email in the comfort of their home or work offices. And since you might be also looking for some high-quality marketing newsletters to subscribe to, we crafted one already, so you won’t have to mind it.
4. Don’t Shy from Blog Commenting
There are minds who argue that it’s a bit delicate to recommend as it can easily turn into a black hat practice. Blog commenting is an excellent off-site SEO activity that drives organic traffic to your website and SERP ranking.
There are loads of article on the web on how to correctly do blog commenting and everything you need to know is one click away. But the general tone is that you should definitely do it “white-hatly”, and leave any miscellaneous tactics aside.
Give your insight on topics, and attract attention to you, but don’t exercise comment signature. Just mention your brand inside the body of relevant and useful tips, and make its appearance relevant there.
5. Guest Posting is Still Hot
Similar to blog commenting, you should define your reasons for contributing in such a way from the very beginning. Most guest blogs come to advertise their business or product and can sometimes turn into some spammy and annoying reading. Be fair, and make giving actionable, fresh, and relevant info your first concern. Not the links to your website.
By writing guest posts from time to time, not only help you build quality backlinks (duh!) and trigger more organic traffic to your website, but also something else. Yes, you display a professional conduct by writing not only on your personal blog but contributing to others too. There are brands who like to flirt with knowledge coming from other professionals in the field, although that happens quite seldom. And that’s one of those times when you have to choose your men wisely.
6. Forums Posting Is a Thing
Forums are a great place to promote your website and that’s obviously part of off-page SEO techniques. Quora, Reddit, Yahoo Answers, eHow are the most important hubs from where one can gain a lot of actionable info and authentic answers to their questions. Forums are a great playground to get to meet your peers and have a chat with them on topics of interest to you.
Similar to blog commenting or guest blogging, it’s good to mention your brand, but avoid to do it bluntly. First provide some actionable info on the specific topic and then, if relevant, fit your brand between the lines. These Q&A platforms are true gold mines but they have to be won first, by using the right words, tone, and style when posting a contribution. Make it relevant and transparent. Especially when these mediums can bring you a lot of organic traffic to your website, and if lucky, conversions.
7. Build Trust
It’s natural that off-site SEO includes trust as well. After all, that’s how you get your social media or customer votes. Transparency is one of the must-haves in helping trust be build. Post useful content and don’t try to deceive your readers with catchy titles and zero quality content. That’s definitely not how you build organic traffic!
Google only loves you when everyone else loves you first.
Page Authority (PA) and Domain Authority (DA) are two important indicators of how search engines see your website. It’s like having your whole life in front of your eyes. You should check your PA and DA, and also your inbound links’ ones with a site explorer tool.
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is that setup that makes your website’s relationship with the user be safe. This type of link is making sure that the data passed between the web server and the browsers stay private and unharmed. Users trust a site more when they see that their data is secured by this encrypted link when entering private data such as credit card numbers, usernames, and passwords, or any other sensitive information.
One way to build and check your users’ trust is to make sure you get business reviews. You can start by asking your present customers to check your rating section and leave a contribution there. It’s important to let them know how and why it’s important that you need their opinion on your services, all expressed and posted publicly. The more customers you’ll have, the more reviews you should get. Especially if you’re having a Facebook page where people can stay up-to-da about and connected to your business, and leave reviews.
Yet reviews ask for quick answers from you, however positive or negative they’d be. Commit to visit your review section often and leave comments. Your users need to see you’re a live person, one that doesn’t shy from treating their customers with respect and appreciation.
8. Incorporate Videos and Images
People like to play and experiment, even if it means to play something else and they just witness it. That’s why augmented reality is a massive hit nowadays, with Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook incorporation motion visuals projected onto the real world and driving people crazy with fascination. And all this AR is connected to video and image.
Video and images are viral nowadays, so you should bet in them. How else do you think platforms like YouTube, Vimeo (video), Flickr, Pinterest, Photobucket (photo), Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat (video & image) have reached this far with their success story?
Off-site SEO is about getting attention to your website thanks to outbound activities, unrelated to your page contents. Hence promote your business through videos, podcasts, infographics, quotes etc. Just take the example of Tasty by Buzzfeed or Tastemade. They’re rolling out videos like crazy and people love it, love it, love it. I bet they get more likes, shares, and bookmarks than some blog post published by someone really good at SEO and digital marketing.
Getting back to our sheep, hub pages like Pinterest, Youtube and so on, have massive PageRank and trust, hence you should join them and associate your business with them, by using their platform to post stuff about your products. Given their sharing and like/thumbs up/upvote system, you’ll gain brand awareness through shares and likes.
In addition, the links that you get from YouTube videos and their meta description are extremely valuable and they help you improve your off page SEO.
Last but not least, don’t forget about optimizing your uploaded file titles, file names, description sections, size, and links. SEO works in these niches too.
9. Build Relationships with Webmasters/Influencers
Although already mentioned this before, you should make friends among those you admire and whose steps you wish to follow in your career. Although with quite a busy schedule, they’re usually willing to guide, inspire, and help. Rand Fishkin had the same message when speaking at Inbound, in 2013.
Don’t build links. Build relationships.
Start connecting with them, impress them enough to make them share your content and you’ve won yourself some quality relationships. But beware, you have to make sure you don’t overlook them in time, but always make sure to keep in touch with them, ask for their advice and feature them in your pieces of content. This way, your content is more bound to being shared across their own personal social channels, than random content on your blog.
Last year, I wrote an article called Exclusive 20 Digital Marketing Tips from 20 Top Amazing Women Marketers. And not only was the experience of gathering insights truly unique, but also rewarding. Why? Because a) I got to do the outreach to more than 70 successful women marketers (oh, the honor!) and get to talk with them, and b) we managed to win them on our side, to promote our content, and collaborate on other projects as well. It was a win-win situation. Not to mention the shares we got thanks to their audience.
10. Be Present On the Web
McDonald, Coca-Cola, and Bic are everywhere. There more people who might’ve heard about them than who’ve heard of a camera, let’s say. And that’s because their marketing strategies are unbeatable. They know how to address all customer segments, satisfy all fans, and deliver tasty and cheap food, or useful tools.
Seth Godin believes fans come only with hard work and care.
“Build it, and they will come” only works in the movies. Social Media is a “built it”, nurture it, engage them, and they may come and stay.
Well-done off-page SEO techniques increase brand reputation and authority. Be present, live this very moment to make your brand heard. Think of easy-to-understand ways to communicate your brand to your customers and attract them with quality services. Make them feel special. Learn how to talk to all customer segments or, at least, define your target audience, instead of floating around in the marketing space with no clue whatsoever.
11. Craft a Sparkling Brand Image
Nobody wants more of the same thing. Think what people need most and don’t get, seize the opportunity, and deliver. This is how you’ll leave customers a memory of you, of your uniqueness and utility, and someday, of your greatness.
Just look at Buzzfeed (I’m a huge fan, please pardon my enthusiasm). They get ten times more attention when posting something than a random marketing brand does. Because they knew how to shine their way in a world full of tips, recipes, and did-you-knows, and stand out, even though the market was already saturated. Plus, they knew how to address various and different customer segments.
Or Neil Patel. He’s known all over the marketing industry and probably even farther. It’s because he knew how to stand out, be original, deliver easy-to-understand messages and content, one that suits all masses, not just the ones with advanced knowledge in the field of marketing.
12. Document Sharing Is Good for You
By sharing content about your brand on other platforms you’ll be able to rank for keywords your site wouldn’t otherwise be able to compete for, for various reasons like the competition is too strong. If you think your piece of content would serve others’ interest as well, upload documents to doc sharing sites like Scribd, Academia, and SlideShare.
Treat the documents like a traditional piece of content – do keyword research and fully optimize them: titles, file name, transcripts. Place effective call-to-action and links back to your website whenever relevant and possible.
The benefit of having documents posted on such platforms is that PDFs and PowerPoint files can’t be crawled by search engines but these sites make them readable. In addition, you borrow some link juice for your website, which is again, awesome.
Similar to written docs, craft podcasts and videos on your to brand topic and then upload them to SoundCloud, YouTube etc with a transcript. The transcript is where you can help search engine crawlers to bump into your content way easier. That’s SEO, baby!
13. PR Promo Game
The more you go out in the world, the more you know and the more you’ll get known. PRactise the habit of attracting the public eye, give and host interviews, gain your influencers’ audience for your brand too. Get visible, and you’ll get noticed.
The reality is SEO can benefit from PR best practices and PR can benefit from SEO best practices.
Digital Strategist @davelloyd1
Whenever deploying product updates or having something important to communicate, do press releases. By contacting and maintaining a good relationship with journalists and outlets in the field, you’ll help your brand reach out to more customer segments and get your message heard.
PRess releases, interviews, and all these kinds of contributions are a new chance to exercise your SEO and content marketing skills and optimize the content so that search engine would rank it high in SERPs.
For a long time now, search marketing is slightly second after email in terms of top online activities. Hence, you ought to appear in SERPs when users deploy queries.
One way is to write exquisite content, make your website super-friendly and eye-catchy, promote it properly, and links together with traffic will follow naturally. Another one would be to build a reader-focused online presence and concentrate on the searcher’s intent. This stuff is part of on-page SEO but do you remember what we’ve previously said about on-page and off-page SEO? It was that successful off-page SEO follows good on-page SEO. So make sure to have good on-page SEO – here’s a guide from Brian Dean on how to do it.
And remember that people only refer to, share, like, and talk about content they like or have a remembrance of. So act accordingly.
Last but not least, avoid playing with fire and practice black hat off-page SEO techniques. You can turn both search engines, visitors, and subscribers to enemies. You can get penalties from Google, get blocked by visitors, or blacklisted by subscribers. And nobody wants that.
To end on a happy note, just be your good self and everything will be just fine. Off-site SEO is here to help.
Read more about this at cognitiveseo.com.