In my last article, I talked about the things you can do directly on your website to improve SEO. But what about things that happen off of your website that improve your search ranking? In this article, we are going the answer the simple question of “what is off page SEO?” and share a few simple ways to improve it.
Much like my last post, we are going to start off by defining what off page SEO actually is first. To state the obvious, off-page SEO is any SEO activity that takes place “off the page.” In other words, outside your own website. From this point on, consider off-page SEO activities equivalent to building your website’s authority and making your words carry more weight online.
The Goal of Off Page SEO
The goal of these activities is to increase your site’s online authority as a whole. While On-Page SEO is meant to make a specific web page easy to understand for both Google and the reader to raise its ranking, Off-Page SEO is meant to give your whole website a boost so all pages are affected.
How Off Page SEO Affects Search Results
When Google or another search engine is determining who to show first for a given search, they first determine the authority of the sites looking to give an answer to the question. Once they’ve determined the authority of the sites, they then look at the quality of the answers given. Priority is usually given to more established sites even though a newer site may have a better answer.
This is why new blogs or websites have such a hard time ranking for competitive keywords. No one knows who they are yet. They could have amazing content or the best answer for a specific question, but because their site lacks authority, they never get shown.
Google’s Point Of View
Imagine if you’re Google for a second. Would you rather pass along advice from someone that you know for a fact knows what they’re talking about or someone you just met? The person you just met may have a better answer, but you don’t know them yet. It’s this lack of trust that’s causing you to discount their answer and get one from a more established source.
Why You Can Never Rank For Anything
This is exactly what happens when new blogs have amazing on page SEO, but no off page SEO. As I said the on page SEO article, to rank as a new blog or website, you need to target obscure questions or searches where there are very little existing answers. By doing it this way, you’re often one of the only sites offering a clear answer to the question and by default are one of the most authoritative. As a result, you get a top spot in the rankings.
This is the same concept as when you ask a question to a crowd, and no one knows what the heck to say except the new guy. In this scenario, since the new guy is the only one with a relevant answer, you’re pretty much forced to take his advice. This is the reason new blogs need to target “long-tail” keywords and not “head” terms. As the question gets more obscure, there are fewer answers competing for the top spot.
How Can You Increase Off Page SEO?
Now that we have an understanding of what off page SEO is, and how it affects your site, let’s talk about how to increase your off page SEO.
Backlinking is 90% of off-page SEO activity and will be the main focus of this article. Backlinking is when another site inserts a hyperlink that points to your site. For example, Sam Rexford runs Chill Reptile <–(link) which is another great blog for affiliate marketing and you should really check out his stuff when you get the chance.
By linking to his site right there, I gave him a backlink. Backlinking as a concept really is that simple and isn’t some mysterious thing like I thought it was in the beginning. This simple action is a vote to Google that Sam’s site is worth checking out and that’s why it’s so important. I’m “vouching” for him.
When enough people do this, all of his pages will carry more weight because so many people are recommending him. This is what’s called “raising your domain authority.” It simply involves getting many votes of confidence from other people online in the form of links to your site.
Not All Backlinks Are Created Equal
However, Backlinks can vary when it comes to the amount of weight they carry. Again, think back to the group of friends example. If the new guy makes a recommendation, does it carry that much weight? How about when your best friend you’ve known since you were 7 makes a recommendation? Who’s recommendation carries more weight?
Who Makes The Recommendation Matters
Backlinks work the same way. Now, my little site doesn’t carry that much weight yet so Sam probably won’t see much of a bump in his site authority from this link. However, if it were a link from Wikipedia, one of the web’s most well-known sites, he’ll see a huge bump. It’s also worth noting that backlink weight can change over time. As my site gets stronger, so will my link to Sam’s site.
This is very useful to keep in mind when building backlinks of your own. If you network with up-and-coming bloggers, you’ll build a lot of lower-level links that may strengthen over time. This will be much easier than trying to get a link off Wikipedia straight up as an unknown beginner.
Links Carry Authority AND Traffic
When trying to build links, make sure you’re building RELEVANT links. This is because links not only build authority, they can also build traffic. For example, Sam over at Chill Reptile blogs about affiliate marketing. If you’re reading this site, I assume you would like his content too and there’s a good chance you’ll click the link above. Instead, if he ran a blog about professional wrestling, you probably wouldn’t care about what his site’s about and never click through.
It’s important to view backlinks like doors to your website or business. Each link you get is like opening another door to your site. As you open more doors, you can let more people in. As you let more people in, more people will ultimately buy what you’re selling. By having sites relevant to yours link back to you, you’re placing those doors in locations where your target audience hangs out. This increases the chances that your ideal customer finds your site and buys something.
Links Also Help Categorize Your Site
When you’re building links to your site, Google takes note of who is linking to you and how many times they do it. This record of links is called your “link profile.” If your affiliate marketing blog has a bunch of links from other affiliate marketing blogs, Google knows for sure that you’re an affiliate marketing blog and well respected within the community. This kind of link profile makes you an authority in your space and much more likely to rank for every keyword you target.
Contrast this to a link profile from a bunch of random sites. Let’s say that you’re an affiliate marketing site and have links from a food blog, pro wrestling site, car site, and pet blog. Google has no idea what niche you’re in and no clue how to categorize you. When they see this kind of link profile, they think you just went out link hunting to build your authority and took links from anyone who would listen. Because of this thinking, they won’t give your links much merit and you still won’t rank for anything despite having a lot of links.
Follow Vs No-Follow Links
Frustratingly, not all links are a vote of confidence to Google. The link I gave Sam before is an example of a “do follow” link. This type of link not only builds traffic but is also a vote of confidence to Google. The other type of link is called a “no follow” link. These links can direct traffic and act as a door, but they do not carry the vote of confidence to Google.
No follow links are usually found on sites like Facebook, Instagram, Blog Comments, and other social platforms. These links are usually “no follow” because you can place them yourself. Google doesn’t want you voting for yourself and that’s understandable.
However, don’t count out “no follow” links. They can still increase what’s known as “referral traffic” (traffic “referred” from another site) and when Google sees a lot of referral traffic, it will increase your domain’s authority anyway. The idea is that if a lot of other people are sending traffic your way, your site must be a good source of information.
Where The Link Leads Is Important Too
The landing page (where the user “lands” after clicking) of the backlink is important too. If the link leads directly to your site’s homepage it’s called a homepage link. If the link leads to a specific article on your site, it’s what’s known as a “deep link.”
Deep links are important because they can land a user immediately on a page relevant to them. This increases the amount of time they spend on your site and the likelihood of them buying something. If the user lands on your homepage, they must click around for a bit to find something interesting. When this happens, the chances of them leaving, or “bouncing” as it’s called, increases. A high bounce rate is something that can hurt your site’s authority so aim for deep links whenever possible.
If you haven’t figured this out already, backlinking is the single most important activity of off page SEO and it should always be the sole focus. To get an awesome link profile, you should be targeting do follow links that are relevant to your niche, from high authority sites, and lead to a specific article. A handful of these links will send your domain authority into the stratosphere in a hurry.
But that doesn’t mean you should neglect the lower level links either. Post on blogs, put links in your social media profiles, and graciously accept homepage links when you get them. These lower-level links add up over time.
How To Get Backlinks
When I started blogging, getting backlinks to me was a complete mystery. In every forum I posted to, people said “getting backlinks is super easy” and I couldn’t seem to understand why. How can I get people linking to me if my articles don’t rank? I can’t just email site owners asking for a link. I was totally stumped.
However, if you think about it, at their core, backlinks are votes of confidence from people who know about you. If no one knows about you, no one is going to link to you. The question then becomes how do I get noticed without relying on search traffic?
This is actually how I got my first backlink. If you plug yourself into your niche community, you’ll get to know other marketers in your niche. Blogging is one of the most common forms of publishing because so many people are camera shy. This means almost everyone you talk to is going to have a blog. If you avoid the anonymous social networks (Reddit) and pick one where your identity is revealed (Facebook) people will be more open and honest with you and the conversations are a little more friendly.
Spend some time in relevant groups. Ask questions, answer questions, reply to posts. Just become a member of the community. The community will start to notice you and like you if you’re contributing regularly without selling. Without realizing it, you could be talking to a high domain site owner who’s taken a liking to you and your content like I was.
I posted something about my traffic being weak and that I was working to build it, and this guy messaged me with “Hey what’s your site? I wanna throw a link your way and give you a traffic boost. I like your stuff” It turns out he had a domain authority of 49, which is very high in the marketing space. I had no idea he was following my stuff and it came totally out of the blue.
Guest Posting or Writing For Hire
This method requires a little bit more outreach, but if you write an article for someone on their site, you often will get a link back to your own site in your bio. “Dom writes for The Dadapreneur Blog” or something will be linked in the bio section.
I got my second link this way. There is a subreddit called r/hireawriter and occasionally publications will post there looking for someone to write for them. I responded to an ad and got the gig. I ended up writing this article for Sweeps Atlas and got the link in my bio. You can also post what you’re good at writing in a “hire me” post and have publications come to you.
The HARO Method
This is something that sort of put Sam over at Chill Reptile on the map for me. He introduced me to a service called HARO which stands for Help A Reporter Out. Basically, it’s a free service you sign up for as a news source and then reporters email you looking for a story. You get three emails a day with news topics and you respond to the ones that are relevant to you. If a reporter likes what you have to say, you’ll get featured with a link. I got featured on a site called Adzooma in this article by using this method. Adzooma has a domain score of 47 which means this is a high authority link.
AHREFS has an awesome article HERE on their site on how to get featured in HARO stories if you want to check it out.
Create Linkable Content
This probably should have been the first thing I mentioned, but I thought it went without saying. If you want people to link to you, you need to create content that they will want to link to. Promotional content is never going to get linked to no matter how hard you try, especially if they’re in the same niche as you. Why would someone drive traffic to a page where you’re going to get paid instead of them?
Instead, focus on informational content and the links will come naturally. If you’ve figured out a way to do something very mundane but useful, it’s easier for someone to link to your article rather than create one of their own. Better yet, if you can create an infographic (I can’t just yet) people will practically trip over each other to link to it. That’s because infographics can be hard to make and take time to produce. It’s easier to link to someone else’s than make your own.
Share Your Content On Social Media
When you create new content, blast it out to the world so it gets noticed. Your stuff is doing you no good if it just sits on your WordPress blog in a dark corner of the internet. Plugins like Blog2Social make it easy to share your content to your social media profiles with a link back to your site. Just hook up your social accounts and you can share with a single click. If it’s link worthy, you’ll get noticed and the links will come in time.
I have my Blog2Social plugin linked to my Facebook Profile, Facebook Page, Reddit, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Medium Accounts and I share every new article on all of them when I publish. To demonstrate the power of this method, I’ve never posted anything on Twitter ever besides what I’ve done through this app and I currently have 6 twitter followers and get regular referral traffic via Twitter. All because I took 60 seconds to hook it up 4 months ago.
There really isn’t much to off-page SEO other than backlinking and building your brand. However backlinking is such a big topic I felt the need to cover it in depth. To recap, in order to improve your off-page SEO you need to build your backlink profile and strengthen your name in the community.
To do that, you need to get your name out there, make good contacts, and create good content. Luckily with the help of plugins and social media, it is pretty easy to get your content in front of people and once you plug yourself into the community and start networking, people will start to remember you and the links will start flowing. If you’re a total introvert and the thought of networking makes your skin dance, there is always the HARO method but it takes time and a lot of work that way.
Most of all, backlinking and off page SEO takes time. It took me over 4 months to get my first link so don’t worry if you cant get links right away. Once you have good content and it gets in front of the right people, you will start to get noticed even if you don’t realize it at first.