Off-page SEO is one of the most overlooked yet valuable components of a successful business strategy.
While most business owners understand the importance of a solid online presence, they often solely rely on on-page SEO to achieve it.
However, though we can’t be sure how Google’s search engine algorithm works, there’s evidence pointing towards a 50/50 focus on both on-page and off-page SEO.
Moreover, many fall under the impression that linking is enough to fulfill off-page SEO requirements and ‘please’ search engine algorithms.
In reality, it involves brand building, citation building, content marketing, social media focus, and so much more. Cultivating a reliable, influential, and dynamic off-site image is of utmost importance for achieving online prominence.
Before exploring how off-page SEO can bolster success, it’s worth taking a look at what it is and how it works.
What is off-page SEO?
Off-page SEO, otherwise known as off-site SEO, refers to actions taken outside of your website that impact its rankings among Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs.)
Cultivating off-page SEO ranking factors involves other websites essentially “vouching” for your page by reference. A site that’s regularly referred to positively on various corners of the internet will garner an image of authority, trustworthiness, and relevance to search engines and users alike, thus ranking higher.
Optimizing for off-page SEO entails referencing from reputable online sources (pages, people, websites.) Naturally, the more authority and influence the referee holds, the more weight their reference will carry for your website.
The difference between the three main SEO types
When establishing a website, there are three main SEO options that can either be used alone or concurrently for an enhanced effect.
These are on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO, with on-page SEO by far being the most well-known of the trio.
On-page SEO is predominantly concerned with site content, internal linking, image optimization, and other design components such as meta tags. Enhancing on-site SEO does not involve the participation or referral to any outside domains or pages. However, it does cover some of the most popular aspects of SEO, such as keywords, readability, ease-of-use, and user experience.
Under the umbrella term of Technical SEO, elements that directly impact the indexing and crawling of your site by search engines are contained. This can mean anything from site speed and loading times to canonicalization (normalizing data formats.) Once again, this SEO form does not reach beyond the confines of the website itself.
Therefore, the most significant differentiator between off-site SEO and other SEO forms is that it is far-reaching and not solely concerned with the website’s content.
Finding an equilibrium between the three forms of SEO is key to achieving optimal user experience and high rankings.
What does off-page SEO achieve?
Off-page SEO helps websites to ‘fulfill’ a search engine algorithm’s ‘criteria.' While these algorithms remain relatively mysterious, it is known that they parse the majority of the internet for information about websites – not just the website itself.
By doing this, the algorithm decides how relevant a page is to user searches and will rank it accordingly among other similar sites.
It is believed that user experience, satisfaction, and approval of a site influences its rank. Therefore, if a site gains positive lateral references across the board from both influential and regular users alike, it is sure to rank higher.
According to research by HubSpot, 75% of internet users never scroll past the first search page. Consequently, the website will naturally receive more direct clicks and enhanced interaction – a catalyst for sales.
Moreover, an uptick in website’s reach and exposure to various markets can, in turn, boost online reference numbers and thus improve off-page SEO.
To fully grasp the concept and weight it carries, it’s worth thinking of indirect off-page SEO in real-life terms. As a brick & mortar shop expands its market reach and increases sales through word of mouth, so too can a business website through online mentions.
How does off-page SEO work?
Building backlinks is the backbone of off-page SEO. Search engines seek out backlinks as indications of linked-to content’s quality. If enough people found the content useful and sufficiently relevant to share with their audience, it’s considered high-quality.
So, a more interlinked site than an otherwise similar website will naturally rank higher.
Here are some of the most commonly used linking methods:
Natural links: Links to your website/content that are voluntarily included in other people’s (bloggers, website owners) online content.
Manual (outreach) links: involves actively contacting website owners/bloggers and asking them to your content.
Self-created links: Non-editorial or unofficial links designed with the sole purpose of meeting a search engine algorithm’s standards.
Despite their inherent value, all links are not equal. Regardless of the number of backlinks a website amasses, their quality and authority make the most significant contribution to a site’s off-page SEO efforts.
In short, one link from a well-established and leading source could outweigh the influence of a handful of links from less reputable sources.
Despite this inequality of influences, there are additional factors that contribute to the ‘equity’ passed onto a website.
Similarity of linking pages content
Linking site’s popularity
Relevancy of anchor text used to link – keywords
The date of the link – the newer the domain, the better.
The relevancy and authority of the linking domain
The number of links on the page
The authority of a website is a broad concept containing several contributing factors. While somewhat difficult to pinpoint or contextualize, you can still estimate the authority of your own or other’s websites/links using a propriety metric or authority score.
Off-Page Brand Building
It’s a well-known fact that brands perform well in search engines. When users actively search for a brand name, this compounds a brand’s website authority.
Conversely, if a user searches a broad term and receives your website; as a result, the algorithm still views it positively but not as much so had they specifically searched for your brand.
This includes brand name, products, or a domain name. Find out how often a brand or term is searched for by checking Google Trends. Naturally, Google compiles all of its search data which can be tracked and analyzed using their search tools.
While online content marketing can involve creating and publishing content on-site, a more holistic view would suggest it can be both on-site and off-site.
In fact, whether or not on-site content eventually becomes off-site content largely depends on its format. If the content is shareable and valuable, it may be published on other sites or media forms, linked back to the primary source – the website.
Here are some examples of content that is likely to be shared:
The appeal of using content marketing as a tactic is that creating great, engaging assets makes it easier to focus on off-page factors.
Local SEO = off-site SEO?
While we’ve already run by the three main SEO categories, there are numerous subcategories that fall beneath the main headings – Local SEO being one of them.
Optimizing local SEO involves expanding a website’s reach using off-page platforms, Google My Business (GMB) and Citations being two of them.
Google My Business
Research has shown that 46% of all Google searches are looking for local information and that 4 in 5 consumers use search engines to find local information. This means that if a business does not sufficiently focus on off-site, local SEO, they stand to miss out on many potential leads.
Google’s Business platforms play such a vital role in many local business's online presences that it’s easy to forget it’s off-site SEO.
However, whenever an establishment, business, or corporation appears on Google maps, it’s usually due to focus and actions taken off-site.
A citation is a mention of your business online that does not just include the business name but also your NAP (name, address, phone number.) A NAP is essentially a business listing and can also be achieved through Google business profiles.
It is estimated that 97% of digital consumers have used social media in the past month. Therefore, their influential role in off-site SEO cannot be underestimated.
While not comprising a direct ranking factor, social media has witnessed recent overhauls transforming it into a lateral search engine. Today, many customers are using social media as their last-stop option when searching for or reaching out to businesses.
Moreover, having an up-to-date, compelling, and dynamic social media business strategy can be the difference between a brand name being shared far and wide or remaining relatively unknown.
Social networking for a business can also mean putting themselves in front of more customers and opening up previously non-existent offline communication channels. Many companies now use social media as an off-site customer service platform.
In short, a strong social media presence can drive traffic towards a website and increase customer interaction – all desired results of off-page SEO.
In an ever-competitive market that shows no signs of slowing down, businesses need to focus on expanding their digital strategies beyond the traditional on-site confines.
Now, more than ever, off-page SEO has shifted from driving signals that impact ranking factors to including a focus on optimizing, creating content, and ranking on numerous search engines rather than just one.