Off-Page SEO : The Ultimate Guide
Definition and ranking factors
External search engine optimization covers most of the factors that can affect the ranking of an entire website or an individual page while outside the resource. The main task of off-page SEO is to achieve maximum efficiency and higher positions among organic search results. In this article, we’ll cover the basic elements and best practices and find out what is off-page SEO in terms of backlinks, content, and local search.
External factors can influence several key page parameters:
- Expertise is the affiliation of a site to a particular industry or category and the importance of the content being published. For example, a building materials store and a hobby site can both publish materials on how to make a DIY kitchen table. However, in terms of expertise, DIY resources will be more useful because they offer the most relevant content. When choosing tools or materials for such a project, the effect might be the complete opposite. The profile store will not only provide more reliable information but also more possible options for choosing.
- Authority is an aggregate score designed to show how useful a site’s content is in comparison to others. For example, when choosing tools for a small home project, you are more likely to turn to highly respected sites that provide reviews and comparisons for the exact technique you intend to use. When choosing a laptop, which review would be more useful for you:- a hardware store or a tech blogger specializing in such new products? In either case, we are dealing with authority – this does not mean that one piece of content is worse than another. It simply means that one source pays more attention to details and features than another.
- Credibility is an expression of the extent to which the posted content corresponds to the stated topic and industry and how useful users find it. In our case, a good example would be the official website of the manufacturer of cordless drills and the characteristics of the model indicated in the product listing on Amazon. In terms of the reliability of information, the manufacturer’s website will be much higher because it is a reliable and accurate source that cites numerous other resources.
The combination of these factors is called E-A-T, and you can learn more about them in our article UPDATE : Google May 4, 2020.
Nobody knows the exact number and scope of all the factors that Google takes into account when ranking but we created a chart to illustrate the main groups that can affect a website’s performance on search engines.
- DLKAF (Domain-Level Keyword-Agnostic Features) – the quality of the links linking to the domain, expressed in their authority and expertise and the Domain Rank of the linking sites. We wrote about how to find out the authority of a referring domain in How to Boost Your Domain Authority in 2020.
- PLLF (Page-Level Link Features) – the quality of links, including types, structure, anchor text used, and the quantity itself
- PLKWCF (Page-Level Keyword and Content Features) – the importance and frequency of mentions of keywords on pages (TF-IDF), the relevance of articles to the topic, and the quality of content in general
- PLKAF (Page-Level Keyword-Agnostic Features) – content availability in a broad sense: from page load speed to uniqueness, length, and level of readability of the text
- DLBF (Domain-Level Brand Features) – general brand awareness, especially when offline. How quickly and easily it can be remembered, how often it is mentioned in the press, and how closely is the chosen domain associated with it.
- UU (User Usage) – Usage signals from browsers, web applications, and toolbars, including CTR, number, and variety of requests received. Read the related article – What Is a CTR. Why Is Click-Through-Rate Important?
- SM (Social Metrics) – Social signals such as the number of links shared, as well as tags and mentions on various social networks. Find out more in the article – Social Signals in SEO.
- DLKU (Domain-Level Keyword Usage) – the use of fully or partially matching main keywords in the domain name
- DLKAF (Domain-Level Keyword-Agnostic Features) – other factors such as the length of the domain name, extension, and response rate to requests via the HTTP protocol (for more details, see the article – HTTPS vs. HTTP).
Among the main constituent elements of off-page optimization, a well-established set of elements is most often distinguished by building backlinks and reputation management, including mentions and branded search, content marketing, including social media management, search engine optimization based on local searches and geo-targeting. Below we will tell you more about each of them.
The main source of factors for off-site SEO are third-party websites linking to yours. Quantity does not always mean quality, as many links from domains of questionable reputation or low authority can easily lead to warnings or penalties from Google. Read more in the article – Google Algorithms That Affect SEO. We have detailed the method to distinguish useful links from toxic ones and what to do to get rid of the influence of harmful links in the article What Are Bad Links? Google, SEO, and Disavow Tool.
Links from external sources to the site are also called backlinks. Find out more on the topic at Build High-Quality Backlinks. One of the most convenient ways to get information about backlinks is the corresponding tool from SemRush.
You can click on the total number of backlinks, or you can select the tool of interest in the navigation bar on the left.
As you can see, there are 4 main types of backlinks:
For general information about the number, subject matter, and authority of referring domains, popular anchor text, and other parameters, open the first tab labeled Overview.
There you will also see data on domain authority, keywords, and estimated monthly average traffic. Tabs with useful information such as indexed pages and competitors are of additional great interest.
When browsing pages, you can order them both by the number of backlinks and by referring domains or newness. This tool will be invaluable if you want to increase the effectiveness of internal links on your site by redirecting visitors from the most popular or effective pages.
The Competitor Dashboard is a great addition to the organic and paid keywords data because backlink relevance will be slightly higher in this case. Want to learn more about other competitor analysis tools? Check out the article SEO Competitive Analysis: Plan, Features, and Tricks You May Have Forgotten About. It will definitely interest you.
In general, backlinks can be divided into three main categories:
- Natural – the most valuable, also called earned or organic backlinks.
- Created – valuable links obtained through your efforts in the form of paid or free postings, mentions, partnerships, and more.
- Self-created – perhaps the least valuable backlinks, generated automatically, sometimes without the knowledge or intention of users.
The process of getting backlinks can take quite a long time. This is why there are opportunities for paid backlinks or sponsored links. This process involves asking website owners and bloggers to post a link to your site. Since no one wants to harm their rankings with irrelevant or low-quality content, you need to first think about the reason for linking to your site and the appropriate context. For example, a tech blogger might recommend a convenient online banking service on their Instagram account but the advertising for pottery can cause outrage among audiences. On the other hand, being creative often brings unexpected success. For example, that same blogger can be an effective part of a well-planned Star Wars sock campaign, especially if it kicks off in during early-May or before World Star Wars Day. Therefore, even irrelevant content can sometimes be used successfully. For more details and tips on working with bloggers, see Blogger Outreach: How to Get the Expected Feedback.
Blogs and forums
Google has effectively replaced the expert opinion of neighbors or acquaintances. However, it has not completely supplanted it from the process of finding information and making decisions. Sometimes, it’s easier to ask a person a question by using forums and platforms such as Quora, Yahoo Answers, and Reddit. They are important components of off-page search engine optimization. One of the main tasks of the Internet is to help people share information and these projects do the best with it.
You can think of such sites as social networks, created around the desire to ask and answer questions. The more, and the more accurately you answer, the higher your rating, and the more often questions will be asked. Some projects allow you to reinforce the credibility of your messages with information about professional experience, education, or other achievements in a particular field. For example, when asking a question about sports nutrition, it is better to listen to the opinion of nutritionists and people with medical education. While practicing athletes, educators, and even successful athletes will help you choose a training plan. To start developing your website on Quora, follow our simple guide. Highlight a few essential organic keywords. If you don’t know them yet, you can use information about your closest competitors or hints from places such as Google Keyword Planner.
Let’s say you are interested in tennis rackets for children. Let’s enter the relevant keywords and see the results.
Having entered just two general searches, we not only learned the main age groups, sizes, and brands for such rackets but also saw some interesting options for possible searches. Now, let’s pick some keywords and enter them into Quora search.
Filter the results so that only questions are displayed, and make sure you specify the age of the publication of interest.
Now you can start answering and if your tips are useful, users will vote for them, share them, and invite you to answer new questions posted. It is important to remember that links can only be used if they complement your answer and are relevant to what the discussion is about. It is also not recommended to post answers consisting of only links. Everyone needs context from search bots to curious users.
Blogs are another useful source of backlinks. Hosting your articles will be most effective by finding suitable resources that support guest posting. To do this, you can use a simple combination of Google search operators.
Getting your search results to display only blogs that support third-party content will take some creativity. However, in the most general case, searching for derivatives of the word “contributor” or “author” yields good results.
If the placement of guest publications is not yet considered, you can successfully participate in thematic discussions and develop the authority and influence of your profile among the target audience. This is for blogs and forums. Finding suitable forums is not difficult at all.
To display only results from a specific region, use the advanced search settings.
Find more information on search operators in Google Search Operators: Complete List in 2020.
Despite the fact that content is more often perceived as being posted on your own site, a guest blog post or a comment can be a form of content related specifically to external search engine optimization. There may be many examples but the main task is to create the simplest and most popular content, distribute it through the most effective distribution channels and get the maximum results for SEO. Good examples of effective and relevant content include:
- Publications in well-known blogs
- Publishing and distributing infographics
- Quality reviews
- Relevant research and scientific articles
- Official or approved guidelines
- Other useful documents and e-books
Social networks and messengers
Before starting your social media overview, it’s important to note that backlinks can have a number of attributes such as Follow, Nofollow, the newer Sponsored, and UGC. Links from sources that are easy to replicate, such as forum posts or social media posts, must have an active Nofollow attribute. This means that such a link does not communicate the authority and expertise of the domain on which it is located to the site to which it points. 10 Facebook comments containing your link shouldn’t mean that you have been referred to by the Facebook.com domain. The nofollow attribute is often used when placing affiliate links. Two other parameters sponsored and UGC (“User Generated Content”) were added in order to legalize paid placement of backlinks and additionally mark the content created by users themselves.
The role of social workers in the life of a modern person can hardly be overestimated. While social media backlinks do not directly impart additional authority to a site, there is another parameter that they directly affect: benefit. As you know, Google tries to proceed from a weighted assessment of many factors when ranking, where two of the main factors are the cumulative authority and estimated utility. Authority is largely dependent on which domains have linked to you in the past and usefulness is much more difficult to assess. This includes metrics such as the bounce rate when opening your page and the depth of views of the entire visit. Social media is also becoming one of the indicators of useful content. The more often your content is shared, the more it is tagged, liked, and sent in messages, and the more useful this content looks for Google.
To effectively get backlinks on social networks, there are some very simple rules that we recommend you to follow:
- Regularity: It is not as important to write often or a lot as to post relevant and quality content regularly. Do not postpone the publication in anticipation of a better reason to do it or until you have brought the illustrations for the post to perfection. The most important thing is to stay connected with your audience. Regularity will help you achieve great results much faster than a fickle stream of quality content.
- Integrity: Develop your own style and follow it. This applies to everything from the tone of communication to hashtags to the color scheme of photos. Lack of processing is also a style. #nofilter is great proof of this! Subscribers can always distinguish your content according to its distinctive features, design, and other features.
- Quality: Post only what you have finished. If some material is still in work but the draft already looks good, do not share it, this is not your style. If you write an article, follow through and post high-quality, full-fledged material. However, don’t be afraid to be flexible and creative if something goes wrong and you can’t keep up. For example, post a link to interesting content on your topic or a photo of a workflow with a promise to finish soon and share useful knowledge.
- Involvement: Any publications on social networks are an invitation to open a discussion. Therefore, provoke communication around what you create. Ask subscribers about a topic that interests you or how interesting they think about what you recently shared. Ask questions regularly and the audience will gradually get used to the fact that you are listening to it and will begin to actively engage in the conversation.
- Presence: Manage your community of followers, don’t use it. Try to always respond to mentions and comments, and avoid possible communication vacuum. There is nothing worse than a lack of feedback on your part. It can negate all the efforts put into capturing a relevant audience. Do not forget to remove malicious comments, spam, and subscribers that violate the rules of your page or community.
- Integrity: Your communication style can be very different but you shouldn’t be confined to yourself. Occasionally share what is interesting or important to you personally and may not quite correspond to the topic of your account or page. This will allow you not to forget that you are also a living person with your own interests They may be wider than the circle that social networks cover. Periodically posting related or unrelated content will allow you to learn more about your audience and potentially cover additional topics that you didn’t know about before.
Another very important aspect when developing content is the way you distribute it. Naturally, you would like to share the results of your work, research, or just impressions as effectively as possible. To do this, it is necessary to select the optimal distribution model. This will be based on the main and auxiliary channels. Defining such channels is pretty easy, even if you don’t have your site data yet. Take competitors you are interested in or projects that are as similar as possible to what you would like to do and analyze their incoming traffic channels. For example, consider a resource dedicated to video game reviews.
We see that with a total monthly traffic of over 20 million sessions, only 1% is generated from referral links. But social networks bring in almost five times more conversions. This is around 5%. Mailing lists are also used but they do not deliver outstanding results in terms of traffic, such as banner ads. Let’s take a closer look at this aspect using SEMRush.
By opening the appropriate analytics section, you can see which audience settings are currently applied for this type of ad. You can compare this with the effectiveness of efforts.
By opening the page overview, you can additionally see how many ads are pointing to certain materials of the site of interest.
Add to this the mainly used networks for displaying banner advertising and get a fairly holistic picture of the effectiveness of this channel for the distribution of thematic content.
All this data will allow us to evaluate possible options for using a particular method of distributing content. This will all help to make an appropriate decision.
When using content distribution channels, it is important to keep in mind the main task that you face, especially if these channels are paid. Distribution is the main task of increasing awareness and the reach of a potential audience. You want to share your site content with as many people as possible for whom this information will be valuable. When using banner ads or promotion in search engines, you would like to make sure that the according efforts bring the desired result. To do this, you should closely monitor the growth of organic traffic, direct referrals, and branded searches on social networks. Even the most effective paid advertising should have a lasting impact that will stay with you long after the campaign ends. You can learn more about the features of paid promotion and how it differs from search engine optimization in our SEO vs. PPC : Pros and Cons, Integrated Approach, and Difference.
Local optimization and geo-targeting
Geo-targeting and local optimization may seem like additional elements rather than key SEO disciplines, especially in the context of external optimization. Let’s say that you would like to find a good cafe next to your office. What will help you complete this task faster? Would it be text search or local Google results with a location on the map? In addition, local search can not only provide results faster but sometimes significantly lead in the relevance of results to the entered search. Let’s consider the main factors that determine the success of local optimization.
First of all, this is the registration and verification of a profile in Google My Business service. 4 out of 5 users go to search for services to find local information and about 46% of searches entered into Google are aimed at local search. This means that if information about your company does not appear in the results of Google My Business, then this place is most likely occupied by one of your competitors. Signing up to the service will allow you not only to claim your own company knowledge panel but also to manage the content that is displayed to users. When registering, you can specify not only the address, the opening hours, contacts, and services that you provide. In addition, Google My Business will allow you to stay in touch with customers by posting new photos and publications. You can also answer questions and reviews. The verification procedure is mandatory and often takes up to 14 days.
Another important element of being present on the Google map is the ability to view reviews of your services or products. The more positive messages posted by customers, the higher the position of your page will be when ranking in local search results. The main factors that determine the usefulness of a review are:
- The general activity of the profile from which the review was left: A number of other reviews or questions asked on other Google My Business pages.
- Keywords: The presence of direct references to products or services, brand, and other useful information in the review text.
- Completeness and tonality: The feedback should be useful to other users. It is not the amount of text that matters but the accuracy of conveying the impression of the user experience.
- Regularity: This is more relevant to your page than to reviewers. However, regular, fresh and preferably positive reviews will significantly improve your local search rankings, even if the reviews you publish are very short.
Remember that reviews are primarily designed to build and increase trust in your site. Growing conversions and good CTR are just a consequence of this process.
For more useful information on the topic, read the article – Local SEO Checklist 2020.