For those who are familiar with SEO – Search engine optimization and its best practices, you will no doubt already be implementing a strategy for content, keywords, tags and titles to make your website and its pages more friendly and compliant for the search engines. This article is geared towards off-site SEO, sometimes called “off-page SEO.”
Below I will be covering some few factors and a checklist for good Off-Site SEO. So assuming you have already slapped your website and its content into shape, and for those that haven’t you can read some of my other articles on how to do this here. You can now turn your attention to the very important subjects of building your websites credibility and authority, increasing meaningful inbound links, which come to your site from other sites, and building social media influence.
While Google keeps its precise search ranking algorithms secret, it also releases plenty of information about how to create relevant content that provides a good user experience. In addition, there is a tremendous amount of research, testing, and information-sharing going on among those of us who optimize sites for search professionally. As a result, we know plenty about the “secret” ingredients that can help your site rank highly in search.
Google has stated that it uses more than 200 factors to rank a web page, but which are the most important? There is one thing virtually all experts agree upon: The number and quality of links coming into your site is near the top of the list. I have seen this in practical experience every day using SEO tools that can quickly measure and reveal the full range of SEO factors, and sites with numerous, high-quality inbound links that consistently rank well in organic search.
Buying inbound links from link spammers doesn’t work any more. Google acted decisively to squelch this activity with its Panda and Penguin updates, and the game has changed, which hurt spammy fakers, and benefits those of us who create and offer content and tools of real value. Here’s your checklist for getting on the right track.
Fast track Off-Site SEO Checklist
Measure your inbound links and their value. There are multiple ways to do this, but the best is to plug your site URL into Open Site Explorer. This tool provides plenty of utility for no charge, but a paid subscription gives more depth.
With Open Site Explorer, you can see all inbound links, see your top-linked pages, sort by linking domains, see the anchor text other sites use to link to you, and compare your metrics with competitors. It’s impressive, and it’s an eye-opener for many who do it for the first time.
What to do with all this data?
- Scan your highest-authority inbound links for opportunity to get other similar links.
- Scan your competitors’ highest-authority inbound links. Can you get those links too, or do they provide ideas for getting similar links?
- Look for inbound links from non-profit, .org and education, .edu sites are especially powerful.
- Do you have any? Should you have more from your friends and partners in these realms?
- Build your inbound links gradually. Google algorithms will notice, and may penalize a quick accumulation of links
- Get your staff on board with the idea of “thinking links” – always keeping an eye out for an opportunity to request an inbound link. Ideas below.
- There are many more ways to put link research to work feel free to reach out directly for more ideas
Ideas on where to get inbound links to improve off-site SEO:
- Business partners, clients, vendors.
- Online press releases through paid press release services.
- Legitimate directories and local/regional web listings.
- Your own site blog and other relevant blogs.
- Thought leadership articles and whitepapers.Useful interactive online tools that others will want to link to.
Off-Site SEO: Social Media
Social media provides another way for businesses of all sizes to generate brand awareness, direct traffic to the site, and to boost SEO. Researchers now agree that social “signals” such as Facebook likes and shares, Twitter follower counts and tweets linking to your site and pages, and Google+ circles and reviews and links are all noticed by the search engine bots and algorithms, and help contribute positive SEO power to your site. If you’re in a B-to-B market, LinkedIn promotion of your latest content can drive direct traffic and the occasional shared link from your networks.
- Have active business Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn accounts and link to them with share buttons from your site.
- Promote your latest news and views in your social media presence and ask/invite others to like and share.
- Reviews in Yelp, Google+, and Other Sites
- You’re no doubt already aware of the importance of online reviews, and here’s one more reason to value and fear them. They create valuable inbound links, and they carry their own SEO juice for your site. Review sites are especially important to companies working on a local/regional SEO strategy.
- Know what people are saying about you on the leading review sites.
- Make a staff member responsible for responding diplomatically to to negative reviews and linking to relevant information on your site.
- Encourage customers who have had a positive experience to review you.
The large majority of external factors that influence organic rankings fall within the classification of link building. There have been great debates in recent years that the ranking impact that can be derived through social media signals falls outside of “traditional” link building. That is valid, and will continue to be debated.
It seems there are few topics within SEO or digital marketing that are as highly contested and controversial as link building. As the SEO Tactics chart was developed, it became obvious that off-site influences would be a core pillar.
Here are 10 Off-Page SEO Strategies to Build Your Online Reputation
1). Community Creation in Social Networking Sites
Also known as online reputation management, this is the first and foremost step with which you have to initiate your process. Try to become a member of the most popular social networking sites like Orkut, Myspace, Facebook, Linked In, Ecademy, etc., and create a profile of your own. By doing this you can extend your network online, get connect with your friends, share things with each other, and promote your company/website to build an online reputation. This is most likely the same as Web 2.0 (Participatory Web), which means you have to show your active participation on a regular basis.
This is one of the most powerful ways to promote your company/website online. Write a blog of your own for your company/website and include lots of unique content. Be precise in what you’re trying to convey for the users in your blog entry and promote your blog in blog directories and blog search engines. You can also promote your blog/website by posting comments in other service-related blogs which allow links in the comments section that are crawlable by the search engines (these blogs are commonly identified as Do-Follow Blogs). If you’re not very good at writing content for blog posts, hire a guest blogger for your blog and ask him/her to write precise and unique content so that your blog can gain more credit from a search engine point of view.
3). Forum Postings
Create a forum/online discussion board of your own and start a discussion or share topics with your friends. You can also post/reply to a thread in other service-related pre-existing forums that allow links in your signature which can be crawled by the search engines (aka “Do-Follow Forums”).
4). Search Engine Submission
Submit your website to the most popular search engines like Google, Yahoo, MSN, Altavista, Alexa, Alltheweb, Lycos, Excite, etc., to get listed for free.
5). Directory Submission
Many people may say that directory submission is dead. As far as I’m concerned it is still alive. It is purely based on how effectively we are selecting those directories and how efficiently we are choosing the category for submission. Of course, I agree that it gives quite delayed results, but it is worth doing it. Submit your websites to the topmost quality directories like DMOZ, Yahoo Directory, ZoomInfo, One Mission, Pegasus, etc. Nowadays many web directories may offer paid listings but don’t go for it.
6). Social Bookmarking
Social Bookmarking is yet another powerful way of promoting your website, but nowadays most people are spamming social bookmarking sites without knowing how to use them. Since content in these websites update frequently, search engines like these types of sites and often visit them (this is commonly termed as Tagsonomy & Folksonomy in Web 2.0). Do some social bookmarking in popular bookmarking sites like Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Propeller, etc. You should be very careful while doing this and you must properly handle the tags which are very essential to broadcast your news on a wide area network. This may increase your website traffic based on how effectively you have participated.
6). Link Exchange
Exchange links with service-related websites (this is commonly termed as Thematic Link Exchange) that can help increase your link popularity, which is a major factor of Google’s PageRank algorithm. Beware of Black-Hats while doing exchanges.
7). Link Baiting
Suppose you have copied/published another website’s news or content in your blog/website. Don’t forget to place their website link as a reference. Do it for others and, if your content is trustworthy, let others do it for you. This is another way to increase your link popularity.
Link to internal pages within your site wherever necessary (this is commonly termed Internal Linking). This increases your internal link popularity ,which is another major factor of Google Page Rank algorithm. The best known example of successful internal linking is Wikipedia. Also try to get a content link from websites/blogs that are related to your site theme. Try getting a link from within their site content using a targeted keyword as anchor text (much like Wikipedia does). We know that this strategy can often be hard to implement, but these types of links have more weight from a search engine point of view.
9). Photo Sharing
Publish/share your website product pictures and make them public. Let your friends see them and comment on them too, which will help drive traffic towards your website. Do this in major photo sharing websites like Flickr, Picasa, Photo Bucket, Picli, etc.
10). Video Promotions
Like with photo sharing, you can publish/share your product videos, expert opinions, and reviews of your product and make them public in YouTube, Metacafe, Dailymotion, etc.
Penalized vs. Devalued – Google Algo Paranoia
It’s hard to have a discussion on link building without talking about Google’s Panda and other updates. Plenty of webmasters, bloggers and site owners are afraid that Google is or will penalize their site because they have links coming in from what they believe is a low quality content site that has been penalized.
Unless you’re creating massive amounts of low quality content on your own site, the chances of you receiving stiff penalties from Google because of a few inbound links is quite low (although a small degree of paranoia is a good thing when it comes to SEO). However, it’s quite likely those inbound links will be devalued. This is a much different scenario than your site being penalized though – so keep things in perspective.
A Couple of Parting Thoughts
Take the time to do this right. Don’t rush into link building or Off-Site SEO without a clear strategy, and don’t think that it’s purely a numbers game.
Relevance and quality really do matter and will set you up for a sustainable link building campaign. Whether you’re acquiring links through blogging, video distribution, infographics, whitepapers, press releases, webinars or distributing articles, always keep your focus on the end user and the value that your content offers them. There is a lot more depth to any of these tactics if you drill down into them, but this checklist will serve as a great starting point for your off-site SEO efforts.