SEO Off-Page techniques are a key part of building your search engine visibility. But what exactly is Off-Page SEO and what are the techniques involved?
First, let’s look at the two kinds of SEO: On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO.
On-Page SEO refers to the SEO signals coming from the web page itself. This includes the quality of the web page content, the structure of the content, the meta tags, the formatting, and the load time of the web page.
Off-Page SEO refers to SEO signals coming from outside the web page. This includes:
- Backlinks (i.e. inbound external links)
- E-A-T signals (Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness)
- Domain Authority
- Brand Recognition
- Social Media Presence
- Forum Commenting
- YouTube Channel
- Internal Linking
- Online Reputation Signals
When people say ‘Off-Page SEO’, they usually mean ‘Off-Site SEO’: signals that are generated on other websites.
And indeed, most of the items on the list above are ‘Off-Site’. But one of the items - internal linking - is ‘Off-Page’ but not ‘Off-Site’: it involves signals generated on your site.
That’s an important distinction to keep in mind - you don't have much control over Off-Site factors, but you do control internal linking.
1. Inbound External Links (or Backlinks)
Of all these Off-Page SEO techniques, the most important by far is backlinks, or inbound external links.
Google treats links from other websites to your website as a vote of confidence, especially if the backlinks are ‘do follow’ links from relevant websites within your niche.
Links from authoritative websites will boost your domain authority (DA). And the higher your domain authority, the easier it is to rank on Google for your chosen keywords.
Domain Authority is not a Google metric - it’s a metric created by Moz that predicts the likelihood that a website will rank high in the search results.
The activity of acquiring external links to your website is called link-building and it's a whole field in itself.
While there are dozens of link-building techniques, the only one that Google really approves of is natural, unsolicited link building. This is where another website links to your site without you asking for the link. They link to you simply because of the quality, usefulness, or relevance of your content.
That being said, many online marketers engage in active link building. Here are some popular link-building techniques:
- Guest posting: writing content for other websites
- Broken link building: finding pages on the web with links to resources that no longer exist and asking to have the missing resource replaced with your own content
- Resource page link-building: asking to have your page included in someone else’s list of useful resources
- Creating infographics that other website use to illustrate their content
- Podcast link building: being a guest on a podcast and getting a link in the podcast description
2. Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
Another Off-Page SEO factor is the authority of you and your website in the niche or industry that your website focuses on.
For some niches, such as health and financial advice, you need to have credentials in that field, in order for Google to recognize your website as having Authority, Expertise, and Trustworthiness or E-A-T.
According to Google’s Danny Sullivan, the E-A-T of your website is determined not by the Google algorithm but by Google’s quality raters. These are humans who are tasked by Google with assessing individual websites using the E-A-T Guidelines.
The E-A-T of a website is based on various different signals, including:
- age of your website
- quality of your content
- your expertise in the topic that you write about
- number of times other websites mention you or refer to your content
- your off-site activity as an expert (e.g. answering questions on Q&A platforms)
You can improve the E-A-T of your website by:
- Developing a topical focus for your website: for example, a website that has content about pets in general will tend to have less E-A-T than a website that focuses on guinea pigs.
- Make sure your content is of high quality, well-researched, and fresh (i.e. up-to-date).
- Clearly identify the author or authors of the content.
- Ensure that your website identifies who you are (i.e. who the website owner is) and has your contact details.
- Add to the trustworthiness of your website by making sure your website has an SSL certificate
3. Domain Authority
Domain Authority (DA) is one of the most important Off-Page SEO factors. DA is based on various different signals, but mainly on the number and quality of the links pointing to your website.
This is why many bloggers and digital marketers spend more time building links than creating content.
4. Brand Recognition
Brand recognition is the ability of searchers to recognize your brand from the results on the SERPs page. Those are the results that people click on. And that’s why brand recognition is another key Off-Page SEO factor.
To some extent brand recognition and SEO is a chicken-and-egg situation: the more your site ranks in the search results, the more people see your domain name and the more brand recognition you get. And the more brand recognition you get, the better your site performs in SEO. So better SEO leads to better brand recognition, and vice versa.
But there are other ways you can increase your brand recognition. For example, when you answer questions on ‘Question and Answer’ websites you’ll develop brand recognition within your target audience.
Here are some good Q&A sites:
- Yahoo Answers
- LinkedIn Answers
- The Stack Overflow family of sites
- Blurt it
...to mention only a few!
5. Social Media Presence
An active presence on social media platforms is another Off-Page SEO factor.
If the search engines detect that you have a large and highly-engaged audience on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, that will send Off-Page SEO signals that will help your site rank better in the search results.
6. Forum Commenting
Leaving comments on forums can also help build your Off-Page SEO, as long as those comments show your expertise and produce engagement from forum readers.
7. YouTube Channel
An active YouTube channel with a large and engaged audience is another way of sending Off-Page SEO signals that will bolster your site’s performance in organic search.
8. Internal Linking
Internal linking is an Off-Page SEO factor that, if done properly, will increase your search engine visibility.
Internal links between articles that share the same topic create topic clusters. These clusters show the search engines that your website has topical authority for those topics.
Let’s say two websites have a page on ‘how to use a sewing machine’. Website A has just that one page. But website B also has pages on:
- ‘the history of sewing machines’
- ‘different types of sewing machines’
- different brands of sewing machines’
- ‘different stitch patterns you can do with sewing machines’, and
- ‘types of needles for sewing machines’
Search engines will most likely rank the page from website B higher than the page from website A because website B has more topical authority for the subject of ‘sewing machines.
One way to build up topic clusters on your website is to place a 'Related Articles' box at the foot of each article. You may have noticed that most of my blog posts have a Related Articles box at the end of the article.
Related Articles boxes are good for SEO for two reasons:
(1) They build interlinked clusters of articles
'Related Articles' boxes create interlinked clusters of articles that share the same topic. And so they show the search engines that your website has topical authority on that subject
(2) They keep your reader on-site for longer
When you reader has finished your article, they're probably interested in reading articles on the same topic. So they click on one of the links in the 'Related Articles' box.
As soon as your visitor does that, it impacts three key metrics that will improve your SEO and push your web page higher up the search results:
- Bounce Rate - your bounce rate drops because your visitor didn't 'bounce'
- Exit Rate - your exit rate improves because your visitor will view more content before exiting your site
- Time on Site - your visitor ends up spending more time on your site and Google interprets this as meaning that your content was relevant to the searcher's query. And, as you can probably guess, that's going to push your page higher up the search results.
How To Create a Related Articles Box
There are various plugins that will create 'related articles' links automatically but I don't use them because they place a heavy burden on your server response time. In other words, they slow down your website. And page speed is a major Google ranking factor.
That's why I create 'Related Articles' links by hand.
This is how I do it:
Take the main keyword of your article and type this search operator into Google, followed by your keyword:
This will bring back only pages that are (a) on your website and (b) contain the specified keyword. Here's an example:
Copy the title of the articles and the links and paste them into a text box at the foot of your article.
9. Online Reputation Signals
This is an area where things happening ‘off-site’ can have a major impact on the SEO of your website. The main signal here is online reviews.
If your website occupies a business-to-consumer (or B2C) niche (e.g. restaurants, plumbers and other trades, wedding photography, etc.) it’s likely that you’ll get customer reviews.
Can these reviews affect your SEO?
Absolutely! Online customer reviews (and Google Reviews, in particular) can be a strong signal to search engines that communicates trustworthiness and authority.
And that’s why Online Reputation Management has become a whole field in itself.
Some key tips for online reputation management are:
- create accounts on all the relevant social media platforms
- monitor those accounts
- be transparent
- accept constructive criticism
- respond to negative reviews (politely)
For more tips on how to build and protect your online reputation, see these resources:
Of all these examples of Off-Page SEO, there’s one that will have more impact on how your website performs in the search results than any other.
You’ve probably guessed it - backlinks.
Links from other websites whose content is related to the content on your website is the most powerful of all Off-Page SEO factors. Search engines see those links as a vote of confidence in your website.
If the websites linking to you are not only relevant but also have high domain authority (i.e. DA greater than 75), then you’ll be getting some powerful Off-Page SEO signals that will help you rank higher in the search results.