Once you have nailed your on-page SEO, it’s time to look at factors outside of your page that impact your search engine visibility. It may seem unfair that factors off your page and “out of your control” can impact your rankings, but that is the reality of modern search engine optimization.
In this off-page SEO guide, we’re going to show you:
- What’s meant by the term “off-page SEO”
- Why an off-page SEO strategy is important
- The difference between on-page SEO and off-page optimization
- A deep dive into some of the factors of off-page search engine optimization (for those who like to know the why behind everything)
What is Off-Page SEO?
Off-page SEO refers to things that aren’t done on or to your page but that have implications for search engines nonetheless. They’re SEO-related things, such as earning quality links, that take place off your page.
Simply put: Off-page factors tell Google what other people think of your site.
It works toward establishing the authority of your site. If other people are talking about or linking back to your site, Google can consider you a more authoritative site since you have several people vouching for you (a.k.a. natural links).
Examples of Off-Page SEO
Off-page SEO includes things such as (in no particular order):
- Link-building (known as “backlinks”)
- Social media marketing
- Influencer marketing
- Guest blogging
- Brand mentions
Off-Page SEO Tactics Defined
- Link-building. This is an off-page SEO tactic where other people link back to your page. The site that links back to your page must be a quality site with quality content. Ahrefs has a free tool to help determine the quality of a website (also known as its “domain rating” or DR).
- Social media marketing. Social media posts and shares about your company or brand can improve the visibility of your brand–especially when the post/share comes from a person or brand who has a high follower count, which brings us to the next definition: influencer marketing.
- Influencer marketing. People with many followers (defined as hundreds of thousands for “influencers” or at least 1,000 for “micro-influencers) are very influential and help mold the opinions of their followers. Influencer marketing is a great way for a business with a small following to leverage another person’s large following. Influencers include celebrities as well as people who have become popular on social platforms.
- Guest blogging. Guest blogging is when a post of yours appears on someone else’s website. When you write a guest blog post, you’re able to direct traffic back to your site (and to a particular piece you want readers to find) by including links to your content in your guest blog post.
- Brand mentions. A brand mention is when another person or company mentions your brand by name with or without a link to your company.
Why is an Off-Page SEO Strategy So Important?
Off-page factors tell search engines that other web pages think your web page is important. This means that if there is a “tie” and all on-page SEO actions have been taken on both pages, your page could rank higher because other quality web pages are vouching for your web page. (There are other factors for your off-page SEO strategy, but backlinks are one example of how links from another site can help break a “tie.”)
Why does it matter whether you’re on the first page of search results? Considering 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results, it matters quite a bit.
You may recall the Google PageRank algorithm. PageRank is an algorithm that tells Google the quantity and quality of web pages linking back to a given webpage. It’s essentially a gauge and through using it, Google has a better idea of how valuable a given page will be to searchers. This is one way Google breaks the “tie” if all on-page factors are equal.
Ultimately, the authority of the referring site is going to impact how that site helps qualify you as an authority.
If you spend time building links from sites with little to no authority or relevancy to your page, it can negatively affect your page’s ranking in search engines.
Link building is the foundation for off-page SEO strategies, especially given the amount of weight Google places on it.
As we’ve seen, other factors go into off-page SEO. You may also be familiar with on-page SEO and its impact on your page rank. Since they’re both ranking factors, it’s good to make a distinction between the two and to understand whether something you’re implementing is on-page SEO or off-page SEO. But, what’s the difference between on-page SEO and off-page SEO?
On-Page SEO vs. Off-Page SEO
SEO is so important that about 69% of marketers invested in SEO in 2021. Search engines such as Google crawl your and other web pages looking for content to answer searchers’ queries. Google has “spiders” that deliberately “crawl” pages evaluating their usefulness against what it thinks searchers want to know. As they do, the on-page SEO tactics you’ve employed give some indication as to how relevant and trustworthy your site is.
But in addition to the things you’ve done on your page, Google is looking at what takes place off your page. That’s where off-page SEO comes in.
So, in a nutshell, on-page SEO includes the things you’ve done on your web page while off-page SEO includes the things you’ve done or that have taken place off your page.
Without on-page SEO factors, your page won’t be likely to rank. Without off-page SEO factors, there won’t be much credibility to vouch for your page.
Bottom line: You need to work on both on-page SEO and off-page SEO to improve your search engine rankings.
Off-Page Factors: Deep Dive and What You Should Know
Now that we’ve briefly defined what each off-page SEO tactic means, we want to dive a little more deeply into each section and talk about some things you should keep in mind and things you’ll want to avoid.
Building Links and PR
Building links–also known as link-building or obtaining backlinks–is probably the biggest off-page SEO tactic. It’s the number of quality websites that are vouching for your quality webpage by linking back to it.
After analyzing almost 12 million Google search results, Backlinko put together a list of key takeaways, and link-building ranked as the 2nd most important thing they’ve included.
Generating backlinks is known as link-building and it’s a process that simply takes time. However, this could take many months or even years to happen organically.
It also takes some skill because you’ll need to reach out to other site owners, spend a little time on their site before developing your pitch, then politely make a great case as to why they should go into their already-published content and edit it to include a link to one of your pages, or to take the time to publish a completely new page.
How it Works: Suppose you have a web page on the best schools for veterinary medicine. You’ve hired experts to carefully implement on-page SEO tactics. Your page is long enough, you’ve implemented keywords properly, completed the meta description, and even optimized images. Essentially, you’re certain your on-page SEO is up to par.
So, you’ve started the process of building links, or having other people with valuable veterinary school-related content vouching for your page and saying to Google and other search engines, “Hey this page is filled with solid content!” As more and more pages link back to your page, search engines not only start to believe them but also start to evaluate your page as being more authoritative (remember the E.A.T standards).
Another way to build links back to your site is through press/media coverage. A great way to do that is with HARO (Help A Reporter Out). You sign up for emails (in digest form) every day from reporters looking for “experts” on a specific topic. If you fit the bill and understand the topic, you can reply to the reporter’s message. If they’re interested in quoting you, they’ll often link back to you. This is a FREE tool and you could be featured in all kinds of top-tier press, such as Forbes, Business Insider, Rolling Stone, Billboard, Buzzfeed, etc.
If you’re someone who likes to research things, consider this off-page SEO tactic: reverse engineering. Research the backlinks your competitors have managed to secure and reach out to those website owners.
If you like digging through links, try the “broken link-building method.” For this one, you contact a website owner and inform them of a broken link on their page while simultaneously offering up a link to similar content on your site. Most webmasters will thank you for pointing that out (and improving their SEO since broken links hurt them) and easily providing them with a replacement link so they don’t need to find one! (Heads up: The response rate for this tends to be low, so you’ll likely need to reach out in high volume to get results.)
Whatever your strategy, you can build links and help your site appear as an authoritative site.
Caution! As easy as this sounds to do, Google and the other search engines have also wised up to common link-building schemes. For example, if you own multiple websites, don’t be tempted to link all or many of them to the one whose search engine ranking you’re trying to improve. Google is aware of things like this and will punish you with lower rankings on search engine results pages.
You’ll also want to track down any spammy backlinks or attempts at link-building schemes that are hurting your SEO. If you find any but are unsuccessful at getting them removed and you have been manually penalized, use Google’s Disavow Links Tool. Extra Caution!! Errors in the disavow links tools can cause serious site issues. Use of the disavow links tools should only be done if you’ve been manually penalized and really should be dealt with by an expert.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing goes beyond just posting to social media platforms. It includes strategically getting content out there organically or through paid ad campaigns.
How it Works: Using our veterinary school example above, you would take your same SEO-optimized piece of content and post it to social media. You would employ different tactics depending on the platform. For instance, on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, you’d include relevant hashtags, but you’d research those hashtags because what’s trending on one platform is not necessarily (or usually ever) trending on the other platforms.
Of course, you’d also know that while you can include up to 30 hashtags on Instagram, you should only use about 3 on Facebook and Twitter. You’d also know that content is king not just on your blog but when it comes to your social media posts as well. So, you’d create some amazing graphics to accompany the blog post you’re sharing on social media.
Additionally, Google crawls and indexes social media pages for brand mentions. This means any time your brand is specifically searched by name, your social media accounts will pop up. This can help keep competitors off the first page of results. Twitter feeds also appear as a carousel in Google results, so definitely make sure you share your content to Twitter.
Caution! It’s very important to understand that each social media platform requires a different strategy. While the basic idea (writing a caption, including an image or link) is the same, how you go about doing it varies by platform. In the end, you want to be mindful that what you do on one platform doesn’t cancel out what you’re doing on another platform.
Aside from driving traffic directly to your site, the exposure you gain on social platforms can indirectly lead to people sharing and linking to your content – which is why we have included it as part of off-page SEO.
You can implement a social media strategy but if your follower count is on the low end, you’re going to be very limited when it comes to how many people see your posts. Furthermore, unless you run paid ad campaigns, only a certain percentage of your followers will even have your posts populate in their newsfeed.
This is where influencer marketing comes in.
How it Works: Influencer marketing is when someone with a huge follower count (usually defined as hundreds of thousands or higher, though there are micro-influencers) promotes another brand’s products or services. This can be done by directly promoting a product/service or by sharing content you’ve posted to social media.
Caution! Not everyone with a large following is an influencer, and not everyone who is an influencer is right for your brand. Be sure to research the person or company you’re reaching out to so you’ll know if there’s going to be a mutually beneficial relationship.
As with social media posting, the goal here is to gain exposure that gets people talking about and linking to your brand.
Content Marketing and Guest Blogging
As mentioned, guest blogging is when a post you write appears on another person’s site. The nice thing about this option is that you can often control the links leading back to your site.
However, you’ll want to make sure that any links pointing back to your site are nofollow links.
Nofollow links look like regular links to anyone reading your content and people clicking the links will still go straight to the page you’ve linked. But the “crawlers” Google uses on your content won’t use that link as a factor in page ranking.
Even though you’re not gaining any “link juice” from it, you’re still able to benefit from the clicks back to your site and the engagement that was prompted by links directing traffic back to your site. You’ll also benefit from the exposure on a site with higher traffic.
It’s easy to think of anything to do with content as an on-page SEO tactic. However, promoting that content is an important ranking factor. If your content appears on someone else’s site—usually as a guest blog post—you can direct traffic back to your site (again, using a nofollow link), get your brand out there, have your brand associated with a bigger brand, and increase the authority and trust in your brand. Win-win.
In case you’re wondering, it doesn’t have to only be a blog post. “Content” is anything from blog posts and articles to infographics and charts. Any time your content is published anywhere on the web, it constitutes “content marketing.”
How it Works: Using the veterinary school’s post, this is a pretty simple concept: you write that post for another quality website. Rather than publishing it on your own site, you will instead publish it on another site. This will allow you to direct traffic back to your site with a nofollow link. While that won’t earn you any higher page rankings, it will help qualify you as a thought leader in your space because you’ve got another website essentially promoting you and your content as the expert.
Caution! Guest blogging is a viable and helpful option for improving your site’s ranking, but it only works if it’s done the right way. For instance, if you’re pushing out a ton of low-quality content and publishing on any and every web page that’ll accept it, that can hurt your SEO efforts.
For example, if the site you’re publishing your content on is one Google ends up thinking is some sort of link farm, their rankings will tank. This will impact the overall effect that guest blogging was meant to have.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the site you post on, and you should do this both before and after you publish your content with them.
Brand Mentions and Citations
It’s pretty neat when another person or brand mentions your company in a positive light. They won’t always post a link to your site. Whether they do or not, we call that a brand mention.
How it Works: Back to the social media marketing example, suppose your company was mentioned as one that provides reliable information for students seeking lists of potential schools they can attend. But, the person making the mention didn’t include a link to your page.
When this happens, you should reach out to the brands that mentioned you and ask if they’d mind converting an unlinked mention into a backlink. If you’re uncertain where you’ve been mentioned, consider using a tool such as Ahrefs’s Content Explorer or SEMRush’s Brand Monitoring Tool.
Citations are when your brand is mentioned along with your NAP (name, address, and phone number). It’s similar to a GMB (Google My Business) listing for local SEO. While local SEO is usually considered in a category all its own, it’s worth mentioning that optimizing your Google My Business and monitoring for citations are both off-page SEO factors you can look into.
Caution! Just as positive brand mentions can affect the view of your brand in the eyes of the public, negative brand mentions can do the same. You can’t do anything about these mentions if you don’t know about them, though. Brandwatch offers a tool that allows you to monitor all mentions of your brand so you can take action immediately and proactively. More Strategic Ideas for Off-Page SEO
We’ve run through some of the more common ways you can employ off-page SEO, but we want this guide to be thorough so we’re adding in a few more tactics!
- Forums. Discussion forums provide an excellent opportunity to position yourself as a thought leader and expert in your industry. Rather than go into forums spamming with links, join as a regular participant. Answer questions and quickly become known as the expert on the topic. Once you do, you’ll notice people will start sharing your content for you and directing people to you without you asking them to do so. As with guest posts, these should be no-follow links.
- Webinars and Meetups. Hosting an event is another great way to improve your off-page SEO. They take more work to put together than simply sharing a post, but the return on your time can be large. Furthermore, events are a great way to attract the attention of journalists—especially in a niche—and provide an opportunity to pick up some press coverage for your brand.
- Podcasts. This is similar to guest blogging, except that most people aren’t trying to become podcast guests—which allows you to gain a competitive advantage! Listeners seem to naturally assume podcast guests are thought leaders, and they’re a great way to reach new audiences.
Off-Page SEO FAQs
With everything we’ve discussed about off-page SEO, you likely have some questions. You might be wondering exactly how the individual aspects of off-page SEO work together or how you can be sure not to end up penalized by Google for “blackhat SEO.”
How Do You Develop Off-Page SEO?
Working to develop off-page SEO is a process that will affect search engine rankings overall. It’s not a “thing” you create, per se. Like on-page SEO, off-page SEO is something you continue to work on, implementing specific strategies and developing goals to meet to improve your off-page SEO.
Looking at the things we’ve mentioned, you’re going to work on:
- Social media marketing,
- Influencer marketing,
- Guest blogging, and
- Brand mentions
…as you strive to improve your off-page SEO.
In the end, off-page SEO techniques are a combination of these things. The off-page SEO links, combined with social media marketing–which will include influencer marketing–will work together with the guest blog posts you pitch. With any luck, you’ll even score some brand mentions!
What is Unnatural Link-Building?
An unnatural link is, according to Google, “creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page.”
Sometimes, they are purchased links. Other times, spammers “attach” themselves to your web page in an attempt to get you in trouble with Google so that your page will be penalized for negative search engine optimization or “blackhat SEO” practices.
How Can Google Tell If Your Link-Building is Unnatural?
As mentioned above, Google will penalize you if it detects that you’re implementing link schemes or buying backlinks. But, how do they know you’re doing this?
Back in 2012, Google rolled out an update that was specifically designed to reward sites that spent time on search engine optimization by creating high-quality content and backlinks. This same update, known as the Penguin update, would now also penalize those who were engaging in link schemes, buying links, and doing other “black hat webspam” things.
Exactly how the algorithm works and can detect unnatural links is a bit of a mystery, but there are some things that SEO strategists have figured out based on developer updates Google has rolled out. Based on those guidelines, we know that the following are (some of) what constitutes unnatural links (i.e., this is what they’re looking for and if they find it, you could be penalized):
- Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes:
- Exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links
- Exchanging goods or services for links
- Sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing it and including a link
- Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking.
- Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links.
- Use automated programs or services to create links to your site.
- Requiring a link as part of a Terms of Service, contract, or similar arrangement without allowing a third-party content owner the choice of qualifying the outbound link, should they wish.’
The reality is, there are a lot of ways that sites can get into trouble with link building. Whether you do it yourself or work with an agency, you need to take steps to mitigate risk in your link profile. Taking this approach will allow you to benefit from tactics such as link buying, without getting into trouble.
Is Influencer Marketing Better for SEO Than Regular Marketing?
It’s not an issue of whether influencer marketing is “better” than regular marketing. Influencer marketing is a component of marketing – just like social media marketing, running paid ad campaigns, and interpreting Google Analytics are all components of marketing, too.
Depending on your target audience and the influencer you’ve chosen, influencer marketing can sometimes be more effective. But, that depends on a few things such as who your audience is and whether they’re likely to be “influenced” by someone on social media who they may or may not know much about.
That said, consumer trust in brands is down drastically; 63% of 18- to 34-year-olds polled say that they trust influencers to be more accurate and truthful than they trust a brand.
People seem to trust people (though not necessarily “spokespeople” for a brand) more, and this is why influencer marketing is effective for reaching consumers of all ages.
How Do You Get People to Allow You to Guest Blog?
Guest blogging has benefits for both the writer (you) and the person publishing your work. But before you can realize those benefits, you have to get your work published. How?
First, come up with some goals you hope to accomplish through guest blogging. There’s not much point in participating in this endeavor if you don’t have some clear goals laid out as to why you’re doing it.
Second, make a list of sites that would help you meet those goals and where having a guest blog post would be a mutually beneficial situation.
Next, reach out! Create the perfect pitch and reach out to some of the sites you’ve qualified.
Next, write a post worth publishing. The sites you hope to get published on are going to want quality content that’s at least as good as their own–if not better.
Finally, track your results!
Off-page SEO is an ongoing task that will reward you generously when done right. Patience and persistence are the keys to making the most of your off-page efforts, so don’t get discouraged when results are not happening right away.