SEO Basics | Part Three
This is part three of our three-part series designed to teach you the basics of search engine optimisation. Keep reading or start at the beginning – How to Optimise Your Webpage for Search Engines.
“What others say about you is more important than what you say about yourself.”
This is a popular social mantra that’s become more and more relevant as the information age progresses. Nowhere more so than in the world of off-page SEO and link building. This article will explain what off-page SEO and link-building are, why they’re important and give you tips to optimise your brand for search engines using these techniques.
The Principle Behind Off-Page SEO
Let’s imagine you’re a fledgeling motivational speaker. Your reputation is everything.
If someone famous mentions you that’d be more valuable than your mum talking about you in the local supermarket. If that famous person was also considered an authority in your field, for example, Russell Brand, then that mention would be even more valuable.
If this occurred last week, you’d be hot right now, right? What if it was ten years ago? Not so hot now. What if they mentioned you every couple of months? Fantastic right?
In the above example, Russell Brand probably mentioned you on a casual night out with friends. Someone told you and you felt good about it. Now let’s imagine it was on the podium at an awards ceremony – how valuable would that have been?
Finally, let’s look at what he said and how he said it. Did he say you’re a sound bloke in an off-hand manner or did he say you’re an inspirational speaker who needs to be heard?
It’s clear that ‘Who’, ‘Where’, ‘When’, ‘How Often’ and ‘What’ all matter in terms of the value of a celebrity endorsement to a motivational speaker’s career.
In addition, if we hear about how great someone is from several different sources, we are more likely to trust it. I mean, maybe some people just don’t like Russell Brand. 😉
The exact same common-sense rules apply when optimising your brand for search. Who mentions you, where they mention you, when, how often, what they actually say about you, how they say it, and the diversity of those mentions all matter – a lot.
What is Off-Page SEO?
Off-Page SEO is anything you do to improve your ranking on a search engine results page that doesn’t take place on your website. The most important element of off-page SEO is getting links to your site, however, this is not the only off-page technique available.
Other Off-page SEO techniques include social media marketing, brand mentions, influencer marketing, PR, customer reviews and local SEO such as Google maps.
Off-page SEO is often considered the more complex or difficult side of SEO. To a degree this is true but the rewards of effective off-page SEO make it well worth the effort.
Why is Off-Page SEO so Important?
You might have a fantastic website packed with good quality, relevant and highly optimised content. You may even be selling a genuinely great product on this site. However, despite all of our hard work, the sad fact which we all learn someday is that just because you built a website that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will come.
If you want them to come via organic search then, unless you’re an established brand or are in a particularly focused niche, you’re probably going to have to put in the work.
Off-page ranking factors have been proven to have a significant impact on a site’s ranking in Google results. Check out this ahrefs’ search traffic study supporting this.
How Can I Get Started with Off-Page SEO?
When getting started with off-page SEO the important thing is not to get overwhelmed. Find something small and simple, ask your colleagues for help and get going! Be patient and wait for the results and remember that failure is just the stepping stone to success.
How to build backlinks to your website
Backlinks are links from other websites to your site. The best links are from relevant pages in high-quality sites to relevant pages in your site using contextual anchor link text.
Before you start your first off-page SEO project it’s a good idea to get an idea of where you stand and the opportunities available. You can use free tools such as ahrefs’ backlink checker to see who is linking to you and to check what links your competitors are getting.
The process behind link building is a combination of PR and sales. So, if you have a PR or salesperson at your disposal – use them! First, you should create a list of relevant publications, online newspapers, journals and blogs. Then, you need to get contact details for the editors at these publications. Next, start developing relationships with them, via Twitter, mutual connections etc. Finally, find out how you can work together by:
- Offering an expert opinion or being a source for an article
- Creating a press release for a new product launch
- Pitching original articles to help fill gaps in editorial calendars
- Guest blogging on quality industry blogs
- Being a guest on a popular podcast or webinar
It’s all about relationship building and ensuring that you both benefit. Many large publishers automatically add a ‘nofollow’ tag to all outbound links. This means that the link will have no direct SEO value to you. Try to ensure this doesn’t happen but don’t make it a deal-breaker as there are still indirect benefits for search engine optimisation.
Aside, from these type of high-value editorial links, you can also build links in relevant directories, blog comments, forums, by answering questions on Quora and many more.
Be sure to avoid links on irrelevant directories as this can actually harm your SEO.
With comments, forums and quora the links will be ‘nofollow’ so approach this as another relationship-building piece by providing genuine value to the community and you’ll reap the rewards. Social media managers tend to be good at this – so get their help!
Other off-page SEO techniques
Aside from link building, there are lots of other off-page activities that can help optimise your brand for search. In fact, they can encompass pretty much any marketing activity.
First, you should find out how your brand currently performs and identify opportunities available. Are your customers talking about you or reviewing you online? You can use Google alerts and other listening tools to find out. If they are, find ways to amplify it.
Links and brand mentions on social media are not strictly classified as ‘backlinks’. This is because all links from social networks to your sites are automatically set as ‘nofollow’.
However, that does not mean that links from your own and other’s social media posts are not still valuable when optimising your brand for search engines. This is because links mean traffic and the amount of traffic and how that traffic behaves when it gets to your site is a factor which Google takes into account when deciding where to rank your page.
If you’re a physically located business you can optimise your brand for search by ensuring you appear in local Google map listings and by building positive reviews from trusted sites like Google, TrustPilot and Feefo. You can do this with a customer advocacy plan.
The good news is that for a lot of brands, off-page SEO doesn’t mean starting from scratch. A lot of the activity required for off-page SEO is probably already happening in your organisation – you just need to learn how to direct it. The sales team might be planning an event, the community manager posting or PR working on a press release.
Get started, get going and remember that…