See the other posts in our series:
In the third and final post of the SEO Audit series, we look at ‘off page SEO’ – what is it? And which techniques should you use (or not use) to achieve the best results?
What does off page SEO mean?
Where on-page SEO refers to all the things you can optimise on your website pages, off-page SEO refers to activity you do outside your website, to improve your search rankings.
You may well be asking “How do I improve my website search rankings, doing things outside my website?!” And it’s a good question.
In the first post of the SEO Audit series, we talked about some of the factors Google takes into account when assessing the quality of your website – things like responsive design, fast page load speed, and having unique content and metadata.
Read the first post in the series: SEO Audit – Is Your Website SEO Friendly
The quality of your site is also assessed, based on what other websites and users ‘say’ about your site.
If you have other websites pointing to your site, it’s a vote of confidence for Google. If you can get users to share your content, that’s another vote of confidence to Google. And, if users provide good reviews for your business – you guessed it, it’s yet another vote to tell Google that your website is high quality. All of these factors will improve your search engine rankings.
So, off page SEO means activity that generates external links pointing to your site, generates shares of your content and generates (positive) online talk about your business.
Off page SEO techniques
The good, the bad and the ugly
Good off page SEO techniques
Often, SEO articles talk about ‘natural’ link building, social sharing and social bookmarking as the top methods for off page activity. But, that’s only going to go so far – ultimately, if you’re providing a useless product, a poor service, or your customer experience is lacking – no amount of off page SEO activity is going to help. You need to start from the core of your business – make sure what you’re offering, and how you’re delivering it, gives your users and customers something to talk about.
- Create a great product or service
- Provide exceptional customer experience
Typically, people only provide feedback at two points – when they’re unhappy, or when they want to share an exceptional experience they’ve had from a company. Make sure your user and customer feedback is the latter.
Tip: Let your audience do the work
If you have a great product/service and consistently good customer experience, your users and customers will do the hard work of off page SEO for you! By being advocates, recommending your business – leaving great online feedback, sharing your social content. Genuine, positive sharing of your website and your content is the best form of off page SEO there is.
Granted, building up a strong customer community of advocates and raising brand awareness organically takes time – which is where some hard work comes in – you’ll need to do some ‘grafting’ to get the ball rolling. Back to our first comment; ‘natural’ link building, social sharing and social bookmarking are the next top methods for off page SEO.
- Natural link building: not to be confused with ‘artificial’ link building (refer to Bad off page SEO techniques), ‘natural’ link building is about creating quality, authentic backlinks to your site. The only way to achieve quality, authentic, natural backlinks – is to create content that’s worth sharing. If people like your content, they will link to it from their own sites. Any other method of building links is known as artificial. It’s important that the links to your site come from trusted websites, or they might be seen as fake or link spam and increase your risk of a Google penalty. Creating content that’s worth sharing means continually adding new web pages or blog posts to your website, each with unique and relevant topics. New content not only helps to increase the likelihood of users sharing your posts, but also gives search engines a reason to crawl your site more frequently – another factor for improving your search engine ranking.
- Social sharing: Social media should be a fundamental part of your SEO strategy – as a minimum you should have a company profile on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Business – and that’s just a start. The likes of YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest…(the list is endless) are also great sources for getting different types of content in front of consumers. The more content you create, the more types of content you create (video, photos, live webinars, interactive blogs, infographics), the more shareable your content becomes. Social sharing is another form of creating links to your site – although most social sites links are “no follow” (i.e. they tell search bots not to follow the link), that doesn’t mean the link has no value. Social shares and correct configuration of social media profiles is becoming a factor in increasing SEO.
- Social bookmarking: Social bookmarking is not as popular as it used to be in the past but it is still a way to get traffic to your website (and back links). Submit your latest blog posts and pages to bookmarking sites, like Digg, Reddit and StumbleUpon. Search engines like these types of sites because the content is updated frequently.
- Social republishing: You can also “republish” your content on publishing sites, like Medium and LinkedIn now has a publishing tool. Include a link to the original post. This will increase back links to your site, and increase the audience for your content.
Bad and ugly off page SEO techniques – AKA, Black Hat SEO
‘Artificial’ link building, link spam and buying links are all sure-fire ways of decreasing the SEO value of your website, and could even lead to a Google penalty.
Artificial link building is anything that isn’t a natural link. That includes blog directories, forum signatures, comment links, article directories and link exchange schemes.
Link spam is the worse form of artificial link building, and includes activity like linking to your website in the comments section of blogs, without actually leaving a valuable comment. Linking on blog is no longer an effective method of driving traffic to your site, and plenty of websites are now banning links to external websites in their comments section to prevent spam.
Article directories and website directories, while not ‘Black hat SEO,’ aren’t as valuable as back link sources to your site – article and website directory sites won’t hold as much weight as more trusted websites.
See SERPwoo for a list of websites that increase your domain’s trust. We would also add New Zealand sites like Stuff, NZHerald, Infonews, Scoop.nz and Government websites (any site with .govt.nz in the URL) to the list.
Paid links, although an easy way to achieve a high number of back links, is also the easiest way to achieve a poor quality SEO rating in Google.
Optimise your customer experience to optimise your off page SEO
So, to summarise in one sentence:
Create a great product or service AND good content AND provide exceptional customer experience, and let your audience do the work of creating valuable back links to your site.
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