When it comes to SEO, there are two approaches you can take to increase the search rankings of your website: on- and off-page SEO. The former deals with what you can do on your own site to increase your rankings, while the latter deals with what you can do outside your site (on other sites, hence, off-page) to raise your rankings.
Both are equally vital to making sure that your site gets found in search, but we’re only going to deal with off-page tactics in this guide.
Optimizing your site for off-page SEO means you’ll have to improve the way that both users and search engines see your site in terms of credibility, authority, popularity and relevance, just to name a few factors. A broad simplification of this is that other sites on the web (ideally, respectable ones) will link to your content to essentially promote or vouch for it, which, circling back now, has major benefits for your site’s reputation.
On-Page vs. Off-Page SEO
Here’s a quick refresher on the difference between on- and off-page SEO.
On-page SEO generally includes factors like:
- Page titles and headings
- Meta descriptions and tags
- Fast-loading pages
- High-quality and regularly updated content
- Internal linking
Off-page SEO really comes down to one major factor, which is high-quality backlinks to your site. The more of these you can get, the better, but, at the end of the day, it’s really more about quality than quantity because you want backlinks from sites with higher domain-authority ratings.
You can get backlinks to your site in any number of ways:
- Guest posting or blogging
- Social-media activity
- Influencer marketing
- Simply creating high-quality and shareable content on a regular basis
When all’s said and done, getting backlinks to your site depends mostly on how hard you’re willing to work to get them. The process can be quite involved, but it pays off if you do it diligently.
Let’s look at each of the four main ways to get backlinks to your site for off-page SEO purposes.
Guest Posting or Blogging
Before social and influencer marketing…there was blogging. One of the earliest marketing strategies on the web, blogging stands the test of time by still delivering results today. According to the data:
It’s precisely because of this popularity and effectiveness that landing guest posts on blogs is such a solid influencer-marketing strategy. When you publish a guest post on an influential (and highly ranked) blog, you can usually get a backlink to your site, either in the article itself or in your author bio.
Here are some actionable tips on landing guest posts:
- When you write your introductory outreach email to the blog’s editor, make it personal to establish a human connection
- Understand the industry of the blog you want to write on
- Pitch topics that are in line with what the blog is looking for
- Include some links to your best published work on the web
- Tell the blog editor how his or her readers can benefit from your piece
The goal is to repeat this strategy from one highly ranked blog to the next, using your growing list of successfully published guest posts as part of your pitch.
Remember that the whole tactic behind off-page SEO is to get backlinks from highly ranked sites pointing to your site. This all goes back to a site’s domain authority, which is defined as:
A ranking score for search engines that predicts how highly a site is going to rank on search engine results pages. The score goes from one to 100; the closer the score gets to 100, the more authoritative it is.
Be sure to figure in this score when choosing the blogs to pitch your guest posts to. Use a tool like Moz’s Open Site Explorer to help you figure out any site’s domain authority.
For the longest time, there’s been a correlation between the social shares a piece of content gets and how well its corresponding site or page does in search rankings.
Recent research and analysis from our own Larry Kim suggests that it’s not just the number of social shares, but the engagement rate of social content that strongly correlates with higher organic rankings. That would be things like comments, likes, click throughs on images, etc.
Which brings me to the next strategic piece of increasing your off-page SEO results: social media. The more that people on social share your content—and the greater its engagement rate—the more backlinks for that specific piece of content you’ll probably get. Social media is essentially a way to get a lot of free exposure, assuming your content is worth sharing.
Think of it this way: Let’s say you create an extremely helpful and eye-opening infographic that talks about all the little-known foods that Americans should stop eating. Mercola.com has done just that with an impressive infographic on banned foods that has amassed almost 700,000 social shares.
According to Moz’s Open Site Explorer, this infographic has earned 50 backlinks, and when I search for “banned foods” on Google, it ranked at #2.
This is just one example of how getting a lot of social shares and social engagement can be a very effective way of using off-page SEO to increase your search rankings.
Influencer marketing is a strategy where businesses and brands work together with popular (read: influential) bloggers and/or social-media users to promote their products or services. Because these influencers enjoy huge audiences and carry sway with them, businesses want to tap into that audience by having their products or services plugged or at least mentioned in some way by these influencers.
To be sure, influencer marketing includes both paid and non-paid arrangements. The former is when businesses pay influencers or at least give them a free product in exchange for their promotion. The latter is when the relationship is organic, when both the business and influencer enter into a mutually beneficial relationship.
While it’s come under attack recently for having the potential to sometimes be inauthentic, the truth is that research confirms it’s very helpful to your off-page SEO efforts, with influencers having the potential to generate 11 times the ROI of traditional advertising. And if you work to nurture and build these truly authentic relationships with influencers, you’ll see good benefits.
Here’s how to use influencer marketing to get backlinks:
- Talk about the influencer in your blog posts. Quote them, or mention their brand. Then, reach out to them on social or by email to let them know that you’ve featured them. Since people naturally love being recognized, chances are they’ll link back to your content if you ask them to.
- Work side-by-side with an influencer to create an in-depth guide, video or other piece of valuable content. In this scenario, you’ll get backlinks when you co-promote your content on different channels to each other’s respective audiences.
- Get your social fans to act as micro-influencers for your brand. If you notice that people are already organically taking pictures of themselves with your product and posting it to their social feeds, invite them to do the same for your official social account. The result is a multiplying effect of the promotion of your brand…to all of their followers. Boat-shoe brand Sperry recently tried this strategy.
Learn more about finding the right influencers in your industry in this guide by Margot da Cunha.
All of the above off-page SEO strategies aren’t going to work in the first place if you don’t have high-quality and shareable content that you create on a regular basis. This is the fundamental cornerstone of your entire strategy. By having this great content in place, you make it easier:
- To land guest posts on influential websites and blogs
- For people on social media to share your content
- For influencers to speak highly of your work and team up with you on content-creation projects
That begs the question, how do you create such content?
Here’s a general checklist of what to do:
Make it a point to include these three features in your content, and you’ll have a much easier time getting backlinks pointing back to it, no matter which off-page SEO strategy you use.
Off-Page SEO: Just Half of the Puzzle
Follow these extremely important strategies, and you’ll notice your search rankings increase over time. As your rankings increase, that means more traffic and leads coming to your site, which will have a healthy impact on your conversions, too.
Of course, taking care of off-page SEO is just half the story since on-page SEO matters, too. Only when you exhaust both SEO approaches can you be sure that you’ve done everything to make sure that your website is found in the big, vast world of organic search.