In this article, I am going to guide you about everything you need to know about off-page SEO and how you should start with off-page SEO in 2023.
And I am going to walk you through the off-page SEO process and what you should know so you can do it yourself, or if you are hiring an SEO agency, then I also teach you how you can check on them to ensure they are following the best off-page SEO practices and Google quality guidelines to not get your website penalized. Trust me it happens a lot.
Step #1: Off-Page SEO Basics
The first step of Off-Page SEO is to understand its basics, so we are on the same page when we start optimizing your website for off-page SEO.
What is Off-Page SEO?
Generally, Off-Page SEO refers to any SEO activities that take place outside of your own website in order to improve your rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs).
The most known off-Page SEO activities are:
- Link building
- Social share
- Brand Searches
However, there is more to it and like other types of SEO strategies even Off-Page SEO strategy is just part of your overall SEO strategy for B2B or B2C and you should synchronize all of them to maximize your SEO impact and get the best results.
For example, content creation for SEO, content marketing, building relationships with brands, citation building or directory listing, credibility building, and more are a very important part of your SEO strategy that helps your Off-Page SEO.
Thus, this goes way beyond just building links for your website, and in this tutorial, I will show you exactly what you need to build to boost your ranking, website traffic, and lead generation by increasing your website trust from search engines.
So, we can say that off-page SEO could be any SEO activity that improves trust of your website and brand in eyes of your users on the internet and also improve trust in the crawling eyes of search engines. Also, check out our handy On-Page SEO vs Off-Page SEO Infographic.
Why Do You Need Off-Page SEO?
Off-Page SEO is one of the key components of SEO strategy that helps with improving your ranking and competing for more competitive keywords in your niche. Properly executed off-page SEO strategy boost your website authoritativeness and increase your credibility. Thus, search engines reward you with a better ranking.
Multiple studies show that off-page SEO strategies like link building correlate with higher rankings. For example, a study by Backlinko shows #1 result in Google has an average of 3.8x more backlinks than positions #2-#10 and authoritative domains tend to rank higher in Google’s search results.
Additional to that, during Google Q&A Andrey said that the two most important ranking factors used by Google in RankBrain update are and I quote:
“It’s content and links pointing to your site.”
And this has been confirmed by Ahrefs as their study showed that the more backlinks website has, the more search traffic it receives from Google.
Of course, we should take this with a pinch of salt. Yes, it is proven the more backlinks you get the more organic traffic you will receive due to improving your ranking in search engine position.
But one of the most fatal SEO mistakes is that website owners and marketers take this literally and start building ANY links.
It’s also important to know that search engines like Google have their quality guidelines and terms of service which also includes penalizing for participating in link schemes such as buying links, link exchange, require links as terms of service, etc.
But on the other side, Google is living a bit in a fairy tale as said by Gael from AuthorityHackers. Because links are so important, they become an internet commodity and high authority websites of course will want to monetize on this.
Anyway, unfortunately only high-quality content is not enough to compete for the highly competitive and juice keywords that most likely will drive revenue to your business and you will need backlinks and lots of them to compete for the most profitable keywords.
Difference Between Off-Page SEO vs On-Page SEO
Fundamentally these two SEO techniques are very different and the way how you execute them will differ as well.
So let’s describe each of these strategies to see what differentiate them:
On-Page SEO refers to any SEO activities that take place on your website in order to improve ranking in search engine result pages (SERPs).
On-Page SEO activities include:
- Keywords: Including keywords within the page, Keyword density, and placement.
- Site Silos: Also called site architecture. Content is organized in a logical way.
- SEO URL: Using words and keywords in the URL structure.
- SEO optimized title tags and meta description: including targeted keywords within.
- SEO Pictures: Fast-loading pictures with lazy load, keyword in the name, and the alt-tag.
- Internal Linking: Connecting pages together in a logical and natural context.
- SEO Content: Targeted Content that satisfies both users and search engines.
- Headers Optimization: Including keywords and the right FAQ in value-adding context.
- Website Security: Use of SSL certificate and free of malware viruses.
- Website Speed: Fast loading web pages.
- Mobile Friendliness: Responsive web pages that adapt to screen size.
Off-Page SEO like I said, refers to SEO activities that take place outside your website in order to improve ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Off-Page SEO activities include:
- Link Citation: Including your brand and website in online relevant directories.
- Social Signals: Getting your content shared on social media.
- Link Building: Building links to your website with link building strategies.
- Content Syndication: Resharing your content on other websites.
- Brand/Name Mentions: Getting mentions of your brand or name even without a link.
- Press News: Publishing news on news websites. Often no-follow link.
- Guest Contributor: On podcasts, events, interviews, blog posts, or anywhere else.
- Reviews: Improving customer/user feedback for your products and services.
(See the full infographic here)
As you can see clearly, off-page SEO is very much focused on improving brand image while on-page SEO is mainly focused on the user experience.
And while both these types of SEO strategies are very different, they both must be synchronized and implemented to achieve optimal SEO outcomes.
However, if you want to compete for highly competitive keywords like “SEO” which has a search difficulty of 88 according to SE Ranking.
Then having a proper off-page SEO strategy in place is essential.
Step #2: Optimize Your Website for Off-Page SEO
Alright, now, when you understand what is off-page SEO, why you need it, and what differentiates it from on-page SEO, we can move forward and look at how to optimize your website for it.
Like with any type of SEO strategy even with Off-Page SEO you can go really deep and optimize the hell out of your website. However, there are only a few factors that you should pay close attention to, especially if you are a beginner.
So, let’s discuss the most important factors Google is looking at when its algorithm is assessing your website for ranking.
Factor #1: E-A-T Google Signals
The first factor that you should pay close attention to is E-A-T Google signals which stand for expertise, authority, and trust.
Googles’ EAT is often misunderstood and considered as a ranking factor. However, E-A-T is just an acronym that helps webmasters, SEOs, and others to better understand how Google is trying to look at your website and rank it accordingly.
It helps us to dumb down the algorithm to better understand it as multiple algorithms conceptualize E-A-T.
Google is regularly updating its Search Quality Guidelines where they explain in detail what it actually means and how you can improve your website the “right way”.
And it is very difficult to explain what it means as that there are E-A-T pages and websites of all types, even gossip websites, fashion websites, humor websites, forums, and Q&A pages, etc.
But in the nutshell for websites to establish E-A-T:
- The main content should be produced by an expert.
- The website should be endorsed (backlinks) by an already authority website preferably within the niche.
- And the content has a satisfying amount of high-quality information.
Of course, this raises many more questions and I will go into more detail about getting endorsed by other websites which actually means building backlinks and also what it means high-quality content.
But for content to be considered high-quality, the content should provide enough information that users can be looking for when searching for specific information and having a positive engagement rate such as low bounce back.
To learn more about E-A-T I recommend you to read Google Quality Guidelines and WordStream blog articles on improving E-A-T.
Factor #2: Improve Trust Signals
The second important factor is to increase trust signals.
Trust signals are important to users and Google as well and almost every trust signal is a ranking factor. That’s why SEO tools like SE Ranking and others are using their own method to measure SEO trust signals.
So, what are trust signals?
Trust signals are badges, seals, symbols, certification, endorsement, or anything similar received from organizations that show the website is credible and/or safe.
There are three types of trust signals:
- Website trust signals: These signals improve conversion rate and increase confidence in users about the website. Such these could be case studies, reviews, about us page, testimonials, featured in section, etc.
- Inbound trust signals: Are website publication, directories, forums, etc. where you can be featured or submit a website and it drives you, visitors, to your website.
- SEO trust signals: Are signals are specifically tracked by search engines like Google such as backlinks, brand searches, CTR, or domain age.
As I said, trust signals are very important to users and Google and they influence how well your website is ranking. Therefore focusing on improving trust signals can improve your ranking and conversion rates.
I recommend you to check out this comprehensive list of trust signals to learn more.
Factor #3: Boost PageRank
The next important off-page SEO factor is PageRank.
PageRank is the first ranking signal used by Google and probably the most well know. It is a link analysis algorithm that determines the relative importance of each page based on the number and quality of links pointing to the website.
It generally assumes that if many and/or high-quality pages link to a particular page then that page is probably important for some reason.
To better understand it, here is an example from Wikipedia.
As you can see Page C has a higher PageRank than Page E, even though there are fewer links to C; the one link to C comes from an important page and hence is of high value. However, then there is the random surfer model and damping factor.
Both these factors randomly predict the user behavior on a page and ensuring that other pages can be discovered on the internet even if they are not connected.
Basically, PageRank is a complicated way to calculate website authority and Google is still using the PageRank algorithm to rank pages as stated by them:
We look for sites that many users seem to value for similar queries. For example, if other prominent websites link to the page (what is known as PageRank), that has proven to be a good sign that the information is well trusted.
And what you need to know, that getting backlinks from prominent and high-quality pages should be important to you if you want to rank for more competitive keywords.
However you should also be building links from lower sites as well, but on this in step #5.
Factor #4: Provide Relevant External Resources
Another important factor to improve your off-page SEO is to provide relevant external resources to prove your claims.
This is part of the Google E-A-T. Basically, they are looking at if you are linking to external resources and which one you are linking to as proof of your claims.
During the Pubcon Vegas in 2019 Gary Illyes was asked:
Q: Is ranking out to authoritative sites like Wikipedia a ranking factor?
Gary A: “Reference your sources. If you are writing about how carrot juice can cure cancer, you sure as hell better have a resource for that with extensive information.”
This proves that Google is using external linking as some sort of ranking algorithm. However, we cannot say how much of it is a ranking factor and for who it applies more. We know that industries like Finance and Heath will be affected more by this.
However, linking to external relevant resources is extremely valuable to you and your users. It improves user experience and shows your credibility and expertise that you know your industry and not just making up stuff. Therefore everybody should include some sort of reference whenever possible.
Outbound links are extremely important and as said by Brian Dean, the SEO expert:
“Not linking out might be the #1 on-page SEO mistake that I see people make.”
Factor #5: Increase Brand Signals and Searches (SEO Branding Strategy)
This factor is part of the SEO trust signal I have shown you earlier, but let’s dig a bit deeper about this.
One of the main goals of Google is to remove any imposters and provide useful and valuable information and brand signals should help with them. Basically, Google is looking at how often the brand is mentioned and based on that determines the importance of the brand.
It works on the same principle as getting backlinks to your site. The more you get and the better quality, the more Google will trust you and get you a better ranking position.
For Google, brands are more trustable and reputable than individuals. As said by Brian Dean already in 2013:
And study by SEObook.com a while ago about the potential of brand signals shows that Google is preferring brands over generic websites.
With that, creating your own brand regardless of if it is a one-man show or 100 people operation it’s better to have a legally registered brand that is owning your site than an individual person, and creating your own brand can be one of the best SEO hacks you can get.
And that brings us to the second part of this factor and that’s brand searches. Brand searches are a super important and underrated off-page SEO factor.
Simply said, brand searches mean how many people search for your brand on the internet. This can be your name, company name, or domain name. Any name that represents your brand.
Building an SEO branding strategy is one of the most important strategies and you should actively try to increase your brand searches and the number of branded keywords.
For example, big brands like Tesla have over 3.4M brand searches just in the US alone with over 20k branded keywords.
Or Forbes with 201 thousand searches with over 10 thousand keywords.
Either way, building your brand and getting brand mentions is a super important off-page SEO factor that you should be focusing on as well.
Step #3: Build Backlinks with Off-Page SEO Strategies
Alright, the next step of off-page SEO is to build backlinks and social shares.
Arguable building backlinks or link building strategies will take you the most amount of your time if you want to be successful.
With on-page SEO and & technical SEO everything is pretty much straightforward but with off-page SEO nothing is written in stone and there are many different ways to get backlinks and social shares but mainly you need to think outside the box.
So, let’s discover some of the strategies to build backlinks and social shares.
Strategy #1: Guest Blogging
The first off-page SEO strategy to build backlinks is guest blogging.
Guest blogging is one of the oldest link building strategies that work to this day and will be working even in the future. However, because it is one of the few effective and beginner-friendly strategies it is also oversaturated.
But if you are just starting your website, then build backlinks with guest blogging is a sure way to do it.
With that, to find guest blogging opportunities there are numerous ways. However, one way that you should definitely avoid, and it is the #1 SEO link building mistake I see many SEOs is using Google Search Operators.
The usual way that is wrong is to use some of the search operators to find guest blogging opportunities such as these:
- Keyword“submit a guest post”
- Keyword“guest post”
- Keyword “write for us”
- Keyword “guest article”
- Keyword “guest post opportunities”
- Keyword “this is a guest post by”
And then pop one of these into Google and you will get plenty of guest blogging opportunities.
As you can see, right away, I can find sites that accept guest blogging publicly. And such sites you want to avoid! The reason why is because Google wants you to earn links naturally by creating unique and relevant content.
And paying for links is against Google quality guidelines which also include exchanging content for backlinks. Thus using this method puts you at risk because if you find such a website be sure that Google knows about them as well.
And having publicly display that you are accepting guest blogging is almost the same as including a price list of adding a DoFollow link on your website to another website.
Therefore, any websites that show “Write for Us”, “Guest Blogging Guidelines” and so on you want to avoid.
Rather than that let me show you a simple trick to find plenty of guest blogging opportunities in your niche.
First, I must find websites in my niche. To do that I will pop my website into SE Ranking Competitive Research tool and select my targeted location.
Then, I select the “Competitors” report in the left sidebar under the “Organic traffic research” tab.
And here, I have a list of almost 500 hundred competitors. Now, I will export the data and I can start searching for emails to start with blogger outreach.
But before you start with the blogger outreach make sure to check their website that they do not publicly display they accept guest blogging as I showed you.
Also, you can analyze your competitor to get even more potential guest blogging suggestions.
And one last tip if you are starting. Do not start with the high-level competitors because they probably receive tons of guest blogging requests so they will be very particular about who they accept.
First, start with domains with domain trust below 50 and then work your way up, once you have more experience and published guest posts on other sites, you can start reaching out to bigger sites.
Strategy #2: HARO
The next link building strategy is HARO.
HARO is a great service that connects you with journalists that seeking expertise.
I have a full tutorial on how you can use HARO for link building that you can watch here:
So, I will not show you exactly how you can use HARO for link building but it is super simple to do that and definitely a great strategy for beginners to earn backlinks.
Strategy #3: Digital Public Relation
The next effective strategy for link building and getting social shares is using public relations.
Digital PR strategy is great for brand awareness, building credibility, earn high-quality backlinks, driving referral traffic and getting a social share from other websites.
And there are numerous PR strategies to earn backlinks and social share, but one that particularly stands out is to pitch linkable assets to journalists and bloggers.
And there are many different linkable assets such as blog, studies, research, quiz, surveys… and basically, anything that attracts journalist attention and is usable for them.
Strategy #4: Industry Study and Research
The next strategy to earn tons of backlinks and social shares is doing industry study and research.
This is one of the linkable assets you want to create as these gets ton of backlinks and social shares and industry study and research are great for you to pitch to journalist and bloggers.
For example, one of my competitors backlinko.com is using industry study and research with great success and getting hundreds of high-quality backlinks.
And when you look at what quality of backlinks Backlinko study generated, you can see their study generated backlinks from one largest and most authoritative websites such as namecheap.com, dreamhost.com, or vox.com with DoFollow link.
However, the disadvantage of industry studies and research is that they are often hard to pull off and can be very resource-heavy. But who said you have to start big? Starting with a small survey can still generate a nice number of backlinks pointing to your website.
Strategy #6: Create Social Media Channels
The next strategy is to create social media channels and start sharing your own content.
For example, on my own LinkedIn account for B2BDigitalMarketers.com I share my content with my small audience. Of course, at first, it will take time, but as you grow you can get reshares quite easily.
Also, you can include one link on your LinkedIn company profile which is NoFollow, but it helps with the Google E-A-T I was talking about.
And the same applies to other Social Media profiles. For example, another link I have is on my YouTube channel.
Also, on my YouTube Channel, I include the article version of my video.
And like this, I was able to get backlinks from sites like this that appear in the Google Search Console.
Yes, these will not move the ranking needle as much as getting backlinks from high authority websites that decided to feature your content on their website, but as I said, getting links from social media helps improve your E-A-T and Google can better authorize if you are a real person or fake guru. Learn more about SEO vs SMO.
Strategy #7: Content Creation
And the last and probably the most important strategy to get backlinks is content creation.
As said by Google and I quote:
“The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.”
And there is no doubt about that. If you look at any of your competitors probably the most high-quality backlinks they generated are via content they created on their website excluding product, service, and other similar pages.
For example, one of my competitors Kinsta.com has generated most of their backlinks from statistics posts.
Another competitor convinceandconvert.com has generated backlinks via statistics and research posts.
And last competitor komarketing.com has generated backlinks from the report and listicle posts.
As you can see, what all of them share in common is that high-quality content brings them the highest number of backlinks.
Thus, before you start any link building strategy, I recommend you create high-quality content. You can watch my video where I teach you how to create SEO content to earn backlinks and rank #1.
And according to research despite link building is one of the most important SEO practices, content creation is still the most effective SEO practice for brands.
Step #4: Disavow Bad Quality Links
The next step is to disavow bad links to your website.
Disavow links is a tool from Google that helps you to remove any links that you have built that violate Google Quality Guidelines to stop manual action from Google against your website.
To learn more about Unnatural links to the site, you can watch this video:
However, even if you do not participate in any link schemes, it doesn’t mean your competition could not use that against you. Therefore, you should be regularly checking links pointing to your website and looking out for those that could hurt your SEO.
And John Mueller had confirmed that disavowing unnatural links can potentially help a site in ranking.
For example, one of the types of links I want to make sure to avoid is from adult pages and gambling sites like these:
However, what Gary said during PubCon in 2019:
“If you know you had a shady SEO company or you were buying links, it’s probably best to do. However, that just randomly disavowing spam links you find will not be likely to improve your rankings “
Also, when he got a question about How often do site owners hurt themselves with disavow tool? Garu responded:
“It’s often enough that if it were me I’d remove the disavow tool. If you don’t know what you are doing you can shoot yourself in the foot.”
And I totally agree that before you take any action make sure you know what you are doing before you hurt your SEO.
With that, to check for bad links I recommend you to first browse your Google Search Console to look for any links from a site you don’t want to be associated just like I showed you.
Also, another way to check for bad links is to fire up your SEO tool as Google Search Console does not display all the links pointing to your website.
For example, I am using SE Ranking Backlink Checker to check for any unnatural links pointing to my website. I simply enter my website and click on search.
And here I get helpful information about my backlink profile such as referring domains, backlinks and even gov links and edu links. Now I open up the backlink report and will go through them and try to find any weird-looking links.
Luckily, I couldn’t find any unnatural links pointed to my website.
So how often you should check your backlink profile for bad links?
This depends on how large your site is and how fast you are growing. If you do not do any active link building and just creating content then once every six months should be alright.
However, if you do have an SEO company do link building for you, then I recommend you always get a report of backlinks they built for you on a regular monthly basis to make sure all links are legit.
Step #5: Optimize Backlink Profile
And the last step of off-page SEO is to optimize your backlink profile.
Optimizing backlink profile means ensuring your backlink portfolio looks like it grows in a natural way. This could be having links from large and small niche sites, relevant bloggers, relevant directories, no-follow links, and links from social media.
In general, if you are having only links from large sites like Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc, etc. then it seems very unnatural for sites. That same applies if you are having a large number of backlinks with rich anchor text to your money pages such as product or service pages.
Such scenarios you want to avoid when you are building backlinks. What you want is a mix of all links pointing to your homepage, product pages, category pages, blog posts, and other content with DoFollow and NoFollow tags.
For example, if you look at big sites like zapier.com you can see they have links pointing to many different pages including their homepage and inside pages. Also, as you can see their anchor texts vary a lot as well.
And when you open their backlink report you can see they have a mix of links from low and high authority sites with dofollow and nofollow tags.
And this applies to all kinds of sites. For example, a smaller site with an optimal backlink profile has backlinks pointing to the homepage as well as to inside pages with a mix of different anchor texts.
And when you look at the backlinks report you can also see they have backlinks from small and large size websites.
Therefore, if you are doing or planning to run off-page SEO always make sure you have a healthy and natural way looking backlink profile to avoid any manual penalties against you.
This is especially important to check if you have purchase SEO services from a shady-looking company that offers SEO like this one.
Back to You
Unfortunately, great content will not get you where you want to be as fast as you wish. The need for building backlinks is becoming especially important if you are entering competitive niches.
Sure, there are still ways to get around without building backlinks and having a proper off-page SEO strategy, but if you are serious about your growth and dominating the market, then you will need to build backlinks.
I hope that this gives you an idea of how you should go about off-page SEO and start planning it for every new article you are going to publish.
Let me know in the comments if there is something unclear or need more explanation and I will do my best to help you!
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Also, check out our SEO hub page to find all our SEO resources.
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