The need to know: Off-page SEO
SEO, or search engine optimisation (see part 1) is all about winning favour with the search engines. As discussed in part 2 of this series, there are many “rules of attraction” you have to follow on your webpage itself (called on-page SEO) when vying for Google’s attention. This is much like a romantic pursuit!
However, a big part of your relationship’s success depends on factors elsewhere on the world wide web (called off-page SEO), which is the focus of this final part in the SEO series.
When it comes to scoring with the search engines, off-page factors are considered even more important than on-page ones. Now, off-page SEO is all about your reputation – what other sites are saying about you and who are relating to you. After all, a well-known suitor with a good name stands a way better chance to win the heart of the object of his affection. Likewise, if Google can see that you are in good standing with the cyber community, it is more likely to become all googly-eyed over you.
To explain briefly: although there is more to it, off-page SEO mostly has to do with external links on the internet, pointing to your pages (called backlinks). The search engines are thus looking for other sources referring to you. Imagine how you’d like others to vouch for you in front of your sweetheart. The same principle counts here. Like I said: it’s all about your reputation!
So, how do you build these links? Well, there are endless ways and since Google’s boxes to tick are often changing, they are not set in stone and some are even controversial. However, we will consider some popular reputation-building methods below:.
Quality content and content marketing
The best kind of backlinks are those that other sites spontaneously post. In other words, you want people to sing your praise without asking them to do so – like in real life too! But if you don’t want to blatantly ask, could you do anything to accomplish this? Yes. It’s called link baiting – like fishing for compliments, only less pathetic. Remember how we spoke about the importance of content with regards to on-page SEO? Content (like blogging) strikes again – coupled with proper content marketing.
When you have relevant, high quality, attractive content made visible to many viewers, people would want to share or refer to it on their pages. It’s like when somebody is a really interesting, entertaining communicator and people are automatically drawn to him every time he opens his mouth. Be that guy (or hire him). And open your mouth regularly.
Another advantage of frequent, significant blog posts is that it will cause search engines to crawl your site more often, meaning more off-page points!
Ask other companies related to your industry to write a blog for them that will refer back to your site. You can even do a blog exchange. What goes around comes around – if you endorse others they will vouch for you.
List your business with its website URL on internet directories – like niche or local directories. It’s a bit of a long shot, but at worst it could increase the visibility of your site. Promote yourself!
Submit your blogs on social bookmarking sites (e.g. StumbleUpon, Reddit, etc.) and be sure to use appropriate tags.
Photo-, video- and article sharing
Share your original content – photos (or other images), videos or articles – on multiple platforms (e.g. Flickr or Picasa for images; YouTube or Vimeo for videos; Ezine or Go Articles for articles). It might take a while for these strategies to pay off, but it’s worth a try. If you have something good, don’t be shy to flaunt it!
Broken link building
There are ways to exploit others’ deaths. It sounds morbid, but it is a fact of life. The internet is dynamic and ever-changing and as a result, many pages end up as mere gravestones with “404” (internet version of “RIP”) engraved on it. There are ways to search for pages like these that used to share content similar to yours before they passed away. Then you can search for other pages with links to the deceased page and ask the site administrator to replace it with a link to your page (called a 301 redirect). This is something he should gladly do, since broken links is bad for his site’s reputation. Win-win.
Participation in online forums and comment threads
When you contribute relevantly to online discussions, especially ones that allow you to publish a URL to your site, you are generating backlinks. However, do this with caution! Spamming the internet with links to your pages on platforms like these is actually a real reputation buster. Remember, Google is somewhat finicky and when things put her off, she will downright punish you for them – by labeling you as doing “black hat SEO”. Spamming is the equivalent of using any and every opportunity to show off. It’s ugly to Google and it’s ugly to any lady with good sense.
The experts seem to be a bit unclear on how links on social media influence your search rank on Google, although it is commonly believed to count on Bing. Common sense says that Facebook, Twitter and other social media pages are like any other pages on the internet and search engines crawl them just the same to gather information.
Moreover, social media profiles (e.g. a company’s Facebook page or Google+ profile) often pop up high on search result pages, meaning that what happens on social media will affect the visibility of your business in search engines. In fact, social media platforms are search engines in themselves. Many people might prefer searching for something on social media channels rather than turning to traditional search engines. For instance, did you know that You Tube is the second most popular search engine, right after Google (YouTube processes more than 3 billion searches a month. 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute. It’s bigger than Bing, Yahoo!, Ask and AOL combined!)! (Uh-oh, this might mean that you have another bunch of ladies to impress!)
Also, if your content is shared on social media, you increase your chances of people sharing it on their webpages too, with backlinks. Thus, never underestimate the power of social media – it is most probably only going to increase in future.
Quality vs. Quantity
Finally, remember that not all links are created equal. A link from a high-ranking site will carry much more weight than one from an obscure one – just as a good report from the mayor will count more towards your reputation than one from a street hawker. Thus, don’t go ballistic in trying to reel in as many as possible backlinks. Rather get in with the big boys – their voices speak louder. (Another reason why spamming is not a good idea!)
So, there you go – we have come to the end of our advice on Life, Love and Everything SEO. In summary: combine on- and off-page strategies and stay updated with the “scoring system” as fickle Miss Google often changes her preferences. This is why SEO is an ongoing process and requires lots of research. We wish you all the best in your pursuit! May you get her to say “I do” and keep her vows for as long as your website shall live.