Website’s structure, content quality, easy of use and user experience, loading time e.t.c. are important factors for your website’s performance on search engines. This is what we tried to optimize up to a level in on-site SEO. Now we will talk about all the actions needed for you to follow outside your website in order to help it perform better in search engines, all those actions that are considered as off-site SEO.
What’s off-site SEO?
When you need to find a plumber for your house, you most probably ask some friends or some neighbors. Each one proposes a different one but two in particular are proposed from two of your neighbors each. Two of your neighbors you consider better sources than the others and the same happens with your friends, some you feel that know more about plumbers than the others.
The ones of the proposed plumbers that have the most suggestions along with the ones that have the most “trusted” ones, should be your search results. For you, it may be more important to rank trusted sources higher than number of suggestions so your search results will be adapted to this logic. This is pretty much how search engines work. The more suggestions and the better ones, the higher the quality thus the higher it will rank on search engines.
In search engines, in simple terms, the more websites that link to a page and the better those websites, the higher this page will rank comparing to its competing pages from other or the same website.
Off-site SEO is about finding and adding all those links to very high-quality, most relevant and important websites to point to pages in our own website and thus gain a higher authority score, ultimately raking our website higher for the target terms we will focus our off-site SEO strategy and effort on.
What to consider when applying off-site SEO
There a few things that we need to keep in mind when going on with your off-site SEO. This simple “rules” can help you drive to the right direction but also bring about the highest quality of links you can find so to help your website gain more authority, thus have a better chance of appearing higher in the search engines. Here is a list of simple rules :
- Find websites that are “good” and high quality. Usually a “good” website also looks good, has enough and solid content, users interacting in comments, it appears up in the search results e.t.c.
- Every website you find has to be relevant to your own topic ( thus the target terms ). Do not add links to irrelevant websites just because they have high traffic numbers. Your goal is to find good and relevant only websites, no matter the traffic they have. For instance, adding your law firm to a local directory website for businesses would sound wrong based on this argument, but your law office will be added to the section of this website that talks about law firms, so its inherently relevant even in this case.
- Find websites that are of a similar language to your website. If you’d like to optimize a page on your website that’s in French, then its better to find websites from France that link to this particular page, language and links play an important role to off-site SEO. If you can’t find websites of similar languages, then link your page from internationally-targeted websites, thus domains that are .com or .net or .info.
- Avoid linking by banners and ads as search engines “understand” banners and ads as something different than links. You can add links to articles on those websites or in comments in their blog ( being very very polite and cautious when you do so, we will talk about this later on ). In general, banners and ads will help your traffic but not your SEO and off-site strategy.
- Avoid adding links to low-quality websites and blogs. Its not the number of links that counts most but the quality of links and relevancy of links.
So how can I add links to other peoples’ websites?
There are a couple of ways you can add links to other peoples’ websites. Since you don’t control their website but they do, then you can’t really go in and add links unless they want it or allow it. So you will need to follow some digital-PR steps to “convince” them to add a link to your website. Here are a couple of ideas.
Write articles and send them to press websites or magazines
One way to make it happen is to write an article about your own concept and then send it to online magazines and press websites ( again of high quality and relevancy ). So let’s say you’d like to promote your trade law services page, you can write an article about how trade law has changes this year and what is going on this quarter of the year, some news and some tips for the reader, save your text and send it to a business magazine which you found online ( and has all the characteristics mentioned above for a “good” website ) and ask them kindly but firmly to add a link to your law services page.
The importance of rel=follow
The trick here to remember is that they must add the links as an active clickable link, not just a mention of source but a hot link which users can click and get driven to your website. Also, this link in technical terms has to be rel=follow, which means that search engines will “see” it and consider it, as opposed to rel=nofollow where this link, although working fine, is invisible to search engines. You should ask them this link to be rel=follow so you can gain whatever you can from this website the article will be added to.
Some online magazines and press websites, aching for content, will publish your article for free and host it for free. Others may charge for this, something that is nowadays called “advertorials” or “paid editorials”. Either way, its a nice idea of a way of adding links online.
Find blogs and forums that talk about your stuff, join the conversation
Another place online you can add links to your website is blogs and forums that talk about the same stuff your website is about. Our website is about law services so we should find blogs and forums that talk about law. After we do and we pinpoint the ones that are of high quality and seem important, then we need to join the conversation. Be careful here, you must join the conversation, not spam it with injected links or you will be kicked out in no time.
When you find a blog that talks about i.e. a trial that went wrong, then you can go below it in the comments, see what people are talking about and add your own knowledge there, comment and converse and in one of your comments say “read about criminal law and how we see it” adding your link to your website. Be creative and polite when doing this or the community of the blog/forum can be really irritated. Never go in and just paste your link as this is considered one of the worst types of spamming online, you will be permanently blocked from that blog/forum.
Local online directories and business listings
Find your local or national business directories and directories, register and add your business by adding your website ( which in most cases automatically turns into a link to your website ), write about your business and keep your text as much as possible, like the three hundred words mentioned in the on-site SEO section above. Add an image and fill in the alt text if you can, in general, try to apply all the on-site rules we talked about, in your own listing in that directory page.
Add links to your own network of websites
There are some businesses that have more than one websites. All websites are about similar concepts but not exactly the same. For instance, you may have your law firm’s website but have another one about business-related services for law. You could add a link to the business-related website that will point to your law services website. You can do this in an intuitive way, in a way that you can help your users read more and gain more information.
Request links from your partners
Every business has some “allies” and partners, which have websites. You can ask them to add a link to your website. For instance, if your law office works with a consultancy agency, then you can ask them to add a link to their website where they list their services and in the law section, that points to your law services page.
What about links on Social Media?
Most people consider links from social media are active links to your website. One of the most common misconception is that when you post a link from your website on Facebook, this link is considered an active link and will help your website grow in search engines.
Most SM mark all links that are posted on them as rel=nofollow. As mentioned above, rel=nofollow means that the link is indeed active and clickable, will drive the user to the destination, but it will not be “seen” by search engines. So all linked posted on i.e. Facebook, are really not helping your website on search engines. They may help you in traffic growth, but certainly not in increasing your authority.
Are there any social networks that help with SEO?
Some other social media though do help your website with links. One of those is Pinterest and another is YouTube. On Pinterest, a simple idea is to pin photos from your website on your business profile, this way, your pins will link directly to your website, which will at some point be considered as active links.
On YouTube, you should add a link to your website in every video you create and upload. Once your videos get popular, those links will help your website gain more links. There is a thing on YouTube called “V-SEO” which stands for Video-SEO. In simple words, when you upload a video on YouTube, you should apply the mentality of our on-site SEO tips, to your video. Write the video’s title as you’d write your on- site titles, add keywords as tags on YouTube as you’d add the keywords on your website and make sure you write enough text in the video’s description, keeping in mind that on each video, around one hundred and eighty words is good. Don’t forget to add the link to your website in your video’s description.
Surely, adding links on the social media platforms that do help your website is not enough. You will have to grow your SM audience and gain some engagement in order to see some impact from social media to your SEO.
What’s Social Signals for Google?
Google, considers all social media links and engagement as “Social Signals”, not exactly links but an indication of how many people and how actively talk about you on SM.
The more people “talk” about you on social media, the more important you are so this has to be somehow reflected on the search results. Social signals is not yet a significant factor of ranking in search engines but its growing and may be of considerable importance at some point.
Google+ is a bit different. When you create a G+ page, you now have some options to add your business to Google Maps and more. Whenever you post something from your website to Google+ and once this post goes over one hundred likes, you will start getting some points for this address you shared from your website, as part of Social Signals. Its important though to do so as having your business on Google Maps will help you, plus, you will get a YouTube channel with your G+ page, in which you can upload your videos, all under one brand.
Maps and more discovery
Search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and more, nowadays offer peripheral services like maps. Adding your business to their maps service is important. When a business is on maps and its the first search result in the search engine ( Google in particular ), the maps box appears to the right side of the search results page ( as in some cases the G+ page appears to the right side ). In the eyes of the user, half the search results page is about that brand, so the chances of them clicking it are quite high.
Also, having a listing of your business on maps, adds a few links to your website ( since you have added your website on the maps listing ) from the maps websites which are in general stellar in quality.
Give them something to talk about, blog
Another important part of your on-site and off-site SEO but mainly for off-site purposes, is to have a blog on your own website which you will be updating regularly. You have a lot of things to talk about, no matter what you do. You need to “talk” about your business and what you do, give people tips about your services, write things that your clients would otherwise call and ask you, all that on your blog. Write one article per X days and post it on your blog.
Many users online, will see your blog posts, share them or re-post them on their own blog as more people would be interested. The nice thing here is that only users that are interested will actually do this, which is a subtle “promise” for relevancy and links. Not only will those blog posts increase the number of possible urls from your site for search results but it will also increase the chance that users share your blog posts on their own SM or blogs. This is an important part of digital-PR which will, at some point, bring links, discovery and traffic.
Off-site SEO and the beginnings of your site
In case your website is new and just went online, applying some off-site SEO right away will help search engines crawl it and index it faster. So when your new website goes online, find a couple of “partner” websites ( again relevant and high quality ) and add some links there to your website. This will actually make your website be crawled faster and thus appear in the results faster ( don’t expect to appear in the first page with just that, this will take some time ).
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