Off page SEO refers to techniques that can be used to improve the position of a web site in the search engine results page (SERPs). Many people associate off-page SEO with link building but it is not only that. In general, off Page SEO has to do with promotion methods – beyond website design –for the purpose of ranking a website higher in the search results.
Let’s take it from the beginning…
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization is the term used to describe a set of processes that aim in optimizing a website for search engines. SEO is important not only for getting high quality visitors from search, but it’s also a way to improve the user-friendliness of your website and increase its credibility.
Search engines are using complex algorithms to determine which pages to include in their index and the order they show these pages in the search results.
SEO is the way to ‘speak’ to search engines in a language they can understand and give them with more information about your website.
SEO has two major components, On Page and Off Page SEO.
On Page SEO
On Page SEO refers to settings you can apply on your website so that it is optimized for search engines. The most important On-Page SEO tips are:
- Having optimized titles and descriptions
- Proper URL Structures
- User friendly navigation (breadcrumbs, user sitemaps)
- Optimized internal links
- Text Formatting (use of h1,h2,bold etc)
- Image optimization (image size, proper image names, use of ALT tag)
- User friendly 404 pages
- Fast loading pages
- Mobile Friendly pages
- Top quality fresh content (This is always the most important SEO factor!)
- External links (no broken links or links to ‘bad’ sites)
You can find out more details about all the above tips in the SEO Tips for beginners article.
Off Page SEO
Unlike On- page SEO, Off-page SEO refers to activities you can perform outside the boundaries of your website. The most important are:
- Link Building
- Social Media Marketing
- Social bookmarking
We will examine these in more details below, but first let me explain about the importance and benefits of off-page SEO.
Why is Off-Page SEO important?
Search engines have been trying for decades to find a way to return the best results to the searcher.
To achieve this, they take into account the on-site SEO factors (described above), some other quality factors and off-page SEO.
Off page SEO gives them a very good indication on how the World (other websites and users) perceive the particular website.
A web site that is high quality and useful is more likely to have references (links) from other websites; it is more likely to have mentions on social media (Facebook likes, tweets, Pins, +1’s etc.) and it is more likely to be bookmarked and shared among communities of like-minded users.
What are the benefits of ‘off-site SEO’ to website owners?
A successful off-site SEO strategy will generate the following benefits to website owners:
Increase in rankings – The website will rank higher in the SERPs and this also means more traffic.
Increase in PageRank – Page rank is a number between 0 and 10 which indicates the importance of a website in the eyes of Google. It is the system invented by Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google founders) and one of the reasons that Google was so successful in showing the most relevant results to the searcher. Page rank today is only one out of the 250 factors that Google is using to rank websites.
More exposure – Higher rankings also means greater exposure because when a website ranks in the top positions: it gets more links, more visits and more social media mentions. It’s like a never ending sequence of events where one thing leads to another and then to another etc.
Link building is the most popular and effective off-Page SEO method. Basically by building external links to your website, you are trying to gather as many ‘votes’ as you can, so that you can bypass your competitors and rank higher.
For example, if someone likes this article and references it from his/her website or blog, then this is like telling search engines that this page has good information.
Over the years webmasters have been trying to build links to their websites to get higher rankings and they ‘invented’ a number of ways to increase link count. The most popular ways were:
Blog Directories – something like yellow pages but each entry had a link pointing to a website.
Forum Signatures – Many people were commenting on forums for the sole purpose of getting a link back to their website (they included the links in their signature).
Comment link – The same concept as forum signatures where you would comment on some other website or blog in order to get a link back. Even worse, instead of using your real name you could use keywords so instead of writing ‘comment by Alex Chris’, you wrote ‘comment by How to lose weight’.
Article Directories – By publishing your articles in article directories you could get a link (or 2) back to your website. Some article directories accepted only unique content while other directories accepted anything from spin articles to already published articles.
Shared Content Directories – Websites like hubpages and infobarrel allowed you to publish content and in return you could add a couple of links pointing to your websites.
Link exchange schemes – Instead of trying to publish content you could get in touch with other webmasters and exchange links. In other words, I could link your website from mine and you could do the same.
In some cases you could even do more complicated exchanges by doing a 3-way link: I link to your website from my website but you link to my website from a different website.
Notice that I used the past tense to describe all the above methods because not only they do not work today, you should not even try them.
If you try to ‘trick’ search engines by building artificial links, you are more likely to get a penalty rather than an increase in rankings (especially when it comes to Google).