Off-page SEO is the act of optimizing your brand’s online and offline footprint through the use of content, relationships, and links to create an optimal experience for prospects and search engine crawl bots. It typically leads to gradual increases in positive brand mentions, search rankings, traffic to your site, and conversions.
What off-page SEO is and why your brand cannot afford to ignore it
In the SEO world, we don’t need to be convinced of the value of off-page SEO.
We know that well before people seek our brands out, they have formed an opinion of it based on reviews, comments from friends, family members, or online acquaintances, and whatever information we can glean online or offline (apart from your website).
Therefore, we’d be fools to disavow making off-page SEO a priority, given how important it is.
However, the more common mistake — among SEOs at least — is to see off-page SEO through only the prism of link building, which, while important, is not the be-all and end-all of off-page SEO.
That is, in working to build your brand’s off-page SEO prowess, links are certainly a benefit, not the goal.
Think of it this way:
- Goal of off-page SEO: To accumulate positive signals and interactions for your brand, with the hope of those factors being a net positive.
- Benefit(s) of off-page SEO: Brand mentions, positive reviews, links, etc.
So while it’s important to think of links when making off-page SEO a priority, it’s also vital that you (a) view them in context (important but not singularly so) and (b) give priority to the host of factors that lead to off-page SEO providing a boost for your brand.
Those factors include, but are not limited to, creating an excellent, worthwhile product or service; guest posting on popular, relevant blogs; building relationships with influencers; earning positive press; capturing positive reviews and responding to negative reviews; and monitoring mentions of your brand, to name a few.
Because our goal is to create a post that’s accessible, interesting and immediately useful, we’ll break down what we think are 8 key areas worth focusing on for off-page SEO under three umbrellas:
The intention is to provide a prism through which you can more easily categorize your efforts and a framework by which you can make those efforts a reality.
“No amount of SEO in the world can help a crappy product or service (at least not for long).” This is a sentence I frequently utter to folks who refuse to prioritize what they offer in favor of trying to put lipstick on a pig.
#1: Create a 10X product or service
When your product or service is recognized as the best in its class, your job as SEO becomes much, much easier.
That’s because both online and offline, people are likely saying great things about the product and brand, which leads to visits to your website, positive reviews on third-party sites, and increased sales of the product.
This only occurs, however, if you focus first and foremost on creating the best product you can.
Easier said than done, I know.
Here’s a great place to start, depending upon where your product/service is in the evolution cycle:
- Existing product: Deliver the goods on features customers would most benefit from based on requests and complaints online regarding competing products.
- New product: Focus on the most essential benefits your new product can provide to the prospective audience. When you do this, you remove objections and features present themselves.
#2: Customer service
No one who’s watched the United Airlines meltdown needs to be sold on the value of customer service as an effective asset for off-site SEO. The brand will be paying for that epic disaster for years as millions of folks continue to share the video and images of the event.
It’s not hard to imagine how poor customer service has made the brand’s SEO and PR teams’ reputation management efforts a nightmare.
For your brand, focus on a singular goal: Leaving everyone your brand/brand spokespeople comes into contact with — online or offline — feeling as though the interaction could not have been more positive.
For example, at in-person events, make sure staffers wear a smile, empathetically interact with everyone they meet, and go out of their way to answer questions or provide general help. It also means ensuring any content you create leaves people feeling good about your brand.
# 3: Focus on web searchers’ intent
Turns out the old cliche that “you attract more flies with honey than vinegar” is very relevant to SEO. People are typically more willing to buy and use your products and services if they can first find them.
A lot of times, our products and services fail to live up to their full potential because we aren’t matching our offering to the needs of our prospective audiences.
A great example of this is creating and sharing content without keywords the audience might be using to look for a similar product.
In addition to matching titles, descriptions, and keyword phrases to searcher’s intent, make sure you focus on where the content is shared and discussed.
It also starts with putting the needs of the audience first.
“For uncovering searcher intent…[s]earch, refine, broaden queries, talk to people, read discussion threads, have empathy,” wrote Rand Fishkin in a recent tweet.
The better you know your audience, the more easily you can interact with, share with, and learn from them.
What does this have to do with off-page SEO? Everything.
Next to no one wakes up and decides to interact with your brand.
#4: Have a responsive social media presence
A typical search comes about because a person has an unmet need (e.g., “where is the nearest pizza joint?”) or has a question they’d like answered (e.g., “how tall is the biggest building in Tokyo?”).
After using Google Autosuggest to find the answer, they’re likely to visit social media to learn more, ask questions, and interact with their friends, family members, and acquaintances.
You see where we’re going here, right?
Social media must be an invaluable component of your off-page SEO strategy.
It’s much easier than most brands think, too:
- Be there: If you have a social media account, make sure someone is monitoring it and can answer questions and respond to comments in a timely fashion.
- Be human: People online expect genuine interaction, not robotic responses or constant brand promotion.
- Be proactive: One of the best things you can do to help your brand is to use social media to be seen as a resource for the online community in the vertical you serve. Even if someone asks a question about a product or service you don’t offer or that is offered by a competitor, don’t be afraid to chime in and offer praise when due.
As you can see, the price of unresponsiveness on social media negatively impacts far more than SEO:
#5: Build connections with social media/online influencers
When people say “Social media does nothing for my brand,” most SEOs must think, “Oh, but how wrong you are.”
Whether it’s the largely unmeasurable dark traffic social sends to your site or the connections with a base of people who could be customers or supporters at some point, social media can be an asset for any brand, if used wisely.
For off-page SEO, one of the biggest benefits of social is the ability to create and nurture lasting relationships with influencers, those people with huge reach in the way of name recognition, myriad followers and fans, and connections with numerous high-ranking websites.
They’re also typically very much connected with other influencers.
As we see in the image below, even if Google isn’t using social signals to help determine rankings, the interplay of influencers and the sites they represent, like, and visit makes being on their radar a positive.
An effective strategy for enlisting the help of influencers to boost your off-page SEO is to get to know them in person, at events, and online via group chats/tweets and such, which puts you on their radar without much heavy lifting on your part.
Then, in the future, when you do create and share content, they’re more likely to recognize you and your brand and might share the content themselves.
Even better, later on, after you’ve developed a stronger relationship, you might even collaborate on a piece of content — for their site, your site, or a publisher such as an online magazine.
#6: Recommit to frequenting forums and discussion boards, and comment blogging
Want to get noticed by your desired audience and the influencers they follow?
Visit the most popular blogs in your vertical, and leave comments. In recent years, comment blogging has fallen off in popularity, in large part because comment spam led to most blogs no-following their links.
For the purpose of off-page SEO, links are less of a priority.
Your goal is simply to be where the action is and to leave a thoughtful comment that might catch the eye of the blogger, the platform’s editor, and any influencers who might be reading the content.
The same applies for sites like Reddit and Quora, where you can follow topics specifics to your brand or vertical and quickly get noticed for being knowledgeable, thoughtful, and empathetic in answering others’ questions or helping to drive discussion.
The relationships formed on these platforms have a way of paying huge dividends and can be invaluable for off-page SEO and reputation management.
Often someone notices your comments on one of these platforms, starts following you there, and then later does a Google or LinkedIn search to learn about you or your brand, which ultimately leads them to your website, where they might sign up for your newsletter or subscribe to your blog.
#7: Quit guest blogging for links
You read that right.
Instead of guest blogging solely for links, use this tactic to help you build a rapport with some of the top publishers, editors, influencers, and brands online.
If done correctly, the links do come. But as long as you make links the priority, whereby it’s obvious that you’re looking for a transactional relationship as opposed to one that is mutually beneficial, the tougher it’ll be for you to use guest blogging effectively for off-page SEO.
Read, leave comments on their blogs, and connect with the top publishers in your vertical — or publishers that cover your vertical. Once you have developed a rapport and, hopefully, have a reputation for creating quality content, inquire about creating a guest post for the platform, assuming that option is available.
Even if that door doesn’t open, you’ll be able to hone your pitch and eventually get a foot in the door with other publishers.
Remember, too, that your website is but one tiny fish in a vast ocean of options. You need to connect with others in many places off-site to build the reach and influence that’ll drive attention and visits to your site, which is where guest blogging can big a huge asset.
“Should you do guest posting for SEO? As a primary objective, I’d say no. But… reality is that the indirect impact remains very powerful,” wrote Stone Temple Consulting’s Eric Enge. “There is nothing like building your reputation and visibility to cause people to want more of your content. You get to build up your own audience, and ultimately some of these people will find their way to your site, find great content there, and link to it.”
When most people say, think, or write “content,” they most often think of text, images, videos, and information shared via social media.
In reality, content represents the entirety of the experience your brand designs, creates, and shares online and offline, from logos and tag lines to personnel, phone calls, signage, blog text, images, videos, etc.
If a prospect or customer can interacts with it, you’d better believe it’s content.
And before you offer up, “Well, Ronell, what if one of my staffers has mustard on her shirt in a video we post online?” (Trust me, someone would ask that.) “Is that content, too?” Yes, that faux pas is part of the content experience a prospect or customer could have with your brand.
In fact, it’s the sort of thing that can lead to someone seeing your company as not having all of its ducks in a row, injuring your reputation in the process.
#8: Experiment with content types
But don’t fret. When it comes to off-site SEO, the main thing I want you to focus on with regard to content is to see beyond text.
I’m a writer. I love words.
As a newspaper reporter, I always argued with my editor when he said “Words without images lead to words getting ignored. Images sell.”
The same for video. People eat it up.
You’ve no doubt heard that mobile is gobbling up the world as I write this. Well, guess what those untold millions are doing on their mobile devices?
Largely consuming videos, which are expected to account for 85% of the content being shared online by 2019. Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook Live, anyone?
Videos and images can be a huge boon to your brand’s off-page SEO, largely because they can both be a low-investment/high potential vehicle used to drive awareness and traffic back to your site, enhancing your off-page reputation in the process.
A few low-cost, low-effort ways to use video and images include:
- Post how-to videos on YouTube, which is the second-most visited website in the world and the #2 search engine behind parent company Google. What’s more, popular videos can and do rank in the SERPs.
- Share daily musings or recaps of distillations of recent events via Facebook Live
- Snap meeting or office funnies via Snapchat
- Compose image albums on Imgur, Flickr, and other popular photo-sharing sites
- Tweet videos of interesting things you notice throughout the day
Video and images are great way to show some personality and make your brand feel human, real, and alive to people who might not have heard of your company, or who’ve only recently discovered it.
They can also work wonders for your off-site SEO.
For example, say your brand has found that customers who visit your white papers have an increased likelihood of becoming customers. You might shoot video interviews of the subjects or clients featured in the most popular websites, then post the videos to YouTube, in addition to sharing them with the clients to post on their site and disseminate via social media.
This increases the likelihood of even more people seeing the videos and wanting to learn more about your brand.