Off-Page SEO: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How to Improve It
You may have heard the term “off-page SEO”, but what exactly does it mean?
To answer this, in this guide we're going to discuss the following topics:
- What is on-page SEO?
- What is off-page SEO?
- What is the difference between on-page and off-page SEO?
- What are the best ways to improve off-page SEO?
If you want to learn how to get more organic traffic from Google, keep reading.
What Is On-Page SEO?
Before we get into off-page SEO, let’s first talk about on-page SEO.
On-page SEO, also known as on-site SEO, is search engine optimization that is done on your own website.
It’s an umbrella term that covers optimizing site loading speed, URLs, title tags, meta descriptions, keyword frequency, alt text, internal links, etc.
The purpose of on-page SEO is to make it easy for search engines to understand what your website is about and to improve user experience.
What Is Off-Page SEO?
Off-page SEO, also known as off-site SEO, is search engine optimization that is done outside of your website.
It’s an umbrella term that includes link building, increasing brand mentions, and getting reviews on authoritative websites.
Interestingly, many experts agree that social media signals such as followers, likes, shares, etc. don't necessarily affect search engine rankings.
That said, social media marketing can certainly help indirectly by creating more buzz around your brand, which may lead to more backlinks, mentions, and reviews.
On-Page SEO vs. Off-Page SEO
You may be wondering what is more important: on-page SEO or off-page SEO?
Having your on-page SEO sorted out is the bare minimum if you are interested in search engine optimization, and each web page on your website should be optimized.
However, it is often the case that off-page SEO ultimately determines how well your website is going to do on search engine results pages (SERPs).
The reason for this is likely related to the fact that you have full control of on-page SEO, but you have much less control of off-page SEO since it largely revolves around other people acknowledging your website.
This makes off-page SEO a more reliable indicator of the value your site provides to your visitors.
After all, anyone can optimize their own website, but you need to provide value if you want to get backlinks, brand mentions, and customer reviews.
That is why you should start by implementing on-page SEO best practices, and then shift your focus to off-page SEO.
What Are the Off-Page SEO Ranking Factors?
So what are the off-page SEO ranking factors that help Google determine where your website appears on SERPs?
Well, the truth is that except for the people who work at Google, no one really knows what all these SEO factors are.
That being said, it seems that the three most important factors are backlinks, brand mentions, and customer reviews:
- Backlinks: In general, the more high-quality backlinks your website has, the more likely it is to rank well.
- Brand mentions: It seems that brand mentions, both linked (e.g. AgencyAnalytics) and unlinked (e.g. AgencyAnalytics) ones, can improve your search rankings.
- Customer reviews: It appears that customer reviews on authoritative websites can also help your search rankings.
Out of these three ranking factors, backlinks are the most important one (after all, Google probably still uses PageRank), which is why link building should be a primary focus when it comes to off-page SEO.
How to Get More Backlinks
Of course, the next question is, how do you get backlinks?
Now, before we get into link building tactics, we need to be clear on one thing: quality is more important than quantity.
The more authoritative the website is, the greater the SEO boost from a backlink.
Domain Authority (DA) is a metric created by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on SERPs. It uses a scale of 1 to 100. You can check domain authority using Moz’s free Domain SEO Analysis tool.
Adam Enfroy, who grew his blog from zero to 178,021 unique visitors in 2019 through aggressive link building, advises aiming for blogs with a Domain Authority of 50+ when guest posting.
This “DA 50+” rule can also be applied to other off-page SEO tactics such as broken link building and podcast appearances.
Also, when you are building links, make sure that the website in question provides dofollow links, as opposed to nofollow ones (for example, sites like Wikipedia, Quora, etc. use nofollow links).
Now that we have established that you should aim for links from authoritative websites, let’s discuss how you can get those links.
Ideally, your link building strategy should include (at least a few of) the following five tactics:
- Guest blogging
- Podcast appearances
- Broken link building
- Linkable resources
Guest blogging, also known as guest posting, is probably the most popular link building tactic out there.
The main idea is that you write an article for another website in exchange for a backlink to your website.
In his article “Guest Blogging in 2020: How I Wrote 80+ Guest Posts in 1 Year” Adam Enfroy provides this five-step process:
- Understand your value: You need to provide value to bloggers if you want them to publish your guest posts. What can you offer them? As the article advises: “Don’t go into the process of guest blogging for SEO only thinking about what you’ll get out of the deal. First, you need to focus on the benefits you’ll give the site.”
- Create a spreadsheet with a list of websites: It only needs five columns—website, name, email address, status, notes. Check the domain authority of each website before including it in your list. As mentioned, go for ones that have a DA of 50+.
- Find the right person to contact: Use LinkedIn to identify who you need to reach out to (search for people within that company who have “editor”, “content”, etc. in their title). Then find their email address through tools like Hunter.io and ContactOut.
- Reach out via cold email: Start contacting people—keep your email short and showcase your previous work. As the article says: “In the end, it’s about treating each person as a friend, personalizing your content, providing value in the form of links, and getting right to the point.”
Here’s Adam’s cold email template that has an 80%+ open rate and 50%+ response rate:
“Subject Line: Hey (First Name) // Content and Link Building Opportunities – Adam from (Company)
Hey (First Name),
My name’s Adam and I’m the (Job Title) at (Company).
I’m reaching out because I love (Target Blog) and your (Target Article) really resonated with me because (Reason).
I was curious if:
1) You’d like to participate in link building. I write (X-X) guest posts per month and would be happy to link to your site in my content.
2) You allow guest posts on your blog.
I’d love to contribute to your (awesome? informative? useful?) blog and can pitch some topic ideas that I think your audience will enjoy. Here are some recent samples from me:
(Sample 1 URL)
(Sample 2 URL)
(Sample 3 URL)
Please let me know if you’re interested and I look forward to hearing back from you soon!
He mentions that this email template is on the long side, so you may want to experiment with shortening it.
Finally, you want to perfect your topic pitch over time. Make sure that this topic isn’t already covered on their site (search “site:blog.com topic” on Google) and target a valuable keyword that matches their audience’s interests. And, of course, only pitch topics that match your expertise.
Follow this process and you should be able to get guest posts published on high domain authority websites.
Podcast appearances are an under-utilized off-page SEO tactic.
According to Edison Research’s “The Infinite Dial 2020” report, 75% of the total U.S. population aged 12+ are familiar with podcasts.
Moreover, 37% of the total U.S. population aged 12+ have listened to a podcast in the last month and 24% have listened to a podcast in the last week. And these weekly podcast listeners averaged six podcasts in the last week.
According to the same report, the number of monthly podcast consumers increased by 16% year-over-year in 2019, so it’s probably safe to say that podcasts will only grow in popularity in the foreseeable future.
This provides an excellent off-page SEO opportunity since appearing on a podcast is usually less time-consuming than writing a guest post, but you still get a high-quality link (provided that the podcast in question is popular).
Dorie Clark, a Duke and Columbia business professor and an author, used podcast appearances to launch her book “Stand Out” back in 2015 when she secured 160 podcast appearances over the course of a year.
And with her most recent book, “Entrepreneurial You”, she hit the same number in only four months. That’s a lot of podcasts!
Here’s a five-step process that she shared in his Harvard Business Review article “How to Get Booked as a Podcast Guest”:
- Identify which podcasts you want to target: You should find your “media doppelganger”. As she writes: “For instance, if you’ve written a book about negotiation, find other well-known authors or thinkers on that topic and go to the media page of their website and see which podcasts they’ve already appeared on.” That way, you will know which podcasts are interested in your topic and are open to interviewing people who are knowledgeable about it.
- Search for warm leads: “Whether it’s sales or podcast appearances, you’re always more likely to succeed if you have an “in,” rather than pitching someone cold.” Take a look at the previous guests of your target podcast. Do you know any of them? If you do, then reach out to them and ask for an introduction. And if you don’t, then at least mention that you saw an expert on your topic on one of the previous shows, since that demonstrates that you have done your research.
- Create a short pitch email: “Include a couple of sentences about you, laden with as many markers of credibility as possible; information on what you’d like to discuss on the show; and an explanation for why you’re reaching out to them, specifically.” And keep the email short!
Dorie provided a sample email template (note that the formatting is mine):
My name is X.
I really enjoyed your recent discussion with Y about [his company name], and I wanted to reach out because I also run a startup in the fintech space.
[Insert 1–2 sentences of social proof, such as $ raised, who your clients or investors are, where you incubated, media plaudits, etc.]
We just [insert timely hook or angle] and I wondered if you might be interested in discussing it?
I thought this might be especially relevant to your listeners because of [insert reason]. If you think it might be a fit for your podcast, I’d be honored to continue the conversation.
Please let me know and thanks for considering.”
Dorie continues with a few more suggestions:
- Make sure that you are prepared to leverage the opportunity: Take the time to think about the questions that you may be asked and how you want to answer them. Practice answering these questions with a colleague so that your answers would be tight and crisp. Also, make sure that your technical setup works for appearing on a podcast. High-quality headphones are essential because sound quality matters a lot. And if the podcast will also be recorded on video, then have a professional background and sort out the lightning.
- End every podcast appearance with a clear call to action: You know how podcast hosts tend to end the episode with a “How can listeners learn more about you?” question? This is an opportunity to tell the listeners what you want them to do next (follow you on Twitter, download a lead magnet, pre-order your book, etc.). When Dorie was promoting her book “Stand Out”, she would mention that the listeners could download a free “Stand Out” self-assessment book. As she highlights: “I was able to more than double my email list—from 9,500 to 25,000—in nine months.”
Dorie also advises listening to at least one episode to ensure that the podcast is a good match for you.
Broken Link Building
Broken link building is an SEO tactic where you reach out to websites that have broken links and offer a replacement link that leads to similar content on your website.
Getting a backlink this way is less time-consuming than landing a guest post or a podcast appearance.
Here’s what SEO expert Brian Dean recommends in his Broken Link Building guide:
- Find pages with a lot of links: Look for resource pages on Google. You can find them using these search strings:
“Keyword” + inurl:resources
“Keyword” + intitle:links
“Keyword” + “helpful resources”
“Keyword” + “useful resources”
- Use a free Check My Links Chrome extension to identify broken links: All you need to do is add it to Chrome, go to the website that you want to check, and then click on the Check My Links icon.
- Find everyone that links to that broken link: You can do that with tools like Ahrefs and Moz.
Brian also recommends Ahrefs to see broken links on a competing website, then see who links to those broken links and reach out to them with your own link.
Also, he explains that to make the most out of this SEO tactic, you need to offer a replacement link that is very similar to the original link.
Here’s an email where he did just that:
And if you want to take broken link building to the next level, Brian advises creating a piece of content that is 1:1 replacement for the dead link.
Of course, you shouldn’t plagiarize the original content, since that’s obviously unethical. “Instead, use the old content as a template. And create a similar resource that’s better and more up-to-date based on that template” he explains.
In addition to active link building efforts where you reach out to people to get a backlink, you also want to do passive link building in which you create resources that people link to on their own.
The three types of most linkable resources that writers need to produce high-quality content include statistics, case studies, and images.
Provide these resources and chances are you will start getting backlinks from writers who use them in their content.
Original research is extremely valuable. It takes a lot of time, energy, and money to produce…which is why there isn’t that much of it out there.
Meanwhile, writers are expected to provide statistics with links to original sources in their articles. This means they are scouring the web trying to find stats that are relevant and recent.
For example, remember the Edison Research’s “The Infinite Dial 2020” report that I cited in the section on podcast appearances?
I searched for podcast statistics, found this research, and linked to it without them having to do anything (except original research, obviously!).
You may have also noted that I used images from the same report—this got Edison Research an additional link because writers are required to provide links to the images they use.
Consider making your research available as a well-designed PDF with beautiful graphics if you want to get more backlinks.
Case studies are often easier to produce than original research.
In order to create a compelling case study you need to do three things:
- Identify something that you have achieved that other people also want to achieve.
- Gather all the relevant data including numbers, email screenshots, analytics screenshots, etc.
- Write up a post where you share what you did, what results did you get, and what you have learned from the experience.
Keep in mind that you need to tell a story, so make sure to create a narrative arc around the accomplishment.
For example, I have linked to Groove’s “Behind the Scenes: How We’ve Built a $5M/Year Business in 3 Years With Content Marketing” several times in my articles because it’s such a great case study (note how they not only share their strategy, tactics, and data but also tell a story).
Now, you may think that you don’t have anything to share, but you probably do. Pretty much any post that is based on someone’s actual experience as opposed to theoretical musings has value.
There probably are quite a few people who want to get to where you are, but are struggling to figure out how. A case study on how you did it is valuable to them, and it's also valuable to writers who are looking for real-world examples.
Writers are also required to provide images for the content they create.
Most of them don’t have graphic design skills, so what do they do?
They use relevant images from articles on similar topics.
And if that fails, they do a Google search, then go with the best image that comes up.
For example, the feature image for this article is a custom image by our team at AgencyAnalytics. However, all other images are either screenshots, images from articles on similar topics or images from a report.
And you may notice that they have “Image Source” links below them that lead to the original sources.
No one asked me to include their images in this article—I included them in order to break up the text and make it more readable.
There’s an opportunity here, because if you invest in custom images for your blog posts, you may get backlinks from writers like myself who need those images.
Infographics work best, but custom images that explain a specific concept or illustrate a statistic are also great.
It's also worth mentioning that it can less expensive than you think. You don’t need to hire a full-time designer for that. DesignPickle offers a dedicated designer, unlimited design requests, and unlimited revisions from $399/month.
Finally, if you want to get high-quality backlinks, you need to grow and nurture your network.
In his previously mentioned article on guest blogging Adam Enfroy explained that: “if you’re new to blogging, it may not make sense to reach out to a site like Forbes or The Huffington Post, as those require real-world relationships and connections.”.
It’s important to understand that editors of top publications get a ton of cold emails with guest post pitches every day.
Your chances of landing a guest post are much better if someone that the editor knows and trusts introduced you to them.
You will also have a much easier time getting backlinks and brand mentions from writers if they know you.
So work on your network. Email people to let them know that you appreciate their work. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Attend meetups and conferences.
Also, up-and-comers tend to be more open to new connections than established influencers, so if you notice someone who has potential, but isn’t quite there yet, be sure to reach out to them.
Just make sure that you always provide value before you ask for anything.
What About Brand Mentions And Reviews?
Okay, so now that we covered backlinks you may be wondering how to get more brand mentions and reviews.
Tying this into the last section, one of the best ways to increase brand mentions is to get more backlinks.
The more people are exposed to your brand and the more buzz there is around it, the more likely it is to be mentioned on high domain authority websites.
You can also make an effort to build relationships with writers who cover your niche. That way they’ll be more likely to think about your brand when writing and mention it in their articles.
Additionally, once you have established a relationship with a writer, you can let them know that if they ever need an expert quote, they are welcome to reach out to you.
It’s not clear how much customer reviews influence search rankings except that they are essential for local SEO. However, it’s probably safe to say that positive reviews can only help, so you may want to make an effort to get them.
You can increase the number of customer reviews on authoritative websites by being proactive about it.
Once the customer has tried your product, send an email to them asking for feedback, ideally something super easy and quick, such as rating your product on a scale from 1 star to 5 stars.
Keep in mind that this rating is simply feedback that does not have any influence on search rankings since it’s known only to the customer and to your company.
Now, if you get a 4 or 5-star rating, you can reach out to the customer again and ask them to leave a review on an authoritative customer review website in your niche.
Capterra is an example of such a website. They publish software reviews, so if you are selling software, getting more Capterra reviews may be a good idea.
Summary: Off-Page SEO
As we've discussed, your off-page SEO strategy should revolve around:
- Creating great content (both on your own website and on other websites).
- Building high-quality backlinks (at least DA 50+, the higher, the better).
Link building may seem like a daunting task, but there’s just no way around it, you have to get out there and get those links.
Do you have any other suggestions for off-page SEO tactics?
Let us know in the comments below.
Written by Agota Bialobzeskyte
Agota Bialobzeskyte is a content strategist that helps entrepreneurs grow their businesses with value-packed content that readers adore. She has over eight years experience in the digital marketing field and loves to share her knowledge with the industry.