Off-page SEO involves activities outside your website that improve your website’s organic rankings. A great deal of off-site SEO revolves around link building, since inbound links are one of the most important — if not the most important — Google ranking factors. Nevertheless, link building is not the only goal. This article will highlight two extremely important activities that are essential in how to do off-page optimization in SEO. No matter what else you do off-page, these two activities should be areas of concentration.
1. Link Building Through Off-Site Article Placement
Links pointing to your site from high-quality sources tell Google your site’s content is worth sharing — content that is authoritative, useful and engaging. Since this is exactly the sort of content Google wants to share with its search engine users, it values the number and quality of your inbound links. If those links come from sources relevant to your business, so much the better.
Perhaps the most popular way to obtain inbound links is by placing articles on other blogs and websites. Standard online publishing practice is to include a short author bio at the end of the article with a link pointing to your website. Some publishers allow inbound links to be placed in the body of the article, but many publishers do not — such links are viewed as being self-promotional and therefore “spammy.”
In the early 2010s, guest blogging for link building became so widely used (and misused) that Google cracked down and instituted changes to its algorithm to discourage overzealous companies from churning out lousy content simply for the purpose of link building. Guest blogging came under scrutiny and many companies and publishers got the idea that guest blogging was no longer useful or even legitimate.
This is not the case, however. As long as your content is of high quality — that is, authoritative, useful and engaging — guest blogging and article placement on any other type of credible website is perfectly allowable and will help improve your rankings.
Identify target publishers.
Part of the equation for article placement, then, is to identify credible websites for which you want to write. Factors to consider in your evaluation:
- Does the website have any relevance to your business?
- If not, do you have an article to write that is relevant to the website’s content?
- Does the website have a lot of traffic?
- Does the website publish content from outside sources?
- Does the website publish high-quality content on a regular basis?
- Does the website have a good reputation?
- Does the website have a strong social media presence?
- Is the website riddled with ads? (If so, it is not a good target.)
- Does the website have editorial guidelines for guest publishers?
- Does the website seem to be selective in what authors/content it publishes? (It should be.)
- Does the publisher allow links to the guest author’s website in the bio and/or body of the article?
Develop topics; pitch the publishers.
Once you’ve created a list of target publishers, your next step is to develop one or two topics you think would be of interest to each, and then pitch the publishers via email. A good pitch:
- Includes the working title of your article idea and a 2-3 sentence synopsis
- Demonstrates you have studied the publisher’s site and understand what it’s about
- Provides evidence of your credibility, through links to other articles you’ve published, or impressive facts about your company or your accomplishments
- Is short, professional and to the point
Pitching articles is usually a tedious task involving a good deal of diligent follow-up. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back from a publisher. Publishers are busy and get a lot of pitches. You have to stand out from the crowd by being persistent and personal. Larger organizations with big off-site SEO programs sometimes take automation too far and come off in their follow-up communication as being insincere or just going through the motions.
Write the article.
When your idea has been accepted, it’s time to write the article. Many companies have outside writers or agencies ghostwrite the content, which is a perfectly acceptable practice. However, even if the ghostwriter is familiar with your business and industry, your insights and input will be extremely valuable in enhancing the quality of the finished product.
No matter who writes the article, professional editing is a must. Your submission should be free of grammatical and style errors, logical and easy to follow. A few simple errors could result in a rejection, but even if the article is published, these errors won’t do your company’s reputation any good.
Before writing, always ask the publisher to send editorial guidelines. In many cases, these guidelines exist but are not available to the public on the publisher’s website. When guidelines are very exacting, don’t be discouraged. Detailed, strict guidelines are the sign of a high-quality publisher.
Once submitted, articles may be published quickly or many months later. If your article hasn’t been published within a week or two, follow up on the status. When the article is published, review it. Sometimes mistakes are made on the publisher’s end that they will be more than happy to correct. Also, check to make sure your link appears as submitted. Sometimes publishers will remove your backlink. Of course, you should have checked in advance to make sure links were allowable, but even if the link is absent, the article will still do your company some good in terms of SEO (as long as your company name is mentioned). Google has the ability to detect mentions of a company off-site for some consideration in rankings.
A word about anchor text.
Anchor text is the text used for a link. Because of Google’s algorithm changes mentioned earlier, many people have gotten the idea that anchor text consisting of SEO keywords is forbidden. This is not the case. The anchor text you use in your off-site articles can certainly include keywords, but the important thing is to be diverse. Some articles should have anchor text consisting of your company name, while others can include relevant keywords and others can include the author’s name. When Google sees diverse anchor text, it concludes you are writing “naturally” rather than pursuing a pure keyword-driven off-site optimization campaign using subpar content.
Where to link?
Another important consideration in guest article publication is to which page of your website to link. Links to your home page are useful for SEO, and are often the most logical and relevant page to choose. However, if a link to one of your target product/service pages is relevant to the article or publisher, such a link would be even more valuable, as it specifically tells Google those product pages are important.
Small and midsize companies can build a huge SEO lead over competitors with a successful link building campaign focused along these lines, because most companies have weak inbound link profiles. This is one of the surest ways to improve rankings, and as such, is a key for how to do off-page SEO.
2. Cultivating Customer Reviews
The second valuable component of off-site SEO is cultivating customer reviews on websites such as Yelp, review sites in your industry, and perhaps most importantly, Google My Business (GMB). Google pays attention to reviews because they provide an independent perspective on your company’s reliability and quality.
It should go without saying that you need to make sure your business is worthy of positive reviews before encouraging customers to post reviews. Just as positive reviews are helpful, negative reviews can damage not only your SEO, but also your reputation and ability to earn new customers. The first step to any customer review effort is to fix holes in products, services and business practices.
About Google My Business.
GMB is Google’s business listing platform, and every company doing SEO should have a GMB page. Reviews posted on your GMB page get a lot of exposure on Google’s SERPs (search engine results page), meaning a lot of search engine users will see them.
The difficulty of building a stockpile of user reviews on GMB is that many of your customers are probably unfamiliar with GMB and may not even have accounts with Google. Companies try to overcome this hurdle by providing customers with instructions for how to post a review on GMB. If you do this, make sure those instructions are easy to follow. Test your instructions on a control group before distributing them on a wide scale.
Other review sites and best practices.
All legitimate review sites have strict rules about soliciting user reviews. Review sites and Google in general want reviews to be independent and truthful. If companies directly compensate customers for positive reviews, then the reviews become unreliable and Google search engine users — and users of the review site — will cease to pay attention to them.
Make sure you read all review policies carefully before soliciting reviews or providing incentives. If you manage your review efforts properly, they will do you a lot of good. However, if you violate policies and are detected, you may incur serious penalties such as having your reviews eliminated from the site or your company excluded from the site.
Following up and negative reviews.
It’s important to read all published reviews. In particular, you need to be on the lookout for negative reviews, which can do a great deal of harm to your credibility. Some review sites allow companies to respond to reviews. If you can respond, you should. Your response can counteract the effect of the negative review, and perhaps even turn it into a positive. Ignoring negative reviews makes you look even worse. If the review site does not allow responses, your best alternative is to promote reviews on that site all the more — hopefully, the sheer number of positive reviews will minimize the damage. Most people realize that no company is perfect, and they also know that some people’s complaints are out of proportion.
Off-Site SEO Is Good for Your Business
As is probably quite evident, a strong off-page SEO campaign featuring customer reviews and guest article publication helps your business in important ways above and beyond SEO. These activities will expose your company to new and relevant audiences, and enhance your reputation.
To discuss how to do off-page SEO in more detail, contact us now or call 855-883-0011.