What is Off-Page Optimization and Why Your Business Needs It?
Off-page optimization is one of the most important, and most overlooked, SEO techniques for a website. It can seem daunting and overwhelming, but when you have a step-by-step breakdown, you'll wonder why you didn't start sooner. This article will help guide you through the process and give you clarity on how to begin.
Off-page optimization is the process of optimizing the off-page elements of your site. This usually includes building links to your site, conducting outreach to influencers, and guest blogging. We'll also highlight some other tips as well. Let's dig into each of these elements and why they matter.
Why Does Off-Page Optimization Matter?
Links and keywords are the top two ranking factors for many search engines. Unfortunately, links and other off-page optimization factors are often the most overlooked elements of an SEO strategy. The reason why they are overlooked is it takes a little more time and energy than optimizing your on-page. Off-page optimization can be the difference between having an okay piece of content that maybe ranks for a keyword, and having a great piece of content that ranks for several different keywords.
Types of Off-Page Optimization
There are two major buckets of off-page optimization:
- Link Building
- Non-Link Building
Link building is the process of acquiring more links pointing to your website. This usually involves reaching out to site owners and pitching your content.
Non-link building includes activities such as finding unlinked mentions, promoting your content on social media, guest posting, and working with influencers to promote your content.
Types of Links for Off-Page Optimization
There are three primary types of links (and we'll break down each of them in more detail). They are directory links (or citations), manual links (these come from outreach) and natural links (links that you received that weren't a result of any outreach you conducted).
Directory links, or citations, are a key component of a link building strategy. These links are especially important for optimizing your website if you are a local business and you are trying to improve your local SEO.
There are dozens of niche, product, or region specific directories for you industry. Identify the places you would go if you were your ideal customer and searching for a solution. Next, find the contact information on the site (or a submission button or link), and add your site.
Manual links are created by conducting outreach. This process involves identifying pages on your site that you want to boost the number of links that are pointing to that page. Next, you'll find relevant sites in your industry and email the site owner asking them to link to your article, blog post, or service page.
Natural links are the "holy grail" of link building. These links come from creating good, high quality content that people find interesting and relevant. As a result of finding your content really informative or educational, they may link to your website without having to send any outreach emails.
Components for Link Building
Before you get started with your link building campaign, there are several terms we should define so that you can ask the right questions when you are conducting outreach. This will mean you get the best results from your link building campaign and the best chance of getting links that point back to your website.
Domain Authority. There is no official "domain authority" metric. Every tool gives it a different name, but essentially what you're trying to figure out here is how trustworthy a website is. The higher that trust is, the more the link is worth because the search engines see it as a more reputable website.
URL: URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator and is the address for the page that you're going to be sharing. mysite.com/thispage is an example of a URL. You want to make sure that the URL that you are going to use when asking a website to link to you is simplified and doesn't have any special characters, such as mysite.com/thispage&filter=mostrecent?searchterm=none. This example would not be a good URL to use in your outreach.
Authority: Related to domain authority, this component asks if the site that you are going to be reaching out to is authoritative in your niche or industry. Have your competitors received links from this website before? Does the website you are going to contact have content on their website that is relevant to your industry. If so, it would be a good fit!
Anchor Text: The anchor text is the text that a visitor will click on before they land on your website. Ideally, you want a blend of anchor texts. In some instances, you want the anchor text to be your brand name. Other times, you'll want the anchor text to be about the keywords you are targeting and trying to rank for. Don't use one keyword over and over again in outreach. Instead, add in some variations and synonyms of the keyword or keywords you are trying to target.
Nofollow vs. Dofollow: Within the link that you'll get from another website, will be an additional bit of code. This code will note wither the link dofollow or a nofollow link. A dofollow link tells the search engines to follow the link and to consider it a "vote" by the referring website of the quality of the page that the visitor will land on. A nofollow links tells the search engines to not follow the link found on the referring website. This type of link doesn't pass as much value as a dofollow link. All websites will have a mix of each of these types of links. You want to ensure that it's balanced.
Developing quality content
Before you can start conducting your outreach for your link building and off-page optimization, you'll first need to ensure that you have high quality content that is worthy of promoting, sharing, and will be valuable to the person you will be emailing.
The first step is to identify high-quality content on your website. You want to find pages on your website with the highest number of sessions. This is a good sign that the content is already of good quality and is being read by visitors.
The second step you want to take is to "enrich before you pitch." Take a look at the page you want to get more links for. Are there opportunities to add more images, infographics, quizzes, videos, or other items to make the page even better and delight your readers? These are the types of things you should add before beginning the outreach process. By having a high-quality piece of content, you can enhance whether someone will say yes to your pitch.
How to do Link Building for Off-Page Optimization
Alright, now that you've developed your high quality content, you're ready to start your link building campaign.
- Step #1: Develop a list of pages you want to conduct outreach for. You should have already done this, but finalize the list and make sure the content is top-notch. For each campaign, focus on 3-5 pages at a time. By doing this, you'll keep yourself focused and you'll be more likely to get results.
- Step #2: Develop list of applicable/relevant sites: A great place to start is by looking for sites that are already sending you referral traffic. This will give you an idea of other websites that might be related to reach out to. Next, you'll want to do some general searches in your preferred search engine. Use your target keywords and see what sites appear. These would likely be quality sites for outreach. Also, you can try an intitle search. Go into a search engine (this works best in Google) and type in intitle:your keyword or intitle:"your keyword". The first example may bring in wider results, while the second example is more likely to be very targeted to your industry and niche.
- Step #3: Find articles that are related to your list of pages on the target site. Before you start the process of pitching a website, you want to make sure that they have information about your topic on their website, and that they have written posts before about it. Look through a few articles, see if there is anything missing in them, such as content or links, and make note of that for the actual outreach stage. You can also look for broken links as you're skimming the content. Look at the links in the article, and test them to see if they go to a broken page. If they do, make note of it, because you can position your site and your content to fill the gap on the prospect's website.
- Step #4: Find the contact information for the webmaster or writer. You want to make sure that you find the correct contact information of someone who can actually make a change to the website and link to your content. You don't want your message to end up in a spam folder! Check the Contact or About Page on a website as that is usually where you can find contact information. Another place to check is in the footer of the page. You'll want to know the name and email address of the person you wish to contact so you can make a more personalized pitch in the next step.
- Step #5: Draft a pitch email and send. At this stage, you have a list of target websites, the page on your site you want to pitch, potential pages you may get a link from, and the name and email address of the site owner or webmaster. Now, it's time to write your email. You want to address the email personally to the individual and introduce who you are and why you are contacting them. If you want to go the extra mile during the introduction, compliment them on one of their recent posts that you found interesting. It will show that you took your time and did some research on them and are not just spamming them with link requests. Next, position your page. You can do this by explaining why you think the website should link to it, and how it will help their visitors. Remember, you have to tell the person you're emailing what they or their customers will get out of it. Don't assume that it's obvious. This can also be a good time to mention if you found a broken link on their website. When you send the email, try to send it during a time of day when they would be most likely to read it (and be awake) so between 8am-6pm. This will improve the likelihood that your email is opened and read.
- Step #6: Wait, Learn, then Rinse and Repeat: You may have to wait a couple of weeks to hear back from the individuals that you emailed. If you haven't heard any response in 2 weeks, send a short email asking them if they received your message and if you can provide any more information to help them make a decision. If they ask you to stop emailing them, or don't respond, take it as a no, and move on. If you are successful and they say they will link to you, now is a good time to discuss the anchor text for the link and whether it will be a dofollow or nofollow link. After you've sent several emails, look at the ones that were most opened, and the emails that lead most often to getting a link. What patterns do you start to see emerging? Take those learnings and apply them to your next link building campaign so you can continue to get better results.
Other Types of Off-Page Optimization
While the majority of your off-page optimization efforts may fall under a link building campaign, building links through outreach is not the only way to improve your off-page SEO. There are several other methods that you should be aware of and test for your business and industry.
Influencer marketing is one of the most popular off-page optimization techniques being used right now. Essentially, you find relevant celebrities in your niche, and you work with them to promote your product. Let's unpack what this means.
When we talk about using influencers, we're not talking about finding someone who is ultra-famous and has no connection to your industry. Rather, we're talking about the people who are celebrities in your industry. Who does everybody know and trust? Who tends to have a lot of speaking gigs at a conference or is frequently quoted in publications. That's who we're going after here.
You'll want to approach influencer marketing similar to link building. First, you'll want to identify the products or services that you want to offer (usually for free) to an influencer. Next, you'll want to do the same outreach process as you did for link building. You want to introduce yourself, compliment them on something recent that they've done, and then launch into the offer of what you are willing to give away. Third, you'll want to define in that email what you are asking for in return for this free product. It could be a review (and a link), it could be a video, a product they mention on a podcast, or something else.
You'll want to get the final agreement in writing before you send your product. Then, after they have received it, follow up with another email to ensure delivery and discuss the timeline for the content they will be creating or the product placement where they will be mentioning you.
Finding unlinked mentions and asking for them to be linked
There's a really good chance that there are mentions of your company online that are not linked to your website. These are called unlinked mentions, and identifying them, and asking the webmaster to link to you is one of the easiest ways to gain links pointing to your website and increase your brand authority.
Start by heading to your preferred search engine and putting in your brand name (as well as any unique product names or important individuals). You may need to add quotes around the search to return the most relevant results. Next, look at the results that were returned. You may need to filter them and add in an industry keyword (for example,"Tina Jones" programmer) to get real, relevant results.
Next, you'll want to go through some of the sites and see in what context your business is being mentioned. Is it a positive mention? Or is it negative? If it is positive, reach out to the site owner or webmaster and ask them to link back to your site (you'll need to check for their contact information and structure your email like your other outreach emails).
Getting social media shares
Once your piece of content is completed, that doesn't mean that the work stops. You have to get out thereand share your hard work! One of the most underutilized off-page optimization techniques is sharing your content on social media.
Optimize your content by making sure that you have your OpenGraph tags and TwitterCards enabled and optimized for the posts that you're going to be sharing. Next, identify what pieces of content you're going the share on what social media platforms. The goal here is to drive brand awareness and direct people back to your site, or to get them searching for your brand.
Develop a calendar and list the piece of content, what day you’re going to share it, what social media platform you will use, the text, and, if applicable, the image associated with the post. Make sure that you vary the types of content that you post each day so it’s not always the same thing.
While it's not as common as it once ways, in some industries, you can still find ample guest blogging opportunities. A guest blog is where a site owner asks for help writing content for their site, and in exchange for you writing the content, they may give you a link back to your website.
It's really easy to find opportunities by doing a simple search in your favorite search engine. Start by searching for phrases such as "write for us" (quotes included, this way it looks for the entire string, and not each of the individual words), "contribute to", "become a contributor", and "guest post". By looking through the search results, you'll quickly find several opportunities. Then, just contact the site owner, pitch yourself this time, and write a high-quality piece of content.
How Statcounter Can Help You Do Off-Page Optimization
Now that you know how to start your off-page optimization campaign, let's look at how Statcounter can make your job easier and help you get results faster!
Statcounter helps you identify the types of sites that are already linking to you, which can be helpful for outreach. You can find this by using the Came From report to see the websites that are already linking to you and sending you referral traffic.
Also, by looking at your most visited content in the Pages report, you can identify what types of content you may want to use in your link building and outreach.
While off-page optimization may often be overlooked, you don't have to feel overwhelmed now. With a solid outreach plan that mixes link building with guest blogging, influencer marketing, finding unlinked mentions, and promoting on social media, you can take your site to the next level. This will mean more traffic to your site, more visitors, and more business!