Despite putting all of your heart and soul into your content, are you having trouble ranking on Google? Your off-page SEO strategy—or lack thereof—could be to blame.
On-page SEO and off-page SEO are two categories within SEO.
Many people equate link building with off-page SEO, but is that truly the case?
In this post, we cover:
What is off-page SEO?
Although link building is a significant component, this goes much beyond that.
On-page SEO vs. off-page SEO
On-page SEO is something you have total control over, however off-page SEO isn’t always under your entire control.
Off-page SEO would be, for instance, asking someone to link to me. Why? Considering that I made no changes to my website during that procedure. On the other hand, if I made the change directly on my website, on-page SEO would apply if I increased page performance by optimizing a few photos.
If you’re ever unsure of which “bucket” a particular SEO strategy belongs in, consider whether it’s completely within your power. If the response is no, the strategy most likely falls under off-page SEO. You should use A Simple (But Effective) 14-Step SEO Audit & Checklist to gather site traffic data before attempting off-page SEO.
Some off-page elements are completely under your control (e.g., Google My Business).
Why is off-page SEO important?
When determining whether to rank web pages and where to place them, Google considers a variety of off-page variables. One of those variables is links, but there are many others as well.
Because of this, it can be difficult to rank only on the basis of your content.
Here’s a solid illustration to support this:
The following page from The Times now has the top spot in the UK for “best places to live”:
It appears to be a completely worthy piece of information at first glance. It is reasonable to believe that this is the reason it has a high ranking. But as soon as you click on any of the locations, a content barrier appears.
Because of this, most visitors to the page don’t find anything of actual value there. It surely doesn’t deserve to be in first place, either.
This page, which displays the findings of a survey of 1,000 individuals about the best places to live, would be much more deserving.
Bringing this back to off-page SEO, it is most likely due to off-page variables rather than better content that the former ranks higher than the latter.
Link-related off-page factors
Perhaps the most important component of off-page SEO is backlinks.
Why? Because an algorithm called PageRank, which considers both the quantity and quality of backlinks pointing to a web page, is the foundation of Google search. PageRank is considered an old idea by some SEO experts, although Google only recently affirmed that it is still a ranking component.
The association between the quantity of referring domains (unique websites) pointing to a web page and its rankings is probably the reason behind this.
which gets us nicely to our list of off-page elements that affect links:
1. Number of referring domains
More links from distinct websites (referred domains) lead to both better rankings and more organic search traffic.
This investigation explores correlations. It cannot establish causation.
Enter your domain into our free backlink checker or Ahrefs’ Site Explorer to see how many backlinks your website has.
As you can see, there are 31.2K referring domains and 4.11M backlinks on ahrefs.com.
However, the goal is to develop links specifically to the pages you want to rank in search engines, not so much to your website as a whole.
We offer a ton of videos and articles about link building. Look below.
2. Link authority
Links are not all made equal. Superiority counts.
The operation of PageRank takes this fact into account. The more “authority” a page has when linking to other pages, the more authority it confers on those pages. In other words, a link from a page with high authority is more valuable than one from a website with low authority.
So, how do you evaluate the “authority” of a web page?
Google no longer publishes PageRank scores, having done so in 2016. Although there is no precise substitute for PageRank, there are some comparable metrics, one of which is Ahrefs’ URL Rating (UR).
On a scale of 0 to 100, UR displays the strength of a target URL’s backlink profile.
Paste the URL into Ahrefs Site Explorer to view the UR score for any webpage.
In the “Backlinks” report, you can also view the URL Rating of each linking page.
When evaluating backlink opportunities, this aids in determining the credibility and quality of a connecting page.
Additionally, our analysis of 14 million web pages revealed that UR and organic traffic connect favorably.
3. “Dofollow” vs. nofollow
Google doesn’t transfer PageRank across nofollowed links (i.e., links with a rel=“nofollow” tag), so it pays to prioritize the building of followed (“dofollow”) links.
The majority of links on the internet are followed, although Forbes and other websites “nofollow” nearly all outbound links.
Install the nofollow Chrome extension, which draws attention to nofollow links on the page, to achieve this.
Many of the reports in Ahrefs Site Explorer can also be filtered to display only “dofollow” links. This is helpful once more for identifying and ranking backlink chances.
excluding all but “Dofollow” connections from the “Backlinks” report in Ahrefs Site Explorer.
Nofollowed links still have importance, of course. They may increase referral traffic, which indirectly benefits SEO. But it pays to focus your efforts if you’re spending a lot of time and energy on link building.
4. Anchor text
The words used to link one online page to another are referred to as “anchor text” in this context.
In other words, it’s likely that backlinks with anchor text related to the main subject of your web page have some bearing on ranks, according to Google’s original PageRank patent.
We looked at this and discovered a very slight link between exact, phrase, and partial match anchors.
Unfortunately, you won’t have much influence over the anchors of the links you get if you use white-hat SEO techniques to gain links (with the exception of guest blogging).
It’s possible to have too much of a good thing, even if you had control over the anchor text of external inbound links. Penguin, a component of Google’s core algorithm, penalizes websites that try to influence results by constructing connections with anchor text that contains plenty of keywords.
Fortunately, most connections are genuine and appropriate by nature. If your content is about x, there is a good possibility that someone will link to it using x-related anchor text.
Votes are essentially backlinks. A website that connects to you is endorsing the value of your products or services. However, not every vote is made equally. It’s important to consider the relevance of the connecting website and web page.
Let me provide an analogy to show you why.
Let’s say you want to employ a catering service for your wedding. Two of your buddies each suggest a separate business. Both of your friends are people you like very well, however one of them works as an accountant and the other as a chef. Who will you put your trust in? The chef is a no-brainer.
Online operations are largely the same. If you run a catering business, a link from a food blog will probably be more credible than one from a finance blog.
But is “authority” more significant than relevance?
We posed the following query to a few SEO experts in an effort to provide some insight:
The top-ranking pages and the total amount of organic traffic to their referring pages were clearly correlated, according to our analysis of the top 10 rankings for 44,589 non-branded keywords.
As a result, links from pages with high organic traffic are thought to carry more weight than connections from pages with low or no organic traffic.
In Ahrefs Site Explorer, you can view the projected organic traffic to any webpage.
In the “Backlinks” report, you can also examine organic traffic to referring pages.
You can rapidly arrange the report by organic traffic to prioritize and pursue links from the most high-value pages if you’re trying to duplicate the backlinks of your rivals or are using a link-building strategy like the Skyscraper Technique.
Although it makes sense to give links from pages with high traffic priority, there isn’t any proof that connections from pages with low or no traffic are useless. You should still go after the linking pages if they are pertinent and have any “authority.”
WHY LINKS ARE STILL A RANKING FACTOR
You might be questioning why links are still such an important ranking feature in 2019 given that PageRank is close to two decades old.
The explanation is straightforward: They continue to be among the hardest to control.
Earning high-quality connections is typically extremely difficult, though there are some sketchy ways to get them (such buying them). Unless a piece of material has any value for the viewers, people rarely link to it.
Non-link-related off-page factors
Anything done outside of your website that has the potential to influence search engine rankings is referred to as “off-page SEO.” The most obvious example of that is link building, but there are numerous more off-page elements as well.
As many of the characteristics listed below are unique to local SEO, you should pay special attention to this area if you’re a local business trying to rank locally. They are identified by an asterisk (*).
1. NAP citations*
Online references to your company that additionally include its name, address, and phone number are referred to as NAP citations (Name, Address, Phone).
Citation signals are one of the most important local off-page ranking variables, according to Moz.
Citations are therefore essential if you own a local business and wish to rank locally, whether in Google’s “snack pack” results or the standard organic search results.
Many of the citations you already have can be found simply searching for something similar on Google:
You may quickly identify more websites on which to construct citations by doing the same for your rivals, then cross-referencing the websites that show up in the search results. However, this can be a pain, and it can be difficult to determine which citations are most likely to affect rankings.
Using a tool specifically designed for locating citations is one option (e.g., Whitespark). Another is to employ a program like Ahrefs’ Link Intersect, which hunts down websites linking to numerous rivals but not you. This typically displays the citations your competitors have but you don’t because many NAP citations also include links, although nofollowed ones.
To utilize it, paste your website in the bottom column and a couple of your competitors’ webpages in the top portion.
To view more information about each backlink, click the caret. Keep an eye out for ones that seem to be citations.
Additionally, it’s critical that your NAP information be as uniform as feasible across citations so that Google can connect them all as a part of your web profile.
In our guide to local SEO, you can find out more about NAP citations.
2. Brand mentions
Brand mentions may or may not be connected.
For obvious reasons, connected mentions are valuable for SEO, but what about unlinked brand mentions?
In one of its patents, Google refers to a system for efficiently counting up explicit linkages (linked mentions) and inferred links, and indirectly discusses unlinked brand mentions (linkless mentions).
This is a passage from that patent:
In this case, Google is essentially stating, “Hey, we know that individuals quote companies and content frequently without linking, and we think that such mentions deserve to contribute into our ranking algorithm along with connected mentions.”
This makes logical sense. The only significant distinction between a connected mention and one that isn’t is that the latter is clickable and might drive more traffic from referrals.
How can you increase brand mentions if they are most likely an off-page ranking factor?
Here are a few ways:
Write guest posts
Be a guest on podcasts
Go viral (easier said than done)
You can also keep watch of fresh rival mentions using tools like Google Alerts or Ahrefs Alerts, then participate in conversions as necessary. If you were a representative of MailChimp, you could, for instance, set up notifications for any new mentions of rival companies like ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign.
LINKED MENTIONS > UNLINKED MENTIONS
Unlinked mentions may be given some weight by Google, but linked mentions are preferred—even if only for the referral traffic. It is often worthwhile to contact everyone who mentions your business but does not include a link and request that they “make the mention clickable.”
3. Google My Business*
A free business profile from Google is called Google My Business (GMB).
These profiles are those that appear in Google’s “snack pack” results, which are those that have a local search intent and appear at the top of the search results.
But simply claiming your GMB profile is insufficient.
According to research by Moz, having a Google My Business page that is optimized is the most crucial ranking criteria for appearing in “snack pack” results and the fourth most crucial for appearing in standard local organic search results.
In brief, the most important part of your off-page SEO efforts if you want to rank for local inquiries (such as “plumber near me”) is to claim and optimize your GMB profile.
Review signals, according to Moz, are the fifth most significant element for ranking in regular local organic search and the third most essential factor for appearing in Google’s “snack pack” results.
In general, the higher you’re likely to rank in the “snack pack,” the more favorable and sincere evaluations you have on your Google My Business profile and on reliable third-party websites. The opposite is true when reviews are unfavorable.
The same study discovered that regular local organic rankings are influenced by the “authority of third-party sites on which reviews are available.”
5. Social signals
According to Google’s official position, social signals do not directly affect rankings.
However, some individuals do not agree with this, most likely as a result of dated research like this one that demonstrate a connection between ranks and social shares.
Who is then correct? Our conclusion: Google, most likely.
The primary explanation is that social signals are simple to manipulate. On marketplaces like Fiverr, you may spend a few bucks to purchase thousands of social shares. Things that are this simple to manipulate don’t typically make for trustworthy ranking factors.
Having said that, there is no denying that good social shares, even if they are indirect, do affect rankings. Why? Because genuine social shares increase the number of eyes that see your content, which increases the number of links, mentions, and other off-page SEO elements that we know have a direct impact on rankings.
Since many off-page factors are beyond your control, off-page SEO may appear more difficult than on-page SEO, but that’s the whole point. The more difficult it is to earn something, the more trustworthy it is as a rating component.
It’s also crucial to keep in mind that conventional offline and internet marketing strategies might indirectly affect several of the aforementioned aspects.
For instance, there was a noticeable increase in the volume of web publications mentioning Tesla when the company flew a car into space in 2018.
Many of these websites included links in their stories that led to tesla.com.
Even while most firms are unlikely to find launching an automobile into space to be a successful marketing gimmick, it is not required. Since it’s likely that you can rank without tens of thousands of links or brand mentions, offline marketing efforts on a lesser scale are effective for small firms.