Earlier in the week, we discussed how you can improve your on-site SEO. Although your on-site SEO is incredibly important and is solely affected by your efforts, off-site SEO holds a significant amount of clout with the search engines too.
What Is Off-Site SEO?
Off-site SEO, also known as off-page SEO, refers to any activity done away from your website to raise your site’s ranking in the search engine results. These activities could be done by you or another user, it doesn’t matter. The main thing is that the activity itself is helping to raise your search ranking.
Off-site SEO is often considered harder to achieve than on-site SEO purely because it isn’t as controlled by you. Therefore, it is harder to maintain and get started in the first place. However, when it comes to the search engines, off-site SEO is considered hugely influential and important.
How Can I Improve My Off-Site SEO?
When you say the words “off-site SEO”, many people immediately think of links. However, there are lots of other avenues to consider such as guest blog posts, comments, Google reviews and social networking sites. Below are just a few of the methods you could use to improve your off-site SEO.
This is probably the most well-known off-site SEO activity.
Link building is the process of getting other websites to link to your site. This is done to increase your website’s backlinks (we will talk more about these in a minute).
Links are really important to Google and other search engines. Why? Because search engines consider that a site with more backlinks must have a greater authority and therefore be a “better website” overall than a website with no backlinks at all. In fact, it is virtually impossible for a search engine to determine how important or valuable a web page is without links pointing to it, regardless of how relevant the content on that page may be.
So how can you get more websites linking to your site? Well first, you need to get organised.
Internal web pages.
Having a well-optimised web page can make all the difference to your rankings. None of your internal pages should stand alone. By this, I mean that (ideally) any web pages addressing similar or related topics should be linking to each other. This provides a visitor with rich customer experience as well as seamless navigation.
Basic On-Site SEO.
Although search engines rely heavily on off-site SEO, on-site SEO is still crucial. As we spoke about earlier in the week, keywords, meta descriptions, page URLs, multimedia, page titles and the use of outbound links are all vital to good on-site SEO.
And having good off-site SEO without good on-site SEO is a bit like decorating an unbaked cake…it’s not really the full ticket.
As we all know, keywords are vital for a successful search engine ranking. However, many people make the mistake of choosing a focal keyword and using it at every possible opportunity, or, using it in a title but never adding that keyword into the content on the page.
Try to use your main keyword a few times and then embellish with related keywords or synonyms.
For example, if your main keyword is “wedding” you might also want to use terms such as “marriage, bride, groom, bridal, love, engagement, proposal” or even other related phrases like “getting married, wedding photography, bridal portraits, bride tribe” etc.
There are many tools available online for finding help with SEO keywords. Some are free, others freemium and others demand a huge monthly cost.
A backlink is defined as a hyperlink from another website to your site. They are considered one of the most important off-site SEO techniques an online business can have.
A natural link from an authoritative and relevant website acts as a vote of confidence or recommendation to the search engines. It means that your website can be trusted, it includes valuable content and should be visited by other users. A bit like having a great testimonial from a past client, it holds more weight.
Some factors that impact your off-site SEO include:
- The number of domains linking to your website. Basically, the more relevant sites, (not link farms) the better.
- The number of links from one particular domain linking to your website. This does make a difference but it is considered more authoritative if multiple domains are linking to you rather than a lot of links coming from one source.
- Links on web pages already ranking high in the search engines are considered more important.
- Links from pages related to your web page topic are considered more important. For example, having your baby photography website being linked to by Mumsnet would be considered more valuable than The Yellow Pages.
- A link from a higher ranking domain is considered more valuable than a link from a lower-ranking domain.
- A link from a domain’s home page is considered more valuable by some sources than a link from other web pages.
- Links with the content of your website are worth more to search engines than links being displayed in a footer or sidebar. This is because if a link is easy to find, it must be considered more important.
- The link text (as in the text you have linked from for the hyperlink) is a strong ranking factor. If the anchor text is related to the linked page then it is considered a better piece of SEO. For example, if you are using the phrase “check out our baby photography portfolio” then the phrase “baby photography portfolio” would be better anchor text than the word “here”.
Guest Blog Posts
Writing a guest blog post is another great off-site SEO technique. Not only does writing a guest post help get your website more links from external sources, but in theory you would write a guest post for a company specialising in the same industry as yourself. This, as we mentioned, holds more weight with the search engines.
One good piece of etiquette to follow when it comes to a guest blog post is to work on a reciprocal basis. Basically, you offer to write a guest post for a company website and in return, you will share a blog post of theirs on your website. This way, it’s a win-win for both parties.
Speaking of blog posts, a lot of people leave a link to their own website when commenting on someone else’s blog post. This is a great way of getting your site name out there and obtaining a few links in the process. However, it’s important that you don’t “over-comment” as this can look spammy. Also, some blogs have all comments set to not be indexed by search engines.
The best piece of advice is to only comment on posts that are related to your business or industry. For example, if you are a wedding photographer, comment and share a URL to your website or relevant web page on a wedding blog post, don’t share a link to your website if you are commenting on a blog post about pet food.
Equally, write a meaningful comment that is helpful to the website visitors. Say that you enjoyed the post and your thoughts on the topic. This way your comments appear more genuine and natural to a search engine.
Don’t use automation software to contact thousands of blog owners. They will all go to the bin, and your domain name will be blacklisted by many for spamming. Find your target audience and contact them individually with your proposal. Yes, it is time-consuming, but it will be focused, which is why it works.
Many customers now review companies within a search engine themselves, for example, Google reviews. These reviews all help give authority to your website and business.
If you would like your customers to have the opportunity to review your business in the search engines you will need to register your business with Google.
The more external platforms you have with your website and business name the better. One easy way to get more external platforms is by using social media.
Social media will only work for your business if you put some time and effort into it. It’s very easy to set up multiple social media accounts and then never get around to posting any content. When this happens, the search engines (and potential customers) can think you have gone out of business.
Let’s face it, if you looked as a company’s Facebook page and the last time they posted was in 2015, you would think the same wouldn’t you?
However, if you are willing to put the effort in and keep your social platforms updated they can really help with your off-site SEO as well as drive more business to your site.
If you haven’t yet jumped on to the social media wagon, there is one important piece of advice; start small. Don’t make an account on every social platform because it will be completely overwhelming. Instead, choose one of two platforms you want to focus on. At the moment Facebook and Instagram seem to be the photographer favourites. Spend some time getting used to the operating systems and when or if you ever want to increase your social reach, that’s the time to do so.
How Can I Avoid Google Penalties
We couldn’t talk about off-site SEO without mentioning Google penalties.
A Google penalty is when Google penalises your website or a specific web page due to “deceptive or manipulative outbound links”. Basically doing things just for SEO and not for the benefit of the visitor.
One of the main causes is using unnatural links. This includes bought links or participating in a link scheme to try and improve your search engine rankings (also known as link farms).
Receiving a penalty will result in your website ranking lower in the search engine results, or in extreme cases, completely disappearing from them. You really want to avoid Google penalties. Recovering from them is very difficult, takes up a lot of time, hard work and is not guaranteed.
Although Google doesn’t provide a step-by-step guide for staying away from their penalties there are a couple of practices that help keep things on the straight and narrow.
- Content for users. Google now puts a lot of emphasis on user optimisation. This means providing users with high-quality websites that provide them with valuable content. To achieve this, you need to put your users first and produce valuable content with great visuals.
- Diversify Link Text. This basically means using different keywords, phrases, brand names and generic terms as your hyperlink text. The more natural your links appear to Google, the better and of course the more relevant the linked page is the more authority it gives.
Where To Start?
The best place to start with off-site SEO is with you.
Think about what you specialise in. Are there local businesses that specialise in the same industry? Any groups that your potential customers are a part of?
So that you don’t have to do all the hard thinking yourself, here are a few ideas to get you started.
If you are a wedding photographer…
- Wedding Venues (even better if you have photographed weddings there before!)
- Local Florists
- Local Catering Companies
- Local Bridal Shops
- Local Hair and Beauty Professionals
- Wedding Planners or Event Managers
- Wedding directory websites such as Hitched, Love My Dress, Whimsical Wonderland Weddings etc…
If you are a newborn, child or family photographer…
- Local baby and toddler groups
- NCT groups
- Summer schools or clubs that organise holiday activities for children
- Directory websites for parents such as Mumsnet.
If you are a pet photographer…
- Dog and cat breeders
- Puppy training clubs
- Pony clubs
- Animal-related event e.g. equestrian events, dog shows etc
- Animal governing bodies such as The Kennel Club UK.
Even if we haven’t listed your specific genre of photography, hopefully, these lists will give you the idea of the type of businesses or websites you could contact to try to boost your off-site SEO.