Off-site search engine optimisation isn’t just about links. There’s more to it than that. As online business owners, we tend to focus our efforts solely on on-site SEO, but we shouldn’t stop there. To a large extent, the things that now matter most to Google happen away from your website.
Search engine optimisation can seem a daunting prospect, especially when you’re not sure where to start or the best way to approach the search engines. However, if you can develop a basic understanding of off-site optimisation then you’ll already be on the road to off-site SEO success.
WHAT IS OFF-SITE SEO?
“Off-site SEO”, also known as “off-page SEO”, refers to all of the activities you and other users do away from your website to raise the rankings of a web page in the search engine results.
Despite many people thinking that off-page SEO is just simple links, there are other factors to be aware of include writing guest blog posts, leaving comments and using social networking sites, linking and driving traffic to your site.
Link building is the process of getting other websites to link to your website. This will increase your website’s backlinks (we’ll talk more about these in a minute).
Links are crucial for Google. In fact, it’s almost impossible for a search engine to determine how important a web page is without links pointing to it, regardless of how valuable the content on the site may be.
We would advise that you do a little preparation before link building on your website. Most people skip this step but it is important. So how do you get ready?
- Internal web pages. Well-optimised web pages can make a huge difference to your rankings. None of your internal pages should stand alone. Ideally, web pages addressing similar or related topics should be linked together, therefore providing a rich experience for the visitor and seamless navigation.
- Basic on-site SEO. On-site SEO is still important. By now you’ve probably heard of meta tags and keywords but there’s more to successful on-page search engine optimisation than that. You should also consider your page URLs, the multimedia you are displaying, your page titles and the use of outbound links.
- Related keywords. Keywords are vital for successful search engine rankings. However, many people make the mistake of choosing their focal keyword and displaying it multiple times on the page. Instead, you should try to use your main keyword a few times and then embellish with related keywords. So, when you’re picking out keywords focus on those that are related to your subject or are a synonym for your original keyword. For example; the keyword “wedding” might also be related to keywords such as “marriage, bride, groom, bridal, love, engagement, proposal” or even related phrases such as “getting married, wedding photography, bridal portraits” etc.
A backlink is a hyperlink from another website to your website.
To the majority of online businesses, backlinks are the most important off-site SEO factor. That’s because natural links from authoritative and relevant websites act like a vote of confidence to search engines that your website is to be trusted, includes valuable content and should be visited by other users. Some of the factors that impact your off-site SEO include:
- The number of domains linking to your site.
- The number of links from one domain linking to your website does make a difference, but it’s still better to have multiple domains linking to your site than lots of links from just one domain.
- Links on pages with a high ranking are considered much more important by search engines.
- Links from pages related to your web page topic are important. Dont just get anyone link (aka “link farming”).
- A link from a high 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 within the content of your web page are worth more than links in a footer or sidebar.
- The link text (the text used for the hyperlink) is a strong ranking factor, so the anchor text should be related to the linked page. For example, if you were using the phrase “check out our wedding portfolio here”, then the phrase “wedding portfolio” would be better anchor text than the word “here”.
AVOIDING GOOGLE PENALTIES
We couldn’t talk about off-site SEO without mentioning Google penalties and unnatural links.
So what is a Google penalty? A Google penalty is when Google penalises your website or web page rank due to “deceptive or manipulative outbound links”. One of the main causes is using unnatural links, including bought links or participating in link schemes in order to try and improve your search engine rankings. This penalty can result in you ranking lower in the search engine results pages or even, in extreme cases completely disappearing from them. You want to avoid Google penalties as much as possible, as recovering from them is very difficult, takes a lot of time and hard-work and not a fun experience.
Although Google does not provide a step-by-step guide for staying away from their penalties, here are a few of the best practices from high ranking users.
- Content for users. Google is now more concerned with user optimisation – providing the user with high-quality sites that provide valuable content. This means putting your users first, not just choosing appropriate keywords. In general, users don’t like to be sold to. Instead, provide valuable content with great visuals to make them want to know more about you.
- Diversify link text. This basically means using different keywords, phrases, brand names and generic terms as your hyperlink text, so that Google views your links as natural and not manipulative (which is a big no-no). When you’re diversifying your anchor text, relevance should be your guiding light. Google analyses your linked page to see how consistent and relevant it is to yours. The more relevant the better.