A decade ago, off-site SEO has been all about links. But it’s expected for search to progress, given that there’s a continuous evolution in web usage – which also has an effect on web marketing best practices.
These changes allowed search engines to accumulate far deeper understanding of how people make use of the web, and in turn a better ability for them to assess websites worth and deserving of higher rankings.
Off-site SEO factors have been transforming its filters to become more reliant in data that are outcomes from pure marketing efforts (off-page SEO is pure marketing).
Links will always be a valuable signal for search engines (and users as well), even though many are still abusing this factor to achieve better search rankings.
Google has been strict with link spam detection for the past few years (Penguin and unnatural link penalties), and will certainly continue with it, since the role of links in helping search engines understand web documents is still crucial.
It’s also helpful as a metric in indicating quality, authority and relevance, making links a strong factor in evaluating the overall importance of a website.
Some of the off-page factors that links can help with in influencing a website/webpage’s ranking power:
- Topical relevance of linking page/domain and context of the link.
- Authority and quality of the linking page/domain.
- Position of the link in the page.
- Number of unique linking root domains to the site/page.
- Diversity of link types as well as anchor texts pointing to the site/page.
- Links’ ability to send click-through visitors.
- In-content links from verified authors/publishers (authorship).
You can also check out some of my older posts on how you can get more links to your site:
- 10 types of links that really matter and how to get them
- 80/20 link building tactics
- Comprehensive guide to contextual link building
- How to build hard-to-replicate links
- Enterprise link building strategies
- Conversion-oriented link building
“Social signals” is another trust and popularity indicator that search engines can use by obtaining available data from known social media networks/websites.
User behaviors, in terms of web usage, have been more exposed in social platforms, which is why this ranking factor has been somehow more relevant in determining popular content, personalities and brands.
Although it’s not applicable to every industry, and not really a factor that Google will most likely focus on, it’s still a signal worth pursuing (diversified traffic sources is always good).
Off-page SEO factors that social signals can help in affecting search rankings:
- Amount and quality of social shares of the page.
- Authority of the social users/accounts sharing the content/URL.
- Site-level social signals (total social shares/mentions the domain has).
- Following, activity and interactions in the site’s social brand pages.
How to get more social shares:
- Align content strategy with your social campaigns, by producing more content that will most likely be shared by your target audience.
- Make social buttons very visible in the site’s pages (serving as a secondary call-to-action).
- Building a strong following base and growing your network – through consistent content development, curation and interactions.
- Reaching out and connecting with industry influencers.
- Using paid social services directing to your shareable content (like sponsored tweets, FB stories, paid discovery on Stumbleupon, Reddit’s sponsored links, etc…).
Michael Martinez also wrote a great piece that also explains how search engines could be using social data in their search ranking algorithms.
It’s obvious that Google is favoring brands more and more, as they update how they rank webpages in their search results. The answer is simple, because well-established brands are more credible and trusted by people.
“The Internet is fast becoming a cesspool of misinformation… Brands are the answer. – Eric Schmidt”
There are several factors in which search engines can gather data that relates and pertains to the strength of a brand’s presence over the web, such as:
- Amount of brand (linked or unlinked) mentions from external content sources. Phrase-based indexing helps search engines better understand what a brand is about through co-occurrence.
- Brand mentions from authority news sites or having the story of a brand covered by a-list media sites.
- Have employees listed the company/brand in Linkedin as their employers. It’s another signal that search engines can use to verify if the company/brand is real.
- Branded web properties. This may include your social brand pages as well as branded microniche sites under your brand. Think of Moz’s other niche sites (which they have developed and acquired in the past) like Open Site Explorer, Followerwonk and GetListed.org.
- Branded search. This is definitely one of the most robust data that search engines can count in determining a brand’s strength and the demand for the information, products or services it provides.
How to improve your online brand presence:
- Embrace, implement and be consistent in content marketing.
- Use social media to push the brand out in your market. Connect and build relationships with other known entities in your industry, as these connections will help you get your brand out to your peers’ networks/followers.
- Launching a display ad campaign can also help get your brand noticed, especially if they are aimed toward your target audience – which can also improve branded searches.
- Organize events and other offline marketing efforts (like a t-shirt project), which are all effective in terms of branding.
- Making sure that your product/service stands out in the market (USP).
Given that Panda is now being integrated to Google’s search ranking algorithm, the performance of your site/pages’ listings in the search result pages will be more important than ever – as an off-page factor.
The data that they can retrieve through search results help them assess relevance (of the page to the search query), usability as well as the engagement rate of the page.
Some of the viable factors that search engines can use to evaluate a ranking webpage’s SERP performance are:
- The click-through rate of the page from search results.
- The duration of time the visitor stayed on the page coming from the search result (long-click).
- If the site’s listings display rich snippets (for videos, authorship, structured data, in-depth, etc…).
How to improve your site’s search listings performance (for CTR and long-click):
- Optimize meta tags (title tags and meta descriptions) for users and clicks. Make these areas more appealing and enticing to searchers.
- Make sure that the title of the page is accurate and matches with its content – this can help improve visitor engagement and in making search-driven visitors stay longer on the site.
- Deindex poor-content, duplicates and pages that won’t be useful to searchers.
- Implement authorship or publisher markup.
- Create a video XML sitemap within your site – for pages that contain videos to display video snippets on search results.
- Implement structured data for rich snippets (schema and/or microdata) – for products, events, places, and more. You can use Schema-creator.org to easily generate Microdata codes for your site’s pages.
Relationship is a strong indicator of trust. The people and brands that you’re associated with speak a lot about your own brand. And which is why social connectivity is a good off-page signal for search engines in determining a brand/content’s value.
Few ways that this factor may be used by search engines to identify brands with authoritative relationships:
- Having multiple links/mentions from industry peers from their content.
- Connectivity on various social networks.
- Blogroll links.
- Reciprocity of links (in-content mentions, social sharing, etc…) from the two domains/brands.
On how to build strong online relationships, you can check out some of my old posts that tackle this aspect of online marketing:
- 1-2 punch marketing for blogs
- Link magnetism – creating an authority site that attracts authority links
- How to become an influencer through content and relationship marketing
Building a solid author portfolio doesn’t just occur within your site, as you can also improve authorship through establishing yourself as an expert author on other industry-related sites (and by also implementing the rel=”author” tag on your content contributions).
How to prepare for and improve your AuthorRank:
- Regularly contribute content to or become a columnist on high-domain authority publications in your industry (and implement authorship markup).
- Grow your network and build authority on Google+.
- Associate yourself with other reputable authors and publishers in your industry’s online space (getting your brand or works mentioned by them may have a direct impact to your AuthorRank scores in the future).
Information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. – Eric Schmidt
Reviews and Sentiments
People’s sentiments about the brand’s site/products/services are also one of the most significant data that search engines can draw to assess credibility, popularity and market value.
Google is already using sentiment analysis within their algorithm, which is why getting more voluntary and authentic user reviews of your brand will more likely affect your site’s overall ranking power.
How to get more reviews for your site, product and/or services (I’ve already shared the following three pointers on a post I’ve written few months ago):
- Blogger outreach on a personal level – to actually get experiential reviews. Dan Cristo wrote an excellent post on how to get more reviews of your products 2 years ago, and you might want to check that one out.
- Create an affiliate program or a referral commission system to attract more bloggers in reviewing your product or services. Offer this as a value proposition when reaching out to bloggers (give higher commission rates to authority bloggers in your industry).
- Provide great products and services, or be exceptionally great with customer service (think Zappos). This can extremely help you get voluntary online reviews of your products/services. You can also offer freebies (promo codes, discounts, etc…) to customers who own blogs or have strong following on social networks. That might also increase the chances of getting links from them.
- Consistently provide actionable and useful content to build a strong readership. Avid readers (especially if they’re active online) will almost always recommend your works and share positive things about your brand.
Building citations is a practice that is more known for Local SEO – as it mainly helps in improving a site’s search rankings in a certain location.
Since citations mostly include NAP (business name, business address and phone number), it can then be a strong indicator that the business is real – given that it has the necessary details wherein people can actually find their office/stores.
How to build citations (below is a list of the top local business directories, which was originally curated by Andrew Shotland):
- Google+ Local
- Yahoo Local
- Insider Pages
- Best of the Web Local