Search engines are constantly changing their algorithms. While it’s important to keep track, these days your off-site SEO efforts are almost as important as your on-site efforts.
A recent study by Moz found that off-site SEO-related factors likely carry more than 50% of the ranking factor weight.
An article by Moz that search engines use off-site signals almost as much as on-site signals
Need just one sentence to summarize your off-site SEO efforts?
It all boils down to how your brand is perceived by your customers and more broadly in the community. Are you creating the best possible brand experience for your customers and community? Then, Google is interested in rewarding you with good rankings. According to Google, if you’re respected in your community as a leader you’ll also have:
- Quality backlinks from authoritative and respected sites
- A strong reputation and be considered a leader in your space
Building relationships and community outreach
Link-building in the past involved buying links. This technique has long been considered spammy but it didn’t stop people from using it. Then, the Penguin update was released in April 2012. Until then, even though Google had improved its link evaluation, this was the first step toward the modern ranking system we know today. Sites using spammy, “black-hat techniques” were penalized. On the other hand, Penguin rewarded sites that had a natural link profile.
Matt Cutts said in a video that when you approach building links only for search engines, you create a certain mindset. Think instead of who might be interested in your content in the community and build relationships with them. This way, link building is just a byproduct of their collaborative relationship with you.
Also, think of quality vs. quantity. There was a time when the number of links that you had were important. This was before the days of link-spammers and sites selling you links. Nowadays, the only links that count are from high-authority websites.
What to do
Think strategically. “What can I do to market my website to make it broadly known in the community?”:
#1.Talk to people in the media such as high-profile newspapers and online news sites.
#2. Network at industry conferences and forums. Build relationships which in turn may lead to opportunities for collaboration.
#3. Sponsor an event that will create buzz in the community and earn you links from the organizations whose event you’re sponsoring plus the media.
#4. Donate to charitable organizations that have a high degree of trust and good sentiment in the community.
#5. Collaborate with educational institutions. They are respected and have a great deal of authority online.
Domain Authority (DA) is a ranking metric that Moz uses to predict how well a site will rank. It’s one of the industry standards we use when we talk about ranking on the SERPs. Moz has a free tool, Open Site Explorer (OSE) to check your DA.
Your DA depends on your MOZrank, how trustworthy your site is, links and domain age. Other factors include the number of social media mentions of your brand and brand search volume.
Google takes the total brand experience into account. This includes user reviews, testimonials, social media shares, mentions and brand-name searches.
Google favors highly-rated sites
Google’s algorithms also factor the rating of sites, favoring the ones with the highest ratings according to a Search Engine Watch article. “It’s your social proof and authority that reviews can boost, which means that it’s not just about adding reviews to your site, you should also focus on how to improve them.”
What to do
# 6.Receive visible star ratings
When star ratings are displayed in Google search results, prospective customers can instantly judge whether they can trust your product enough to visit your site. This helps increase traffic and sales, but it’s not always easy to achieve it.
Google relies on specific third-party review sites to determine your star rating. You should have at least 30 unique reviews during the past year, with an average of 3.5 or higher.
Star ratings may lead to an increased conversion rate of up to 17%. This itself is a great incentive to research more about them, along with Google’s guidelines on how to be eligible.
If anyone leaves a negative review, it’s important to respond and find out the root cause. Many brands have turned these experiences into positive outcomes for their brand.
#7. Monitor your brand search volume
Paying attention to the discussions of your customers and prospects can also do wonders for your marketing strategies. Uncovering brand mentions can lead to:
- Reputation management opportunities
- Honest feedback and insight
- A better understanding of how customers interact with your product or service
Listening online for brand mentions can also lead to legitimate link opportunities. Both branded and non-branded mentions of your company offer link prospects plus an exposure to new audiences and communities.
There are many tools that let you monitor brand mentions not only on Facebook and Twitter, but also on each and every website out there – whether they’re forums or news sites. These tools also allow you to respond immediately.
#8. Use social media to spread the word about your brand
It pays to be there, be proactive and be human.
1. Be there: Make sure someone is monitoring your social media accounts and can quickly answer questions and respond to comments. You should also have special social media accounts set up just to answer questions and for customer service.
2. Be human: People online expect interaction, not robotic responses or constant brand promotion.
3. Be proactive: Use social media as a resource for the online community in the vertical you serve. For example, you can do that by answering questions on q and a sites like Quora or looking to answer them with a Twitter search.
Some strategies with social media:
- Many brands make the mistake of being on all the social media channels. This dilutes your social media strategy. It makes sense to stay on the important social media channels you know your customers are likely to frequent plus those channels that are relevant to your business. For example, if you sell clothes, Instagram is a must-use social media channel.
- Make sure that your social media profiles are up to date and correctly reflect your brand promise.
- Social sharing contributes to a brand’s authority much in the same way that external links do. To search engines like Google, any indication of a verifiable external source validating your brand or your content is grounds for a small improvement in domain authority. Likes, shares, favorites, replies, and retweets all count toward this increased authority.
#9. Build connections with social media/online influencers
An effective strategy for enlisting the help of influencers to boost your off-page SEO is to get to know them in person, at events, and online via group chats/tweets and such, which puts you on their radar without much heavy lifting on your part.
Then, in the future, when you do create and share content, they’re more likely to recognize your brand and share the content themselves.
Even better, later on, after you’ve developed a stronger relationship, you might even collaborate together on a piece of content.
#10. Optimize all your digital assets
This includes having and optimizing:
- A blog, so you share fresh content regularly — search engines love fresh content
- A YouTube channel and a presence on other video-sharing sites
- Images on image-sharing sites like Flikr and Instagram
- Mobile apps
Increased engagement will lead to an increased online brand presence. This in turn will lead to more brand searches on Google, and the more branded searches your brand receives, the higher it’s likely to rank for non-branded keywords.
All these off-site SEO strategies combined are bound to increase your influence and rankings online. As with anything, SEO takes time. If you hear differently, run miles away like you would run from a snake-oil salesman.
What strategies are you using to increase your rankings? Or do you have any other ideas to share? Or you just want to share some feedback on this post? I’d love to hear from you. Add a comment below. Thanks.
Alan Eggleston says
Good article! There are so many opportunities to tweak your online presence, and when you are competing in a tight market, some of the areas you point out can be critical assists against an aggressive opponent. Especially when they may not know them. These will have the greatest impact, of course, if you’ve mastered SEO basics first. You might be surprised the number of websites that still haven’t.
On “What to do” points #6 and #7: Google pays attention to more passionate comments and testimonials, which can have a positive (or negative, depending on the nature of the posting) impact on your rankings. Thus, it’s important to foster online communications with your customers/audience and respond to them, especially when there’s a liaison opportunity. If you know you have vocal supporters in your customer community, give them an easy way to voice that support and bring them onto your home page.
Gazalla Gaya says
Thanks for your feedback, Alan. Well said. It all starts and ends with your customers. Negative experiences with your brand impact your rankings as well as everything you do online. And positive experiences with your brand in the form of reviews and shares also help your rankings. It’s all related and holistic these days.