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SEO 20 min read

What is Off-page SEO? A Complete Guide

What is Off-page SEO? A Complete Guide
What is Off-page SEO? A Complete Guide

SEO Specialist at BrightBrain
Creating high-quality content and making technical optimizations is merely one piece of the SEO puzzle. The missing piece?

Voila! Off-page SEO.

It’s the most challenging part of SEO, centered around link building — and building links in and of itself is a daunting task. But off-page SEO is not just confined to backlinks, it goes beyond that (more on this later).

Without an effective off-page SEO strategy, sites are likely to be buried down the SERPs, creating a no-traffic-no-sales case for a business.

In this guide, we’ll discuss in great detail:

What is Off-page SEO?

Off-page SEO or, less frequently, off-site SEO, is a set of activities performed outside of a website to influence its ranking in organic search results.

It involves establishing trustworthiness and authoritativeness for a site in the eyes of search engines like Google.

While this is mainly accomplished by building high-quality links, modern-day search engines use other signals, too, such as brand mentions, social signals, and reviews when evaluating a site’s authority.

On-page SEO vs. Off-page SEO

On-page SEO involves all the changes that you make on your own website to increase its ranking in search results. This includes creating SEO-friendly URLs, writing keyword-rich title tags, optimizing images, and a lot more.

With off-page SEO, on the other hand, you won’t make any changes to your own site. Instead, you’d build signals (links) that search engines see as a sign of a trustworthy site on the internet. And thereby, short-circuiting your way to the top of search results.

On-page SEO and off-page SEO differ in that on-page SEO is completely within your hands, whereas your control over off-page SEO is non-existent in most cases. For example, if you send someone an email asking them to link to your site, that’s an off-page SEO where they control whether you receive a link.

7 Outreach Marketing Tactics That Work Well

Why is off-page SEO important?

Since its inception in 1998, Google uses links when determining rankings in search results. Its PageRank algorithm underlies how they process backlinks pointing to a particular page.

That’s why Google confirmed backlinks are one of the three most important ranking factors.
Google’s top 3 search ranking factors
Google’s top 3 search ranking factors [Source]
Moreover, an industry study conducted by Backlinko revealed a clear correlation between links and ranking positions on SERPs.
Correlation between links and ranking positions
Correlation between links and ranking positions [Source]
Suffice it to say, a site without backlinks is unlikely to rank higher on Google. If you wish to crack the first page of Google, backlinks are indispensable.

Off-page SEO factors: Backlinks 101

As backlinks remain the most important off-page SEO signal, it pays to understand what makes a good backlink.

Let’s take a closer look at how Google measures the value of backlinks. This will help you prioritize building needle-moving links for your site.

Unique domains

A site with 100 links from 100 unique sites will take precedence when ranking, compared to a site that has 100 links that come from a single domain.

Diversity of linking domains matters!

That said, it’s impossible to strike an equal balance between no. of backlinks and no. of unique referring domains. The key here is to increase the number of referring domains over time, and not just links.

After analyzing the top-ranking pages in SERPs, Backlinko found that sites with more unique referring domains correlated nicely with top positions.
Correlation between the number of unique domains and ranking position on Google
Correlation between the number of unique domains and ranking Google [Source]
To analyze your website's backlink profile you can use Serpstat Backlink Analysis tool:
Serpstat Backlink Analysis tool
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Leave a request, and we will conduct a personal demonstration of the service for you, provide you with a trial period, and offer comfortable conditions for starting exploring the tool

Link Authority

Just because a site has tons of backlinks doesn’t mean it’ll rank higher. The quality of those links (or the quality of pages linking to a site) determines its performance in SERPs.

As noted above, Google uses a PageRank algorithm when rankings web pages in organic search results. Introduced by Google’s co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, PageRank works by considering the quality of backlinks pointing to a particular web page as a signal that a web page is authoritative and trustworthy.

It’s similar to the concept of votes, but not in a literal sense. This means it’s never a quantity of votes (links) that matter. Rather it’s always the quality of links that move the needle for a site.

In that sense, a link from a site like Forbes carries more weight than a link from a small, mom-and-pop site.

Dofollow vs. Nofollow

Links with the “rel=dofollow” tag are more important than those with the “rel=nofollow” tag.

Why?

The follow links transfer the ranking strength between pages, while the tag “rel=nofollow” doesn’t pass any ranking strength. Hence, it’s always important to prioritize and earn links that are followed in nature.

That said, having nofollow links is not worthless. They can still send some referral traffic to your site, especially if they’re from a high-trafficked website.
Why use the Nofollow tag for search engine optimization?

To analyze the website's backlink profile and find out which of them are nofollow, dofollow, ugc or sponsored, you can also use Serpstat's Backlink Analysis tool:
Serpstat Backlink Analysis tool: External backlinks list with their type (dofollow is seen on the screenshot, the instrument can also show nofollow, ugc and sponsored links)

Topical Relevance

Topical relevance between the linking domain and your site is also an essential factor to consider.

Imagine you run a site that sells weight loss training courses. In this instance, having a link from a fitness blog will carry more weight than a link from a Crypto Currency blog. So try to acquire links from as many topically relevant sites as possible.

Not only those links can help you rank high on Google, but they can also send some referral traffic your way. And if the link is from a topically relevant site that shares the same audience as your business, you’d end up receiving visits from people that may be interested in purchasing your products or services.

However, you can’t control relevancy at all times. So it’s okay if your links come from off-topic sites. In most cases, it’s natural to have a few links from unrelated sites. But if you’re reaching out to acquire links, ensure those sites are topically relevant to your site.

Know that relevancy is not always measured at the domain level. Sometimes, you’d need to measure it at a page or category level. For example, news sites virtually cover every topic under the sun. So it’s important that your links from news sites come from relevant category pages (i.e., pages that are topically related to your business)

Anchor Text

Anchor text refers to the words that embody a link. They’re easy to identify as they’re distinguished by the use of color text—often blue, but not always.

When a link with a keyword-rich anchor text is placed, it can have a significant influence on the rankings for a destination page. Proceed with caution though, as too many exact match anchors can invite a dreaded penalty from Penguin, a core Google algorithm update that penalizes sites that try to manipulate rankings by building links with exact-match anchors.

The key is to ensure anchor texts of links to your site should look natural to Google. An ideal link profile consists of many kinds of anchor texts:
Naked URLs, where the URL of a destination page is used as an anchor text (ex: www.tesla.com/model-3)
Generic anchors, where generics words like “go here,” “click here,” “visit this site,” are used as anchors.
Branded anchors, where your brand or site name is used as anchor text (ex: Tesla, Apple, New York Times, etc.)
Partial match, where other generic words accompany the keywords in the anchor text (ex: get backpacks here)
Exact match, where the exact keyword that a destination page is targeting is used as an anchor (ex: backpacks)
With Serpstat Backlink Analysis you can see the full list of website's backlink anchors, sort and filter them by different parameters, and find the most profitable ones:
Serpstat Backlink Analysis tool

Traffic

Generally, links from pages with lots of traffic tend to be more valuable than a link from a low- or no-traffic page.

Do we have any proof? No. But think of it this way:

If a page on a site generates traffic from Google, it’s a sign that it’s authoritative.

And that’s a part of the reason why Google is sending its visitors to that page (and it receives traffic).

And we learned earlier in this guide that links from authoritative pages tend to be relatively powerful.

So yes, if a page receives organic traffic, that’s a good page to have a link from.

Other off-page signals

Given that off-page SEO is not confined to only building links, there are some other signals that search engines use to determine whether a site is authoritative and trustworthy.

Brand mentions

Former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, once said:
Brands are the solution, not the problem… brands are how you sort out the cesspool
Let’s take a moment to dissect his words.

Former CEO referred to the “cesspool” as the state of the internet, where it’s challenging to serve users with the most authentic and useful information, as near-infinite sources can provide information on a topic. And the way they achieve this is by prioritizing brands.
The following words from Google’s former head of webspam, Matt cuts, proves this. He said:
We actually came up with a classifier to say, okay, IRS, or Wikipedia or New York Times is over on this side, and the low-quality sites are over on this side.
If you’re a brand within your niche, your chances of ranking increase dramatically.

That brings us to the question: How does Google classify or understand whether a site is a brand?

They look at mentions of your brand on other authority sites.

If your brand name is cited on Forbes or other popular sites, that’s an indication you’re a brand. Whether that mention is linked (as a backlink to your site) or unliked, it’s still a valuable signal to search engines.

Following are some common ways to increase brand mentions for your online business:
Press release distributions
Be a guest on a podcast
Participate in roundup posts
Partner with bigger brands
You might want to use tools like Mention to set up brand tracking for your site. It tracks and reports your brand mentions across news sites, blogs, forums, and more.

Social signals

Google confirmed that social signals (such as shares, page likes, followers, subscribers, or links from social sites) are not a direct ranking factor for Google search.
Google statement: Social Signals Do Not Influences Your Ranking
Google statement: Social Signals Do Not Influences Your Ranking [Source]
It’s easy to generate fake social signals by a way of paying a few dollars on Fiverr. That is part of the reason why Google’s ranking algorithm disregards social signals—they are easiest to manipulate.

However, authentic social media signals can indirectly influence your rankings.
Imagine a blog post on your website goes viral on Twitter—it receives lots of retweets and shares. This traction can lead to improved brand awareness, and brand awareness can attract editorial links from other websites, brand mentions, and those links and brand mentions can help you rank higher on Google.

Notice the indirect correlation drawn above, and how everything about SEO and web marketing is interconnected.

Use These 10 Social Media Tips to Skyrocket Your SEO Now

Small business off-page factors

So far we have discussed off-page SEO factors that are universally applicable. But there are a few other off-page SEO signals that are exclusive to small, local businesses.

Let’s take a closer look at all of them.

NAP citations

NAP citation refers to online mentions of your business containing information such as business name, address, and phone number.

For businesses that operate at a local level and target geo-specific keywords, maintaining a consistent NAP profile across the internet is crucial.

If all your NAP references don’t match up, you’d end up sending confusing signals to Google about your local business, and thereby hurting your performance on search.

Know that citation signals are among the most important ranking factors for local businesses — both for ranking in regular organic results and Google’s local pack.

Google Business Profile

Google Business Profile (GBP) gives you an option to create a free profile of your business on Google. Upon registration, business owners will need to fill in all the necessary information Google asks for, complete verification, and optimize a listing to achieve better performance in Google’s local pack.

It’s important to note that a local knowledge panel & local pack are a type of SERP features that are connected with your GBP listing.

A local Knowledge panel shows up when someone directly searches for your business...
Local Knowledge Panel on Google
…while local pack appears for queries with local intent (ex: dog food near me)
Google's Local Pack
If you want your local business to rank in the local pack and regular organic results, merely claiming Google Business Profile (GBP) account for your business isn’t enough. You’d need to optimize it for improved performance.
An optimized GBP is vital if you wish to rank locally. In fact, it’s one of the most important factors for ranking in local pack and regular organic results.

Local Awareness: SEO Methods To Increase Local Involvement

Reviews

Online reviews of your business are another important off-page SEO factor for Google. They talk about it in their Quality Rater Guidelines and call it reputation research.
Checkout page
Not only do your customer reviews on GBP listing matter, but reviews on other third-party sites also play a crucial role in rankings for a local business.

Genuine, positive reviews from your customers are often a sign of customer satisfaction. And Google rewards sites that provide a positive experience to the customers through its content, products, or services.

Final Thoughts

Off-page SEO may seem the most challenging part of SEO compared to on-page SEO, and it’s true.

Amongst many different things discussed in this guide, backlinks are undoubtedly more valuable. But off-page SEO is not just about links.

You’d also need to build brand mentions, positive reviews, and many other off-page SEO signals discussed in this guide to thrive in organic search.
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The opinion of the guest post authors may not coincide with the opinion of the Serpstat editorial staff and specialists.

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