What Is Off-Page SEO?
Off-page SEO is the process of making your brand’s presence known in the online world using a host of techniques after your website has been created.
That is, it’s the sum of the efforts that you put after you have written the content and added the design elements (in an SEO friendly way, obviously), put in all the HTML codes, added all the CSS elements, and integrated all the system related components.
That’s about as straight forward as it can get. Right?
Well, for the local beach club manager I was chatting with on a Saturday afternoon, I might as well have just told him the sun rises in the west.
“That’s utter nonsense.”, he protested. “ So what you mean to say is this web design company charges us a truckload of cash to come up with a fancy website for our club, including all the SEO elements. And then our staff and the SEO team have to do a lot of other things offline so we can attract a huge number of visitors?” He was in total disbelief.
He continued, “That’s like saying it’s not enough if we maintained the beach beautifully, provided all the amenities, set up a great bar and a restaurant, all that jazz. But we still have to be responsible for the great weather and send chauffeur-driven limos to pick up the members free of cost?”
Well, that was a very reasonable argument.
“Not caring about off-page SEO is like having a great beach club and a great atmosphere, but no one from the town wants become a member because they have heard from a great deal of people that the beach is infested with sharks. And no one they talk to can neither confirm nor deny it.”
“It’s not enough to make sure that your website/beach club is all nice and good. You must also work constantly to enhance its reputation so others will want to visit you.”, I added.
He seemed to get it.
“So what you are telling me is that in addition to what we do on-site, we must do a host of other off-site SEO to ensure that we are most effective as a brand?”
He hit the nail on the head.
Off-Page SEO and Why You Should Not Ignore It
As a part of the SEO community, we all know the value of off-page SEO, and don’t need to be convinced of that.
I was thinking how even before potential customers seek out a brand, they are already getting signals about it.
Word-of-mouth recommendations, reviews, social media or any such online platforms excluding the website are some examples.
And that’s when it hit me!
Your off-page SEO activities have already begun. Even before you started it.
Let that sink in.
Now with this understanding and perspective, isn’t it baffling that off-page optimization is singularly associated with link building?
Let me shed some more light on this.
Let me define the goal and benefits of an effective off-page SEO strategy.
Goal: To acquire as many positive indicators and interactions for the brand that result in a net positive effect on the overall brand equity.
Benefits: Positive reviews, conversion of customers to ‘brand evangelists’, quality backlinks from trusted sites, increased traffic to your site, higher conversion rates, etc.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not discounting the contribution of quality backlinks towards your overall SEO objectives.
What I am saying is, it should be taken in the right context, without neglecting a wide range of other factors that contribute towards boosting your brand’s image.
So what are those factors that need to be prioritized?
Well, that’s the objective of this article. To identify those factors and find out ways to effectively leverage them.
Because I want to give you a good perspective of these factors, I have categorized them into three distinctive sections.
When it comes to marketing, digital or traditional, the fundamentals remain the same.
All your branding and marketing efforts can only complement your product or service. If your brand is weak in terms of consumer perception, you cannot sustain your marketing endeavors in the long term.
In this section, you will learn how you can position your brand and the supporting off-page SEO techniques.
1.The Concept of 10X Product or Service
So what is a 10X product?
It’s the marketing 101 really. Simply put, it’s a product that’s perceived as the best-in-class and 10 times better than your nearest competitor.
Creating such a product is at the heart of effective branding. And your SEO process becomes a lot easier with such a product.
If you have considered all the pain points of your prospective customers, put the effort to understand your competitors and what they are missing, and bridge this gap, you are doing well.
This leads to people saying a lot of good things about your product, both online and offline.
You will have positive reviews on other websites, discussion forums, social media, and the likes. This results in increased traffic to your site.
And all of a sudden, before you even know, you are caught in a positive upward spiral.
All these will only happen if you have a great product that not only meets the expectations but exceeds them.
So how to create a 10X product?
The approach varies depending on whether you already have a product or creating a new one from the scratch.
Existing product: Focus on the benefits that your product can deliver to your customers. Look out for complaints. Continuous product improvement is the key. Don’t rest on initial success.
New product: Understanding your prospective customers’ needs is of utmost importance. Like I said earlier, one way to design a great product is to understand what your competitors are missing out on and to include those features that can greatly benefit your customers.
2. Customer Service
Customer service is a great opportunity to interact with your customers.
You are not only addressing their issues, you are showing them that you really care.
Timing is of utmost importance.
At a time when everyone is equipped with a camera, and access to social media on the go, each of your customer is a journalist who can report any bad experience instantly.
Anyone who remembers the recent United Airlines saga can vouch for this.
Proactively seek out interactions. Arrange frequent in-person events. Make sure your staff members treat your customers in a friendly and compassionate way.
The bottom line is each and every interaction that your company has with your customers should leave them in awe of your brand.
3. Understand Your Customers’ Online Search Intent
The importance of online search intent cannot be overstated.
Google’s search algorithm is all about understanding the search intent of its users.
This is directly related to creating a 10X product.
Most of the times, brands fail because there is a huge gap between what they offer and what the customer really wants.
Look at it from a search point of view.
What if you create great content without using the keywords that your audience use to search for similar content?
Match your meta titles and description, and keyword phrases with your target audience’s search intent.
One effective way of understanding what your customers are searching for in relation to your product or service is to use Google Autosuggest and Keyword Explorer.
If the focus in the previous section was on ‘What they want?’, the focus in this section is on ‘Who they are?’
If you are going to interact with your customers, share content with them, learn from their feedback and complaint, you might as well know who they are.
And how does this understanding help your off-page optimization?
The next four sections will help you understand just that.
4. A Social Media Presence That’s Both Responsive and Proactive
Every online search begins with an unmet need.
What happens after that is intriguing from an off-site SEO perspective.
You’re running a coffee shop in the downtown area. Someone looks up for “best coffee shop in the downtown area” and comes across you.
What’s the next thing they do?
It’s likely that they will hop on to social media to know more, find answers to their questions, interact within their network, and even possibly land on your social media page.
That’s it. Now you know the significant role that your social media presence plays towards your off-page SEO.
The question is how do you go about having an effective social media presence?
It’s actually way easier than you think it is. Let’s explore.
Be there for them: It’s not enough to just have a social media presence. You must make sure that it is constantly monitored, to reply to any questions or comments that your prospective customer might leave.
Show Them Your Human Side: Interactions on social media must have a human element. Be empathetic and genuine with your response. Nobody likes a mechanical response that’s based on some template.
Being Proactive Is Everything: Most businesses don’t recognize this opportunity. But your social media presence can be a gateway for you build your trust, reputation and credibility as a good resource in your chosen field. Think of it as a content marketing platform with access to hundreds and thousands of customers.
What’s the impact of your social media presence (or absence) you ask?
Just look at the graph below.
5. Connect With Social Media/Online Influencers
When I hear someone say “Social media is not doing enough for my brand”, I am tempted to say, “Hey, do you even know what you’re talking about?”
Agreed that the traffic social media creates is largely unmeasurable and at times dark. It may give you a large number of connections that may or may not transform to customers.
It can still be a very powerful weapon in your off-page SEO arsenal, only if you use it smartly.
In the previous section, we discussed how having a strong social presence can boost your off-page optimization by interacting with your customer base.
Now we will focus on another benefit of social media, and how to leverage it.
Enter the social media/online influencers.
So who are these ‘influencers’?
Influencers are thought leaders of their chosen field of expertise that have acquired tremendous amount of reputation by constantly posting useful stuff on social media, blogs, and other online platforms.
Because of their reputation, they have a huge number of followers and strong associations with a number of high-ranking websites.
They are also known to be connected with other influencers within their domain.
Here’s a sneak peek at how influencers connect among themselves and with high-ranking websites:
So how to connect with them and how can they help you?
You can connect with them either offline or online. Attend events that the thought leadership in your field attend, get to know them personally, exchange business cards, and strike a chord with them.
Follow them on social media, subscribe to their blogs, and interact with them online.
By doing so you’re slowly coming under their radar.
Once you connect with them, they are more likely to recognize you and share your content. And remember, they are also connected to a host of other influencers, and that amplifies your visibility.
Once you establish a relationship, it’s totally up to you to take it forward.
Collaborate with them on a piece of content or to come up with a radical new idea in your field! Have fun!
6. Make the Most of Discussion Boards, Forums, and Comment Blogging
If you’re thinking about using discussion boards, forums, or comment blogging to get backlinks, let me stop you right there.
It’s NOT for that.
Link building as an off-page SEO technique is not the objective of this article.
The reason is more fundamental.
More about getting noticed by your target audience and their influencers.
The reason is to be where the action is.
Catch the attention of your desired audience by leaving an insightful comment. And don’t stop at that. Be active frequently so you reach as many people as possible.
You could also participate in discussions in sites such as Reddit and Quora. Still better, start your own thread related to topics that are directly related to your industry vertical.
Be knowledgeable, thoughtful and empathetic. Demonstrate your thought leadership by driving and influencing the discussion.
The connections that you establish on such platforms are genuine and can be highly useful towards an effective off-site SEO and reputation management.
When you grab a person’s attention in such platforms, they are likely to find out more about you. Make sure your LinkedIn and social profiles are up to date.
They are also likely to visit your website and subscribe to your newsletter or blog!
7. Guest Blogging Has More to It Than Link Building
That is right.
Stop guest blogging just for links. Focus on more fundamental benefits.
Instead, use guest blogging to build meaningful connections with top bloggers, influencers, forum admins, and brands.
This might eventually lead to quality backlinks. However, that should not be your initial objective.
If you make link building your primary objective, you will come across as someone looking for a short-term transactional relationship rather than a more fruitful long term relationship that’s mutually beneficial.
The right approach is to build rapport. This can only happen if your intentions are genuine.
Read the blogs, and understand clearly what the post is all about. Contemplate about the ideas and concepts presented in the article. Think of how you can add value by giving additional information or by asking an intriguing question that stimulates the thought process of both the blogger and the readers.
Once you have developed a good rapport, and established yourself as someone who can create high-quality content that’s relevant and useful to the audience, you can approach for a guest post.
Remember that this is a time consuming process that requires patience and a long-term approach.
Once you create inroads and gradually climb up the ladder, you will soon see how effective this can be as one of your off-page SEO techniques.
When you think of ‘content’ created for your brand, do you think of text, images, and videos?
If your answer to the question is ‘yes’, then you’re wrong.
The content you create for your prospects and existing customers to consume can include a wide range of experiences that you design, create and share.
From logos and your brand name to chat bots and phone calls, every interaction that you have with your target audience can be termed as ‘content’.
Let’s say you decided to post a video of your company’s annual bash, and one of your employees shows up with a bit of ketchup on her shirt. Is this content too?
You bet it is.
Why? Your audience who have watched it is probably thinking about how you are managing you team and forming impressions about your brand based on it.
So let’s see what you can do given the many options you have to create ‘content’.
9. Content and How to Experiment With It
Don’t worry too much about all the options you learnt in the previous section. It was just to give you a bigger picture about the ‘content’ scenario.
When it comes to digital media, you will still largely be dealing with text, images and videos.
So where do we start?
Well, traditionally, text has been at the heart of great content.
With the advent of newspapers, images added a great deal of value. But it still complemented the text.
Slowly as the mass media evolved, text, audio (radio), and video all became an integral part of the media.
Digital media is no different.
With the advent of new technology, the speeds at which one can access the world wide web is skyrocketing and the mobile devices are getting better by the day.
Video is gaining increasing popularity across all platforms of digital media.
It is estimated that by 2019, 85% of all media shared online will be videos.
So what does all these mean to your off-page SEO strategy?
Videos and images have strong inherent qualities that can be effectively leveraged to boost your brand’s off-page SEO.
Both are by and large low-budget and high-potential options that can be effectively used to drive brand awareness, and consequently, high traffic back to your website.
When combined with the power of social media, the value proposition increases exponentially to help you achieve high levels of off-page optimization.
Let’s explore some of the most popular video and image platforms you can use and the kind of content that’s suitable for each.
YouTube: It is the second most visited website as well as second most used search engine, behind Google. Although you could post any kind of video, how-to guides are the best. It pays to know that YouTube videos can and do appear in the SERPs.
Facebook Live: This platform is ideal for sharing your video in real-time. If you want to share a company event live, this is your best choice. As an added bonus, the entire video can be accessed anytime after the event is over.
Snapchat: Ideal to engage with the younger customer base, this platform is all about looking at the lighter side of life and having fun.
Photo sharing platforms: Platforms such as Imgur, Flickr, and the likes are perfectly optimized to create and share image albums. Just use your imagination and share content that your audience will find engaging.
Twitter: Here you can project your brand in a more human way. Give your brand a voice and a personality that your audience can relate with.
The Bottom Line
Off-page SEO optimization is much more than a set of limited activities you can pursue.
The eight points listed here are the most feasible and cost-effective methods that any business can deploy with high degree of success.
The purpose of this article is to create an awareness about how off-page SEO is NOT all about backlinking.
Hope these eight steps will get you out of your comfort zone and makes you think about numerous other ways you can perform great off-page SEO.
Can you think of an interesting way to boost your off-page SEO?
I’d love to hear about it. Just comment below.