Off-page optimization is an important part of the search engine optimization (SEO) process, and it focuses on improving the visibility of your website content in an external sense. It includes any activities and efforts outside the website itself that are necessary to improve the website’s results in search engine rankings.
One important part of website optimization is “on-page”, which can be done on the site itself in order to improve rankings (for search engines like Google). External elements, however, are equally important and must be optimized as such; this is called off-page optimization.
Off-page optimization consists of activities outside of work on the website that is meant to generate links. It also includes efforts to improve your social media presence and brand marketing.
For websites, as a general rule, the goal of off-page optimization is to cast the outreach net as wide as possible. This will increase the visibility of the site, and keep your online presence drawing as much web traffic as possible.
Even when following Google's recommendations for off-page optimization, website owners can only have limited influence on the impact of their activities. However, the owner can still have some influence over certain SEO elements.
The goal of link building is to acquire inbound links (or backlinks) to your website from other high-quality sites. Inbound links are links on other sites that point to your website. There are various ways to do this, which are more or less welcomed by Google.
Backlinks should be built organically because, in theory, they’re pointing to content or resources that are deemed valuable by the linker. This serves as a clear recommendation signal and implies that the content is high quality.
Link buying as a method of building backlinks is discouraged; search engines like Google may penalize websites that engage in this behavior by lowering their ranking or even removing them from the index altogether.
Other methods are less taboo, but they generally don't affect rankings. This includes tactics like manually entering backlinks from one’s own site into discussion forums or comment fields.
Not all backlinks are created equal: Google evaluates link strength based on factors like link placement (where on the page is the link?), how many of the links are from one source (what is the spread of link diversity?), and, most importantly, the linking site's credibility (how much authority does it have?).
There has been quite a lot of discussion about the true value of links for off-page optimization and website rankings. It seems there are emerging views that backlinks are less influential than previously thought, and it seems that these views are becoming more common.
Social signals generally refer to “popularity” or “value” indications from social media websites that point to a particular page - think “likes.” So, how many likes equate to what would be considered a valuable contribution? How many retweets of a marketing message does it take? Additional social signals include blog comments and article reviews.
There is some debate over how important these social signals are when it comes to search engine rankings. Many experts believe they’re not very heavily considered by Google, but they do offer a positive relationship regardless. Others believe that there is no direct connection at all between “likes” and rankings. However, even Google themselves insist that positive social media signals are important.
At the end of the day, it’s still unclear whether or not social signals play a direct role in off-page optimization. Doubts aside, however, a solid social media presence still boosts website interest, user engagement, and, at least indirectly, traffic - so it remains a worthy endeavor.
Off-page optimization also serves to indirectly support public relations, marketing, and brand management. For search engine rankings, Google favors websites and brands that are seen by others as authoritative, and having expertise in their industries. So, it follows that strong brands in this sense tend to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).
If a brand gets high search volume or is frequently mentioned on social media, it can be an indicator that the brand is well-known. Many additional factors, including a high volume of online activity, a wealth of backlinks, and a strong following on social media can all point to a strong brand identity and social awareness. Positive user behavior associated with the site like long engagement times and low bounce rates also indicate that the brand is valued by visitors - thus strengthening its authority.
Just like with on-page optimization, there are many different SEO tools available to help you analyze and evaluate your off-page efforts. These tools measure the quantity and quality of backlinks to a website, and can also provide information on a site's social media presence and social signal strength.
SEO experts suggest using tools like Moz, Searchmetrics, Ryte, and SEMrush for both on- and off-page optimization. Ahrefs also offers more specialized off-page features.
Google Search Console is a great tool that provides backlink-based ratings. Users can view linked pages (in addition to other features), which can be helpful for optimizing their own websites.
The consensus is that backlinks are a key factor for Google’s ranking algorithm. Social signals and strong brand awareness, while not always directly resulting in backlinks, can also help a website’s authority and boost its ranking factors.
Website owners must, however, take care to keep their off-page initiatives “above board.” Buying backlinks can result in penalization, and manually putting links in public spaces like forums may not add value.
When it comes to off-page SEO, the user community decides which sites offer the best value and which brands are worthy of attention. The best, most organic way to build strong off-page optimization is to focus on producing quality content, designing well-functioning websites and keeping customers loyal in order to get more backlinks, better social signals and better SEO results.