You can't expect Google to rank your website at the top of the search results for a competitive keyword without performing off-page search engine optimization (SEO).
It shows Google, as well as other search engines, that your website is valuable enough to merit high rankings.
But many webmasters ignore off-page SEO, only to discover their website's rankings stagnate at the bottom of the search results.
What Is Off-Page SEO?
Off-page SEO consists of processes performed on another website or online channel with the intention of increasing your website's search rankings.
For a complete and effective SEO strategy, you must look beyond the boundaries of your website to build authority. If few or no other websites link to your site, Google won't view your website as an authority.
Consequently, your website won't rank high in the search results.
Off-page SEO consists of three primary processes:
- Building backlinks
- Creating brand mentions
- Social media marketing
Off-Page vs. On-Page SEO
In comparison, on-page SEO consists of processes performed directly on your website with the intention of increasing your site's search rankings.
Examples of on-page SEO include creating high-quality website content, adding relevant alt text to images, optimizing title tags, adding internal links, using a mobile-friendly design and reducing page load time (PLT).
All these processes are performed directly on your website, so they are considered on-page SEO (Read our Guide to On-Page Optimization).
Arguably, the most powerful off-page SEO process is building backlinks to your website.
Each backlink acts as a vote of confidence that projects your website as being popular among other users. Therefore, search ranking algorithms, including Google's, are designed to favor websites with many high-quality backlinks over sites with few or no high-quality backlinks.
Google even revealed in 2016 that backlinks and content have the greatest influence on its algorithm.
You can build backlinks to your website using a variety of methods, but you must follow Google's webmaster guidelines by avoiding black-hat techniques.
In the past decade, Google has tweaked its algorithm to identify and neutralize the effects of black-hat link-building, such as blog comment spam, article directory spam, excessive link exchanges, and paid backlinks.
While these black-hat link-building methods were once effective for SEO, using them today will place your website at risk for a penalty or even removal from Google's index.
Rather than using black-hat methods to build backlinks, use Google-friendly white-hat methods like the following:
- Writing and submitting guest blog posts
- Answering questions and leaving a backlink on websites like Quora and Yahoo Answers
- Sharing embed codes for infographics and other visualized content
- Submitting your website to high-quality, industry-specific web directories
- Uploading videos to YouTube
- Providing other websites with testimonials or reviews of their products or services
- Creating backlinks on social media networks
Regardless of which methods you use, though, you should focus on obtaining backlinks from authoritative websites.
Just one backlink from a popular, well-known website will prove more valuable in boosting your site's search rankings than 100 or even 1,000 backlinks from new or rarely visited websites.
Creating Brand Mentions
In addition to backlinks, creating brand mentions is an essential off-page SEO process.
What is a brand mention exactly?
A brand mention is any non-linked usage, typically in the form of plain text, of your website's brand name.
Assuming your website has a unique brand name, creating brand mentions will build authority and, therefore, encourage Google to rank it higher.
Unlike with backlinks, Google can't follow brand mentions, but it can still associate them with your website.
As it crawls the internet, Google may see instances in which your website's brand name is mentioned. Each of these brand mentions signals popularity.
If your website wasn't popular, its brand name wouldn't appear elsewhere on the internet. As a result, creating brand mentions can improve your website's search rankings while raising awareness for its brand in the process.
You can create brand mentions on relevant websites, social media networks, YouTube, directories and more.
Just remember to use a consistent format when creating brand mentions. If you use different formats, Google may struggle to associate them with your website.
Creating brand mentions alone probably won't yield desirable search rankings for your website.
When combined with backlinks and social media marketing, however, it can help your website secure higher search rankings.
Social Media Marketing
Finally, social media marketing is an off-page SEO process that involves promoting your website and its brand name on social media networks.
Social media marketing encompasses the creation of both backlinks and brand mentions.
Additionally, it involves attracting followers so that users will see your backlinks and brand mentions.
To get started with social media marketing, create a Facebook Page, not a profile, using your website's brand name.
After customizing your Page to reflect your website's brand, you can begin posting content to attract followers. Think about what content your website's audience is interested in reading and share it on your Facebook Page.
Once you've attracted followers using non-promotional content, you can start to share backlinks to your website.
There are over a dozen social media networks, only one of which is Facebook.
Instagram, for example, has become increasingly popular in recent years. According to the Pew Research Center, over one-third of the U.S. adult population now uses Instagram on a regular basis.
While that's a lower usage rate than Facebook, which is used by over two-thirds of U.S. adults, Instagram still attracts about 500 million users per day, making it a vital tool for your off-page SEO strategy.
Of course, you can also perform social media marketing using Twitter. The micro-messaging network offers a simple and convenient way to promote your website thanks to its 280-character limit.
Even with an effective SEO strategy that includes on-page and off-page processes, your website won't climb to the top of the search results overnight.
It takes time for Google to notice the positive signals from your SEO efforts.
But if you're persistent and continue to optimize your website using white-hat techniques, you'll notice a positive improvement in your site's rankings.