I focus much less on off page SEO for my own websites, but I do see the potential in it. I have seen some people build successful businesses with absolutely zero off page SEO efforts, and seen some people make it their focus, and create decent income as a result of it. You’ll need to decide how much time you want to spend on it, and find a balance somewhere with On Page + Off Page efforts.
One huge advantage of doing off page SEO (as I see it) is that you can write whatever you want without thinking about keywords, and still drive traffic to your site. Keyword optimization can get a little bit tedious day after day, writing posts about keywords just because you might gain a little bit of traffic. Without concern for keywords, you are allowed a lot more freedom to get creative and write naturally.
NOTE: Some people would say that you need to match on page keywords with off page backlinks, but I don’t do that type of backlinking. Creating off page links to yourself is a great way to get unnatural link penalties. When you use my tactics of getting other people to link to you, you essentially have little-to-no control over how they link to your pages.
The downside to off page efforts and driving traffic from sources other than search engines is that newbies will struggle a lot to get noticed. This will make more sense as you read below, but social efforts largely go unnoticed in the beginning. Newbies, lacking tact and finesse, are quickly ‘outed’ as just another marketer looking for traffic to his site rather than a genuine person.
My Stance On Backlinks
In past years, building ‘backlinks’ was the core of any type of off page optimization. Backlinking is basically getting links to your website from other websites. One way that people would accomplish this was simply by creating their own websites and linking to themselves. “Link wheels” were popular, where you would create five or so Web 2.0 properties (modular style mini-website builders like Squidoo, HubPages, Weebly, etc), then link them back to you main website.
People (including me) also joined “clubs” where they could submit their website along with some mini articles. This service would then submit your articles to a network of websites they owned and link back to your main site. It was like generating fake votes and social signals for yourself, telling Google that people like your content and thought it was worth linking to.
Unfortunately, that strategy came to grinding halt in 2012 when Google began cracking down on these practices and started handing out “unnatural link penalties”. One of my main sites got hit hard, but all websites lost traffic and sales during that time. To be honest, I went though a period of depression thinking that my business had been killed, but luckily I was able to recover most of what I lost during the following year. That experience scarred me so badly that I personally do not do any backlinking to myself as a means to improve SEO at all now.
So far, I haven’t had any issue ranking or making money, so I recommend you do the same and avoid the headache.
Warning! People still promote unnatural linking methods, but just give it a different name. PBNs, or Private Blog Networks are very popular in the “niche site builder” community. They promoted these websites heavily until Google cracked down AGAIN in 2014 and many folks, including a few big names in the industry lost huge traffic/income as a result. Yet, just a few months later, they still had ads for PBNs and taught courses on how to build your own PBN.
Am I crazy, or didn’t they just get a big fat warning to stop doing that? Whatever, it’s not my website. Just keep the history of link networks in mind whenever you see someone promoting ‘backlinks’ as a way to gain rank fast.
Do I do any linking at all? Yes, when appropriate. If I leave someone a comment on a relevant blog, I will leave my website URL in the box that asks for it. If I join a relevant forum, I will put my website link in my profile page and signature. If someone wants me to do a guest post on their website and I like their site, I’ll put an author bio in there. I don’t consider this an SEO-driven activity however. I’m doing it as a means to connect with the community relevant to my niche. That’s the line I draw in the sand. The optimization part is secondary to my real intention of engagement.
Backlinks aren’t bad! People will link to you naturally as you create link- worthy content. But thinking that a good backlink profile will help you make more money is not a path I would start walking down.
Reaching Out To Your Community
One excellent way to get noticed is to simply make the effort to reach out to communities and people relevant to your niche. Get involved! This borders on something I should post in the social media section, but I’ll count it as SEO since the underlying effort here is to gain relevant links to your site.
Expert Roundup or Best Of Posts
Probably the easiest way to start getting some attention, links, and shares is to create list of “experts” in your niche, or on a specific topic. For my beer site, I might create a post called “Top 10 Sour Beer Brewers”. As far as content goes, I can then write a short bio of the people and what they do. Yes, this involves a lot of research, and you’d better be accurate since the people you write about will be reading it. But there’s no reason to be afraid of hard work!
You can then notify the people you mentioned. Some may re-share your content to their followers, and as it gets passed around, you might obtain a link from another person in a similar niche. Either way, it ends up being an awesome resource you can use over and over, as well as add to as you discover new people and businesses in your industry.
The “best of” post doesn’t have to person-based either. You can make a “Top 5 Websites About —”, or “8 Best Articles About — “ The point is to get the attention of people with established networks and get your content passed around. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Same deal as above. Pick some experts or well known individuals that you want to interview. It can be via email, or just something that you piece together and post as a Q&A type post. It can be a face to face interview that you transcribe to text. It can also be a video interview that you post to YouTube.
Again, the idea is to reach out to people with an established audience and get your name and brand in front of those viewers.
Hashtags + Comments
Commenting regularly on popular websites under the same name can draw attention to you. If you leave your website in the website box (not the comment section), you can get clicks, views, possible links from that. Don’t forget to leave insightful comments! “Nice post” won’t draw any attention to you at all.
Doing this type of commenting first may make interviews and other outreach tactics easier down the road when they recognize you as a regular contributor to their website. Otherwise, they might not bite! Sometimes, popular people are just plain busy working and doing other things, and might not want to spend 2 hours with you bumbling through your first Skype interview for a blog that may not be around in 6 months.
Tweeting and sharing content with popular hashtags is another way to get attention to yourself. If there is a trending hashtag related to your niche and you post some original, funny, or interesting content using that hashtag, it’s going to absolutely get you some re-shares and grow your network as a result. That’s just more eyeballs for next time you share content from your website, and at some point down the road you are going to get noticed by someone with a website who wants to link to you.
My Off Page SEO Summed Up
Really, the only type of off page SEO that I support is social media related stuff. Grow your social network by being genuine, insightful, and helpful, and your brand will gain a good reputation because of it