SEO Checklist Part II: Measure and Improve Off-site SEO Factors That Drive Organic Search traffic to your site

Kelly Strattonby Kelly Stratton

In my last post, I described the three elements of search engine optimization (SEO), including on-page, off-site, and technical.

In this article, I’ll focus of the off-site (also known as off-page) SEO checklist factors.

Once you’ve whipped all of your site content into shape, following my guidelines for perfectly optimized pages, you can turn your attention to the very important subjects of building site credibility, increasing meaningful inbound links (links to your site from other sites), and building social media influence.

While Google keeps its precise search ranking algorithms secret, it also releases plenty of information about how to create relevant content that provides a good user experience. In addition, there is a tremendous amount of research, testing, and information-sharing going on among those of us who optimize sites for search professionally.

As a result, we know plenty about the “secret” ingredients that can help your site rank highly in search.

Google has stated that it uses more than 200 factors to rank a web page, but which are the most important? There is one thing virtually all experts agree upon: The number and quality of links coming into your site is near the top of the list.

We see this in practical experience every day. At Altitude, we subscribe to SEO tools that quickly measure and reveal the full range of SEO factors, and sites with numerous, high-quality inbound links consistently rank well in organic search.

Buying inbound links from link spammers doesn’t work any more. Google acted decisively to squelch this activity with its Panda and Penguin updates, and the game has changed, which hurt spammy fakers, and benefits those of us who create and offer content and tools of real value. Here’s your checklist for getting on the right track.

The Off-Site SEO Checklist

  • Measure your inbound links and their value. There are multiple ways to do this, but the best is to plug your site URL into Open Site Explorer. This tool provides plenty of utility for no charge, but a paid subscription (Altitude is a pro subscriber) gives more depth.
  • With Open Site Explorer, you can see all inbound links, see your top-linked pages, sort by linking domains, see the anchor text other sites use to link to you, and compare your metrics with competitors. It’s impressive, and it’s an eye-opener for many who do it for the first time.

What to do with all this data?

  • Scan your highest-authority inbound links for opportunity to get other similar links.
  • Scan your competitors’ highest-authority inbound links. Can you get those links too, or do they provide ideas for getting similar links?
  • Inbound links from non-profit (.org) and education (.edu) sites are especially powerful. Do you have any? Should you have more from your friends and partners in these realms?
  • Build your inbound links gradually. Google algorithms will notice, and may penalize a quick accumulation of links.
  • Get your staff on board with the idea of “thinking links” – always keeping an eye out for an opportunity to request an inbound link. Ideas below.

There are many more ways to put link research to work, so don’t hesitate to contact us for a free consultation.

Ideas on where to get inbound links to improve off-site SEO:

  • Business partners, clients, vendors.
  • Online press releases through paid press release services.
  • Legitimate directories and local/regional web listings.
  • Your own site blog and other relevant blogs.
  • Thought leadership articles and whitepapers.
  • Useful interactive online tools that others will want to link to.

Off-Site SEO: Social Media

Social media provides another way for businesses of all sizes to generate brand awareness, direct traffic to the site, and to boost SEO.

Researchers now agree that social “signals” such as Facebook likes and shares, Twitter follower counts and tweets linking to your site and pages, and Google+ circles and reviews and links are all noticed by the search engine bots and algorithms, and help contribute positive SEO power to your site. And if you’re in a B-to-B market, LinkedIn promotion of your latest content can drive direct traffic and the occasional shared link from your networks.

  • Have active business Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn accounts and link to them with share buttons from your site.
  • Promote your latest news and views in your social media presence and ask/invite others to like and share.

Reviews in Yelp, Google+, and Other Sites

You’re no doubt already aware of the importance of online reviews, and here’s one more reason to value and fear them. They create valuable inbound links, and they carry their own SEO juice for your site. Review sites are especially important to companies working on a local/regional SEO strategy.

  • Know what people are saying about you on the leading review sites.
  • Make a staff member responsible for responding diplomatically to to negative reviews and linking to relevant information on your site.
  • Encourage customers who have had a positive experience to review you.

There is a lot more depth to any of these tactics if you drill down into them, but this checklist will serve as a great starting point for your off-site SEO efforts.