Off-Site SEO Checklist: What Drives Organic Traffic? [Updated for 2020]

Adam Smartschan

Partner & Chief Strategy Officer

Perfectly optimized pages and good E-A-T aren’t enough for maximum organic traffic. In this off-site SEO checklist, you’ll learn the factors that maximize your chances of getting visitors and leads.

(This post was originally created in 2013. It’s been updated multiple times since. This is the 2020 version of the Altitude off-site or “off-page” SEO checklist.)

Getting Started with Off-Site SEO

Once you’ve whipped all of your site content into shape (following our guidelines for perfectly optimized pages), you can turn your attention to off-page factors. This means building your site’s 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 backlinks 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 on- and off-page SEO factors. It’s easy to see that 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. 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.Off-Site SEO Checklist for 2020

The 2020 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 Link Explorer (which used to be Open Site Explorer). This Moz tool provides plenty of utility for no charge, but a paid subscription gives more depth.
  • With Link 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.
  • Majestic is another great off page technical SEO tool.

What to do with all this data?

  • Scan your highest-authority inbound links for an opportunity to get other similar links. Is everyone else in a high-quality directory? You should be there too!
  • 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 government (.gov) 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 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.

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
  • Industry blogs
  • HARO
  • Useful interactive online tools that others will want to link to

Off-Site SEO: How Social Media Helps

#Brand Twitter might be all but dead in 2020, but social media still plays a role in off-page SEO.

LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook provide a way for businesses to generate awareness, direct traffic to the site, and boost SEO.

Researchers now agree that social “signals” such as Facebook likes and shares and Twitter follower counts and tweets linking to your site and pages are noticed by the search engine bots and algorithms. This helps contribute positive SEO power to your site.

And if you’re in a B2B market, LinkedIn promotion of your latest content can drive direct traffic and the occasional shared link from your networks.

  • Have active business Facebook, Twitter 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 on 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 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.

Adam Smartschan

Adam Smartschan heads Altitude's strategic marketing and branding efforts. An award-winning writer and editor by trade in a former life, he now specializes in data analytics, search engine optimization, digital advertising strategy, conversion rate optimization and technical integrations. He holds numerous industry certifications and is a frequent speaker on topics around B2B marketing strategy and SEO.