What is off-page SEO? (+ The best off-page SEO techniques for 2021.)

Google has a type. To fit that type, your off-page SEO has to be on fleek. So, what is off-page SEO, and how can you improve yours to rank on Google’s first page?

What is off-page SEO? (+ The best off-page SEO techniques for 2021.)

Google decides who sees you. And Google only gives you action if you’re its type. It looks for three traits in a website, one of them being authority.

Off-page SEO means increasing the authority of your website to make Google rank it higher. Simply put, it’s about getting other websites to link to yours. SEO means search engine optimization—improving your website to rank higher on search engines. Add off-page to it, and the term becomes focused on every ranking improvement action outside of your website.

Besides authority, Google cares about relevance and technological performance.

What’s the difference between off-page SEO and on-page SEO?

For Google to like your website, it needs to score high on three traits. Performance, relevance, and authority.

Performance is about technology. How quickly your website loads, how easy it is to navigate, how well it’s internally linked, etc. To improve that trait, you do technical SEO.

Relevance is about content. How well you answer the search query, if people even click on your website in the google search results, how long people stay engaged, etc. To improve that trait, you do on-page SEO.

Authority is about backlinks. The only thing that really matters here is how many other websites (and what kind of websites) link to yours. To improve that trait, you do off-page SEO.

This is fairly simplified. But it’s all we need to know to climb Mount Google.

The importance of off-page SEO.

Google’s goal is to deliver the best website for each search query. Before Google shows your website to its searchers, it has to recognize you as an expert.

The more other websites link to yours (a link from another website to yours is called a backlink) the more Google will trust you. That’s where off-page optimization comes in.

Google used to make eyes at the websites with the most backlinks. It was like highschool. The more popular it was, the more Google liked it.

Although Google now looks at other factors (relevance and performance), backlinks still make up at least 1/3rd of Google’s ranking algorithm.

An example will clarify why.

A screenshot of a Forbes article that links to SEMrush in its text.

Google registers that Forbes added a link to SEMrush’s content marketing statistics. That means Forbes trusts that SEMrush provides correct data.

Forbes is a big player.

A screenshot of SEMrush's backlink audit on Forbes that shows an 86 page authority score and over 300 million backlinks.

Forbes has over 300 million backlinks. That’s some serious authority. When Forbes says a website is good by linking to it, Google believes it.

Because of Fobes’ backlink, Google trusts SEMrush.

We call the effectiveness of backlinks “link juice.” The more authoritative a website already is, the more link juice it can pass.

Forbes passes a lot of link juice. My upstairs neighbour with his “How to move furniture loudly on Sundays” blog probably doesn’t.

You can also link to another website without passing any link juice at all. That’s what happens when you give the link a “NoFollow” attribute. This attribute tells Google that you don’t want to be affiliated with that website, even though you linked to it.

For example, LinkedIn doesn’t want to pass link juice to all of its members. Everyone can post whatever link they want. That’s why all the links you add to your LinkedIn posts don’t help your page authority.

If you pay someone to add a backlink to your page, they usually place a “sponsored” attribute to the link. That lets Google know that you bought that spot. It’s worth less than a normal link with no attribute.

The “UGC” attribute tells Google that this link comes from user generated content. This attribute is usually used in the comment section of a website.

Normal, organic backlinks with no special attributes are “DoFollow” links. Those are the ones that pass the most link juice.

Watch your anchor texts.

The anchor text is the clickable bit of text with a link behind it.

The link from Forbes to SEMrush is on the anchor text “51% of marketers.” This gives Google important context why Forbes referenced SEMrush. It wasn’t because Forbes talked about SEMrush’s palette of SEO tools, but because Forbes used SEMrush as a source for a specific stat.

If you want to get the most link juice, make that anchor text count.

Don’t write: If you want to know why every small business needs a copywriter, read this article.

Write instead: Read my article about why every small business needs a copywriter.

The three WORST off-page SEO techniques ever — These will get you penalized.

Before I’m telling you the five simplest off-page SEO techniques for 2021, I want to hammer in what NOT to do.

Through backlinks, Google determines a page’s authority. If a link is placed with any motivation besides adding value with great content, it’ll have a negative effect.

Those are black hat SEO techniques that WILL get you penalized. If that happens, it’s game over for your website’s ranking. Stay clear of them.

A screenshot of a real Fiverr offer for 10,000 backlinkslinks for $115 dollars

This is a real offer I just found on Fiverr, a popular freelancing platform. Getting 10,000 good backlinks takes years for someone who really puts effort into it. That guy promises to do it in a week for a little more than $100.

Spam comments.

A screenshot of an email I received saying I should moderate a comment on a Wordpress blog but it's clearly a spam comment.

On a Wordpress blog I’m writing for a client, I get daily spam comments like the one above. Those are bots that comment some garbage and leave their link with it.

You can comment and leave a link to your website. It just has to deliver value in that situation.

“Hey friend, I’ve just written an article about the best laser pointer for little kids. I think it’d tie in well with your article for the best scissors for kids. How about I link to yours and you link to mine?”

When you want someone to link to your content, proposing to link back seems fair. But if you have many links to a website that links back to you on the exact same page, Google will spot that you traded.

The five simplest off-page SEO techniques for 2021.

My goal isn’t to help you become the next Neil Patel or Brian Dean. I just want to give you the easiest SEO techniques to rock Google’s world on your own.

Those techniques are in no way revolutionary or special. They aren’t quick either. They demand hard work and consistency to get results, as do all real techniques.

Create the most valuable content.

The simplest technique is the hardest to pull off. If your content is the best on the internet, everyone will want to link to you.

Read the top three google search results of the query you want to write for. Think about how you can improve it. Are you left with any questions after reading it? Can you give more information? If the answer is yes, do it.

Once you have the best content on the web, it’ll pick up backlinks left and right without you having to work for them.

Check brand mentions.

If you google yourself or your company, you might find some results without a link. Give the publisher a shout and they’ll most likely add the link to your website.

Since you (probably) have better things to do than constantly googling yourself, use SEMrush’s Brand Monitoring tool. It scans the internet and gives you regular updates about new brand mentions.

Write guest posts.

Writing guest posts is the most time consuming strategy to build backlinks. Some tips to make it worth your while:

  • Only write guest posts for websites you like. If you write guest posts for all kinds of websites, it’s really not fulfilling. Only write guest posts for companies in your network or companies you adore and you never feel as if your effort goes to waste.
  • Only write if you can set a byline. A byline is your name below the title of your post. If you ghostwrite an awesome article, it’ll hurt to see it published under someone else’s name.
  • Write guest posts you wouldn’t publish yourself. If you’re an awesome biodynamic winemaker, it might not make sense for you to write about additives on your blog. After all, you don’t use additives. But as an expert you can publish your knowledge elsewhere.

Find resource pages.

A screenshot of Google's search results for "Best SEO resources" with an article called Learn SEO: 38 best blogs, resources, and publications.

Writing a resource post is quick, easy, and packs value. A little googling will help you find those articles. Reach out to the writer and ask if they want to expand their list by one more resource.

Again, if you don’t want to google through dozens of keywords, use this SEMrush tool. Input several keywords and receive a list of websites to choose from. Send the website owner an email without leaving the tool. It’s pretty neat.

A screenshot of the "add keywords" function in SEMrush's backlink audit tool.

Sometimes you’re linking to a website and a year later that website doesn’t exist anymore. You now have a broken backlink and that’s no good for anyone.

I would reach out to you and tell you that I noticed a broken link and that I had a great replacement.

First, you have to find those broken links. If you don’t stumble on them by accident, SEMrush’s Backlink Audit tool is your next best bet.

Run a backlink audit on your competition with the “Target URL error” box ticked ticket. SEMrush shows you the pages it couldn’t crawl because of an error.

A screenshot of the filter function in SEMrush's backlink audit tool.

Search the broken page to find the sources leading to it and voilà. Now you can contact the owner of the source page and tell them that one of their links is broken but you, the kind soul you are, have a great replacement.

“Those techniques are boring.”

Told ya. It’s tedious but you have to do it or you won’t rank. For some more action check out this article about advanced link building techniques.

That’s it. I’m out.