Last week we looked at On-Page SEO so hopefully this week you are ready to understand the basics on the other side of the equation. Once again I’m not going to get into all the advanced functionality because I think if you can understand 80% of what you need to know, and quite frankly that is enough for most people to see substantial improvements, then you will be good to go. Also I’ve noticed that people have a tendency to try and over complicate so much with SEO. Remember it’s about the user experience (usability) so when you want to get extremely technical think about it from your visitors standpoint.
Off-Page Optimization is About Link Optimization
At the end of the day the off-page element of SEO can have a larger impact on the rankings of a page than the on-page elements. What is so simple about the Off-Page optimization is that it revolves around the links to that page. Even then there are two parts in the linking to a page process:
- Inbound Links to the site. This includes all the links that you get from other sites on the web pointing to a page.
- Internal Linking on your site. Yes believe it or not, but internal links can be just as important if not more so than inbound links from other sites. What is more important about these links is that YOU HAVE MORE CONTROL OVER THEM!
Getting links to a site can be a pretty easy or difficult process depending on how you approach it. The nice thing about an institutional website is that they are some of the oldest and most trusted sites on the web and most likely have thousands if not hundreds of thousands of inbound links already. Also as we looked the other week college websites have a whole lot of pages of content that can be linking to other relevant pages of content inside of that site. Knowing this means that you as a college web professional don’t have to do a lot of work to get links, simply make sure that the links you have are optimized.
Optimizing Anchor Text
A huge pet peeve of mine (and anyone who considers themselves a true web professional) is that a link should never say click here! It is implied and people know that if text is a different color and underlined then it is a really good chance that it is a link. (On a side note you do have your CSS defaulted to make all your links underlined right? People expect that so provide them a good user experience) Look you aren’t trying to rank for “click here” are you? The perfect example of this is to do a search on “click here” and see what is returned. Notice it is things like Adobe Reader and Apple Quicktime. The anchor text of the link matters to search results. If you are trying to rank a page for a specific keyword then use that in the link! Finally you have probably heard stories about previous presidents getting Google Bombed for the search term “miserable failure”. Be descriptive in your anchor text that is all I’m asking.
These same things matter for images, if you have an image than you should be using the alt attribute to make sure that your blindest user (a search engine) knows what the image is. If that image is a link then it should give some more information about what they are linking too. There is also a title attribute on the anchor tag that can be used to help search engines know what a specific link is pointing too so it is a good practice to use this but especially for images that are links. While we are talking about images you might want to learn more about optimizing images for the web.
So really it is that simple when linking to other pages on your site use a keyword friendly anchor text for the link and you will see search relevance go up significantly. We aren’t just talking for the major search engines here we are talking about for your internal search algorithm if you have a good system in place.
Be Sure To Deep Link
Another piece of the puzzle that needs to be mentioned is although every inbound link from another site is a vote of confidence and having 100 different domains link to you is exponentially better than having one domain link to a site 100 times it is also important to get links pointing to deep content on your site. This is especially important if you want this deep content to rank for relevant keywords. Yes a homepage usually has the most authority of any page on your site, but this doesn’t mean that it is the only page that can/should rank well for keywords. I’m not even going to get into getting links from pages with high PageRank or all of that mess, simply make sure that you get links to deep pages of content on your site using descriptive anchor text in the links. Also this goes back to why internal site linking is so important because you do have lots of control over this.
A perfect example of this is internal linking importance is an article I wrote a while back about College Dorms being a missed opportunity for Higher Education website. I didn’t build on that exact idea, but at Wofford we did create a page optimized around “campus dorm” and “campus dorms” and even without getting any external links pointing to the page were able to rank extremely well in Google for both terms. The only thing we did was follow these guidelines explained and the On-Page SEO guidelines. Getting internal links using descriptive keywords was all it took to rank at the top of Google because there is so much authority already built into higher education websites! Also it didn’t happen overnight but the rankings did start showing up within a few weeks and have held steady for going on nine months now!