Understanding SEO: Off-Page

Understanding SEO: Off-Page

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:

  1. Inbound Links to the site. This includes all the links that you get from other sites on the web pointing to a page.
  2. 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!

Photo Credits:

  • refinished an old Globe library card catalog by j l t
  • Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza by A. Ribo

This post was written by:

Kyle James

Kyle James - who has written 227 posts on .eduGuru

Kyle is currently the Customer in Residence at HubSpot, a Co-Founder at nuCloud and  formerly the webmaster at Wofford College. Kyle is an active contributor in the social media spectrum. Although his background is technical, he claims to know a thing or two about marketing, but mostly that revolves around SEO, analytics, blogging, and social media. He has spoken at multiple national conferences and done countless webinars on topics ranging from e-mail marketing to social media and Web analytics. He's definitely a fairly nice guy.

Ways to Connect with Kyle


20 Responses to “Understanding SEO: Off-Page”

  1. Avatar image
    Jess Says:

    Another great SEO post. I truly appreciate these, Kyle!

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      sara@Getpaidtowriteshortarticles Says:

      It can be hard trying to figure out what Google is looking for as far rankings in the search engine. All i know is high ranked backlinks will get you traffic!

  2. Avatar image
    Will at SEO Keyword Ranking Says:

    The deep linking suggestion is a good reason for companies to consider having and maintaining a blog — it gives them something to deep link to. Many companies, especially local ones, have all of their link juice pointing to the home page. A better solution is as you say: point to internal blog posts which in turn point back to the homepage. A side benefit of this approach is that Google will give you credit for having fresh content, one of their indicators of an authority site.

  3. Avatar image
    Diogenes Passos Says:

    Hey Kyle,
    Fantastic post!

    Great approach on link building strategy. To work on anchor text is a must for a sucessful SEO strategy. Of course once you optimize your anchor texts, it is a natural course to get a better internal linking flow.

    About the Google Bombs, please let me talk about two forced crap bombs created on Brazil:
    1. A while ago, if you tried a search for “vergonha nacional” (nacional shame) it was returning the link of the Brazilian Senate.
    2. If you search for “gay” on google.com.br, Google will return “Gremio” as a main result. Gremio is a soccer team, and thweir rivals worked out that bomb.. what a waste of time. :S

    See you on the next post.

  4. Avatar image
    The Visible Dentist Says:

    Kyle James should be gagged, locked away and prevented from further writing such illuminating, intelligent and informative articles! :) I mean, how are us SEO peons supposed to make a living if Kyle’s giving away the keys to the Kingdom?!!!

    Dammit Kyle — I hate you! :)

    John Barremore
    Houston, TX

  5. Avatar image
    wilhb81 Says:

    What a detailed and easy to understand article, Kyle! I’ve read many articles about the SEO before, but most of them were quite complicated and didn’t as straightforward as you did! Well done, man. By the way, I’ll forward this article to my friends as well…

  6. Avatar image
    Steve - Integrated Marketing Says:

    Now that’s real pizza. I used to live in Chicago and you can’t get a better meal than a freshly baked deep dish pie.

  7. Avatar image
    Budak Melayu Boleh Says:

    Thank you,nice sharing … I think outbound link is also important part of seo optimization.

    What do you think?

  8. Avatar image
    Dalesh Kowlesar Says:

    Great post. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Avatar image
    Shelby Thayer Says:

    Great posts Kyle (both SEO posts). Such great reminders … and we need to keep up with it. SEO is not a do it and done deal.

    I’m still astounded at how many higher ed sites still use an actual URL as the link text.

    Image optimization is also very underutilized, in my opinion.

    I know you mentioned about keyword research in your onsite SEO post (that you weren’t going to get into it - I know you could write an entire post on just that!), but when researching keywords to rank for, remember to look at your analytics to find out (referring keywords, internal site search). Your own users will tell you what they search for!

    Anyway, I had to add that. :)

    Great post!

  10. Avatar image
    Kati Davis Says:

    Yay - another person who is driven nuts by “click here” links!!!

  11. Avatar image
    Steve | Bape Says:

    I just commented on your onsite seo post and this offsite seo post is a wonderful post. I am really grateful to know some thoughts rather than defining those ways which all the world knows(how to grab links). I really like your deep linking sentences. Thanks again for the wonderful post.

  12. Avatar image
    The Agra Indian Says:

    Thanks Kyle for the great post again you have cleared all the basics of off page optimization or what I can say link building.

    People who are into link building should now realize the power of anchor text in back links.

  13. Avatar image
    fajarbatam Says:

    Article SearchEngine Optimization Of-page very good and power full,to increase Visitor

  14. Avatar image
    James - SEO Los Angeles Says:

    Anchor Text: Very Important
    Link Relevancy: Becoming increasingly important
    Deep Linking: Very Important

    All of your tips are great. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Avatar image
    Black Katz - flats to rent in London Says:

    It’s hard to make lots of internal links using good text when a navigation bar is made up of roll over images.

  16. Avatar image
    Reid Stanuszek Says:

    Nice blog and some interesting information, I found it really by mistake looking for something else. Have bookmarked it and will be back soon.

  17. Avatar image
    ubotstudio Says:

    I am really glad to see that you are putting so much of effort for encouraging the readers with valueable seo posts like this, I have sent this post to my twitter profile.

  18. Avatar image
    Cathey Rellihan Says:

    I saw your article when I was trying to find details on kitchen appliances. Whilst it’s not just what I was interested in, I enjoyed reading through your post. Will bookmark to come back and read later on. Funny how Google works…


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