Off-page SEO can include reputation management like customer service and being present on social media, but essentially it boils down to building backlinks, which are links that point to your site. The more high quality, relevant backlinks you have, the better your pages will rank. You know the importance of having high ranking pages in search engines based on where clicks go from the earlier diagram above.
There are two methods in which you can build links to your website: active efforts and passive efforts.See more about SEO.
Active link building
Active link building is when you put together a plan and strategy for the pages you want to build links from—with an understanding of why you want to build them—and then executing that plan. Generally, active link building is time intensive, as it’s a competitive strategy to get into. Journalists, influencers, and other writers get pitches all the time, so your pitch has to be compelling.
There are a couple of principles you can take forward when requesting anything from another site:
- Put what’s in it for them up front in your pitch. Yes, the nature of your request is to get something (a link), but what’s in it for them? Is what they’re linking to out of date or a page that no longer exists, or are they missing something vital in their list? Give them a reason to consider your request.
- Don’t request links from people who are your competitors. This may seem obvious, but a lot of link requests come from people who want coverage in the same product and topic area because there’s an existing resource. For example, if you’re selling athletic gym shorts and you find a buyer’s guide on what to look for when buying gym shorts and it’s by a brand that also sells shorts aimed at your niche, it’s better not to waste time reaching out to them.
Now that you’ve got the principles down, let’s look at some active link building tactics:
1. Foundational links
Foundational links are links from social media profiles, local business directories, and niche directories. If you haven’t signed up for social media accounts on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., then do so now. Also it’s recommended you create a profile for Google My Business, whether or not you have a physical retail store, as this can improve your local SEO which can help you get local customers. The SEO benefits here are small but it’s easy to set these up and it increases discoverability of your brand from different channels.
2. Pitch gift guides
Gift guides are a list of recommended products or gift ideas, typically centered around a holiday (like Christmas) or a person (like your dad). If you’ve ever Googled for gift ideas, you’ve likely come across several gift guides.
Getting your product in the right gift guides can increase sales and traffic to your website. However, inclusion in these guides does not happen randomly and requires some effort. In many cases, business owners lobby to get their products included. You’ll need to contact gift guide publishers and ask to have your product listed. There’s no guarantee, but if your product is the right fit, you could be included.
3. PR campaigns
Traditionally, a press release campaign involves submitting a release to media to get featured in local, regional, national, or industry press. Press publications have a good chance of sending your website visitors, as well as giving you a high authority and trustworthy link to your website—all good things from an SEO point of view.
Instead of hiring a PR company, take a shot at getting your own publicity. If you have a great story or an interesting product that people will want to write about, put it out there. Get in touch with bloggers and journalists who cover businesses like yours and tell them what you’re up to.
While it’s true that most writers are inundated with requests, they are still always on the lookout for a good story. Make sure you target the right publications (i.e., don’t ask a tech writer to cover your clothing line), and offer them a compelling story to improve your success rate.
4. Skyscraper technique
If your brand does content marketing or is considering it, the skyscraper technique could help you build links. It stems from internet marketer Brian Dean, who describes it as a method where you find link-worthy content by your competitors, make something even better, and then reach out to the right people to steal their links.
To perform this technique well you’ll need an SEO tool to find links to your competitors’ sites and a tool to help you find emails for people to reach out to. Remember, you need to invest in creating a quality piece of content and plan an outreach campaign, which takes some planning and a lot of effort.
5. Guest blog
If you’re writing on your own blog to drive traffic, you know it takes time before you start to see results. Guest posting gives you a way to get in front of someone else’s audience while you’re growing your own. Not only does it drive traffic back to your website, but the links back will help with search engine optimization.
Find and connect with other websites, publications, or industry bloggers who have the type of audience you want to reach. Offer to write a guest post that their audience will love. Make sure the topic you write about is also related to your business or it won’t drive any traffic.
6. Broken link building
Broken link building is where you find pages that link to sites that have a page removed, recreate content similar to that of the dead content, then tell anyone linking to the removed resource to instead link to your content. This works because it’s bad for a website’s SEO to be linking to pages that don’t exist.
To perform this technique successfully you’ll need an SEO tool that allows you to crawl pages and find broken links and an outreach tool that lets you hunt down email addresses. You’ll also need to find out what was once on that now broken page. Fortunately, you can do this with the Wayback Machine, a free archive of web pages from different moments in time.
Here’s the process you can expect to follow if you use this tactic:
- Choose a website that exists within your niche and publishes content you would happily have a link from (e.g., If I owned a business that sold skin treatments and essential oils, I would look for a website within the aromatherapy space, which could be a competitor business or a blogger).
- Use your SEO tool to find any 404 links, the pages with the most referring domains or links, or a page that you know you have a product or collection on. Use the Wayback Machine to get an idea of what was on that page and see if you can create similar content to what was covered on it. Note: You should never copy the text from a dead page, as this is copyright infringement.
- Use your outreach email tool to find the content manager and reach out to let them know about the broken link, how this is bad for their SEO and reader experience, and that you have a page covering this topic. Hopefully, the end result will be they replace a broken link with a link to your business.
7. Unlinked mentions
Unlinked mentions are when your business is written about on another site without a link back to you. For instance, your business might be given as an example in an article that sells comfy loungewear apparel but doesn’t link to your homepage. With tools like Google Alerts or some SEO tools that have this feature, like ahrefs, you can get a notification to your inbox if your site is mentioned. Once you feel that getting a link from this site is worth reaching out to the writer or content manager, then go ahead and ask for a link to be credited to your mentioned business.
Passive link building
Passive link building involves daily duties or business as usual but can help compound your SEO efforts over time, even though they’re not typical SEO-enhancing activities.
- Create an amazing product or service. The easiest way to get people talking about your business online is to have a great product or service that’s worth talking about. This is when people share your business with friends and family because you’re doing something special that makes you stand out. This takes a while to catch wind, but it’s the best way to build a business and a solid SEO tip.
- Provide amazing customer service. Great customer service is spoken about. Equally terrible customer service is also spoken about. But it’s average customer service that goes under the radar. While bad customer service can get you written about, which, technically, is good for SEO (remember that time United Airlines dragged a passenger off one of their planes?), it’s obviously not good to be known for giving poor customer service. So focus on providing amazing service. You don’t have to go above and beyond—it’s a matter of doing the little things really well and finding moments to deliver delight. Remember this saying: “People remember what you did long after they forget what you said.”
- Responsive on social media. Being responsive on social media isn’t about jumping on any and all conversations, or joining in on the banter between brands on Twitter. It’s about getting back to your customers when they reach out for help. Once you get the basics down, then you can consider liking or commenting on Instagram posts or Stories where your passionate fans tag your products.
- Build connections with social media and online influencers. This is thought of as networking, but a better way to think about it is as trying to make friends online. If you know what an influencer or passionate writer of the field is interested in, send them that article or product they would love, or leave a thoughtful comment on their post. It comes down to building trust with these people. Once you have trust, then you have attention. Once you have attention, you have enrollment and permission to share ideas or your perspective.
- Converse on forums and discussion boards and comment on blogs. Being present in communities like Reddit, Quora, or niche industry forums where your ideal audience hangs out online can help you build a good reputation and eventually customers. Use these spaces to encourage conversations with the right people, respond thoughtfully, and drive excitement and enthusiasm. But be careful of promoting your business too often. Aim to only do that if the person is looking for recommendations or your product solves the problem they describe in the comment.