Off-Page Optimization: Votes for your Website

Back in late 2015, it was revealed that Google’s machine learning technology called RankBrain was the third most important ranking factor for organic search. The following year, Google’s Andrey Lipattsev mentioned that the top two ranking factors are Content and Links that are pointing to your website. In this article, we will go over one of the most important, difficult, and time-consuming elements of SEO: Off-Page Optimization.

Unlike On-Page SEO (and the majority of Technical SEO), Off-Page Optimization is actions that can be taken outside of the actual page/site we are trying to rank – mainly around link-building. The main purpose of off-page optimization is to increase the web page’s Authority, Trustworthiness, and Relevance from both the search engines’ and users’ perspective. Off-Page can be broadly categorized into two parts: Linked and Non-Linked; however, we will focus on the “linked” optimization in this article.

What are links?

Links refer to hyperlinks, which are bits of HTML that allows users to move to other pages on the web or specific locations within a page.

The Anatomy of a Link

A link consists of a few different elements:
Anchor Text: This is the bit of text you can click on which will take you to a specific URL. Anchor texts are often blue and underlined. Example: Hong Kong SEO firm
Target URL: This is the URL the link/anchor text will take you to upon clicking.
Nofollow and Dofollow Attributes: Nofollow links are said to not pass “Link Equity” to the target URL; however, we believe it still passes other signals. Dofollow links are said to pass “Link Equity” to the target URL: therefore, these are the links that pack a punch.

Not all links are created equal

First of all, we have the Dofollow vs Nofollow attributes mentioned above. Dofollow is generally considered better for ranking. The higher the Authority, Trustworthiness, and Relevance of the link, the greater influence they have on rankings. Let’s take a look at each one of these.
Authority: The more authoritative the source of the link, the more valuable and powerful that link is.
Trustworthiness: Similar to authority, the more trustworthy the source of the link, the more valuable and powerful that link is.
Relevance: The more relevant the source of the link, as well as the link itself is, the more valuable and powerful that link is. Relevance can be assessed in a few different ways.
Source: Is the source of the link coming from a relevant topic? If a dog training site gets a link from an article about dogs from a website about dogs, this is potentially a highly relevant link.
Anchor Text: If an SEO agency in Singapore gets a link that has an anchor text including keywords like “best Singapore SEO” it can be more relevant than something like “click here” (however, there are situations where this type of anchor text can be quite powerful).

Quantity vs. Quality of Links

As we mentioned earlier, links are like votes. The more links you have to a page, it is like having votes of confidence from many sources. Links have different influence depending on where these “votes” come from. Example: A vote or recommendation from the CEO of a Fortune 500 company is usually more valuable than a recommendation from a five-year-old. I wrote “usually” because “relevancy is also a very important factor. Therefore, the power and influence of a link also depend on what the topic is about and where the link originates from. If we were talking about toys geared towards children, the five-year-old’s vote may count for more than a Fortune 500 CEO (unless this is a toy company that has all sorts of data around toys and their popularity among different age groups, etc.).
Generally, the harder it is to get a link, the more valuable that link is.
Quality always trumps quantity. A low quality link may even hurt your rankings. Whenever you are building links, ask yourself this: Do you really want a link from this source? If you have to think about it, the answer is usually “no”.

Anchor text ratios

Back in the day, having a 100% anchor text ratio used to rank websites pretty well. This means a website that had 100% of their links with an anchor text like “SEO consultant in Japan” ranked pretty well. Since then, Google has gotten a lot smarter and now we require to have specific anchor text ratios to get best results. If your anchor text ratio is over-optimized, we will have to work to dilute and fine-tune the ratios to their optimum levels.

Disavowing Links

Up until now, we focused on building links, but removing links can be just as important in off-page SEO. Unless we are starting from scratch, chances are your website already has links pointing to it. If you have had a previously SEO campaign gone wrong, chances are the website has an over-optimized anchor text profile or “toxic” links. Before any link building campaign, a thorough Off-Page Audit has to be completed. If toxic or low-quality links are found in the backlink profile, these links will be disavowed using Google’s tool.

Risks

Link building is a high-risk-high-reward SEO technique that can boost rankings astronomically if done correctly. However, one bad link can actually deindex your site, making it basically non-existent on Google. Unlike, on-page optimization, it is hard to “undo” off-page optimization efforts, therefore we recommend leaving this to the experts who know what they are doing.