What do people say about you? Which of your qualities do they speak highly of, and which do you keep working to improve?
Word of mouth is a powerful thing. Our glowing appraisals and disillusioned rants can have a massive impact on how others perceive a variety of topics. When it comes to your website, what do you want others to say and think about the content and kind of image you put forward?
Good things, I hope.
Today we’re looking at how word of mouth and search engine optimisation fit together. We’re also exploring how people vouching for your website can have a huge effect on what search engines think of you and how they respond.
Word Of Mouth = Off-Page SEO
There’s a significant reason why word of mouth is so powerful as a tool of recommendation - it presents an experienced opinion without an agenda. When solicited from a friend, word of mouth advice will also be much more tailored to the needs of the person asking, as the one giving advice can keep in mind their existing needs and preferences. Because the third party rarely stands to gain or lose from the purchase, the opinion can be thought of as unbiased to a degree that is sufficient.
The same can be said of off-page SEO. The art of search engine optimisation for the most part stays focused on things like keywords and outbound links and metadata, but that’s because those are all things that you have direct control over, so you can immediately start doing good there.
On-page SEO does, however, only has a small part to play in how search engines regard you. Off-page SEO weighs much more heavily when search engines are looking to recommend your website to a searching buyer. Because this is something you don’t have a lot of direct control over, it can be something that gets glossed over frequently.
When you look at the level of impact that off-page optimisation has, though, you can see that it’s a wasted opportunity to completely leave off-page off the page.
What this does mean, is that we need to look at how exactly we can build good off-page search engine optimisation, given that we don’t have direct control over it.
How To Impact Something You Can’t Control
It’s easiest to distinguish on-page from off-page optimisation as the things that you say about yourself, versus the things that other people say about you. When you have other websites linking to yours, they’re effectively saying ‘I think that what this website has to say on this topic is valid and worth checking out’.
But how do you get that? In the past, because of the value of links in impacting a website’s SEO, people would create websites for the sole purpose of linking to them. These ‘link farms’ didn’t add in any way to the quality of the website, and once Google’s algorithm was able to tell the difference between a quality link and a farmed one, the technique was pretty much squashed. At present, inbound links are still incredibly valuable to websites, but only if they are from relevant, high-quality websites.
So what can we do that will have other websites recommending us that is honest and effective?
There are three things that we can look at for a start, each of which affect what Google thinks of our website and subsequently how we rank for search terms.
Have a website with external links from trustworthy websites
This is the simplest and most powerful way to boost your off-page SEO. If other websites more authoritative on a subject than you are willing to give you a shout out and recommendation, then it’s not only the website’s followers who hear about you, but it will also help boost your standing with Google. We’ll talk more about how to do this well in a minute.
Be engaged with the social media channel
If search engines can tell that you are engaged with your followers on social media, then it says to that engine that you are committed to good service for your followers. Being active socially and not only posting your own content, but also curating and sharing others’ will help prove to the local search engine that your website sees other users as people with problems and needs, and not just as a field to be harvested.
Be interesting and engaging users on the website
This is up there with the social media use. According to Spokal, the correlation between user engagement and off-page SEO can be most clearly seen in things like a website’s click-through rate, bounce rate, time spent on site, and a host of other factors. When Google is measuring the level of engagement on your website by users, it is checking to see whether the search terms that brought the user to your website actually answer the original question.
Because building purposeful, helpful links is one of the most powerful ways to boost your website’s off-page SEO, it is worth coming back to. It also means that instead of simply trading or building links with completely unrelated websites, you need to build ongoing and positive working relationships with your peers, whether they’re giving you the boost or you’re giving them one.
How To Approach A Business When Asking For External Links
The approach for a business seeking an inbound link from a higher-up is surprisingly similar to how you’d approach a thought leader to ask for a favour.
That is, you don’t start by demanding the leg up.
“But I’m not demanding!” exclaims the small business owner, “I only sent an email asking for a link!”
Unless we provide a good reason for the larger business to assist, they’re not going to. Fortunately, there are ways to make your business known to your peers in ways that will let you build inbound links.
Start with gentle introductions. If you want, share their content with your followers. It’s a good way to curry favour, since they’ll notice that, and it’ll colour their picture of you when you introduce yourself.
“Thomas Anderson, you say? Oh, I’ve seen your name before - you’ve been sharing our content at intervals on your twitter account for the last two weeks. Thanks for that, by the way. What can we help you with today?”
“Who are you? There’s nothing in it for me to link to you, and you’ve given me no good reason to think highly of you to begin with. I have no time and no desire to fulfil this request.”
It’s possible for you to build a positive relationship with your desired website before you ever make contact, and that’s just by offering small things that prove you are interested in their website and business before asking a favour.
When it comes to introductions and requesting the link, ensure that you’re offering equal benefits to the other website. Doing so proves your willingness to build a positive relationship with the business, and that you’re not just in it for the link.
You know how building a positive relationship with your customers is about finding the right solution for them, and not always simply closing a sale? By building a good network with your peers and competitors, you can provide better recommendations for customers who might not fit the solutions you provide.
The inverse is also true, as building a positive relationship with your contemporaries can land you with clients more suited to your solutions, having been recommended personally by another website (remember what we said earlier about the power of word of mouth?)
What people have to say about your website and your business should not be discounted. It has a powerful effect on how search engines regard your website, and in fact has a greater impact on your level of optimisation than your on-page efforts.
It follows then that the best way to get other people to recommend your website is to develop a positive working relationship with them, becoming a website that is worth recommending by creating high-quality content and sharing the content of your contemporaries strategically before contacting them to speak about the powerful leg-up that link sharing is.
Given that link-sharing is a bit of a favour to ask, it can help your business by offering value to the scouted website in the form of guest blog posts or the like. Just make sure you get off to the right start by introducing yourself gradually and in a positive light. If you’re genuinely looking to benefit even your competitors, it’ll go a long way to extending your reach and raising the off-page SEO of your website.