Last time, we explored the on-the-page SEO factors that affect search results rankings. This time, let’s look at the off-the-page SEO factors and violations (both on- and off-the-page) that can help or hinder a page’s discoverability.
SEO Off-the-Page Factor 1: Trust
There’s no clear explanation how Google calculates a page’s authority and trust, but it’s fair to guess that there are numerous factors that come into account. Your page should receive a good amount of quality and ‘neighbourhood’ links from those trusted in your industry to demonstrate your own authority and trust amongst peers. Site authority is also affected by reviews, so keep any eye out for any customer reviews that could help or hinder your search result rankings.
Search engines factor in social engagement and users’ interaction with your page to help determine authority. If users find your page but then immediately return to search results, that could be a sign your content isn’t engaging enough and will adversely affect your ranking over time.
Conversely, if people are spending a decent amount of time reviewing your content, that “time on site” metric or “long click” is another type of engagement that search engines can measure and use to assess the relative value of your content.
Search engines will constantly crawl your website to get a sense of what’s normal behaviour for you and your site. Google will reward your page for consistency and maintaining a good track record for developing relevant content. This may make it challenging for new pages to establish authority in the beginning, but it takes time to develop trust and authority in Google’s eyes.
SEO Off-the-Page Factor 2: Links
Search engines count all the links pointing at websites, but they don’t count them all with equal weighting. Preference is given to links considered to be of better quality, which means any link from a large and respectable page will be regarded as higher quality. Furthermore, links from ‘neighbourhood’ sites (associated companies and industries) that are topically relevant to your site will help boost your SEO.
The words within a link — the link text or “anchor text” — are seen by search engines as the way one website is describing another. You often can’t control the words people use to link to you, so look at any opportunities you may have to influence anchor text within reason.
Building up a network of links from different sites to yours is a strong avenue toward SEO success. Tactics such as viral link baiting campaigns, badges, and widgets can all be effective at securing large numbers of links and shares across different websites. The key here is having lots of links from well trusted sites both from within and outside your industry.
SEO Off-the-Page Factor 3: Personalisation
The simplest personalization ranking to understand is that people are shown results relevant to their location. If your site isn’t deemed relevant to a particular country or city, then you’ve got less chance of showing up when personalization happens.
Unlike country or city personalisation, personal history is a challenging factor to influence when trying to boost SEO. Personal history places importance on first impressions and brand loyalty, so when a user clicks on your page in the search results, you want to ensure you’re offering a great experience so they’ll return. This behaviour reinforces your site as one that they should be shown more frequently to that user and is compounded by social gestures such as sharing or liking your site.
SEO Off-the-Page Factor 4: Socials
In the same way Google doesn’t regard all links as equal, it also doesn’t all social media accounts as being the same. Ideally, you want to strong and positive references from social accounts with good reputations. Having your own social presence that is well regarded is also important, so its critical brands participate on relevant social media channels in an authentic way.
Similar to links, receiving high-quality social interactions and engagement is ideal for SEO, particularly being shared widely on social media networks. The more pages and accounts that share your content, the more it will improve your SEO and ranking, particularly if those pages and accounts are from a wide range of industries and locations. That’s why it’s important to be visible on all relevant platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+.
SEO Violation Factors
While all the factors we’ve looked at so far are elements that affect a page’s SEO in mostly positive ways, violations can adversely affect search result rankings, so it’s important to know what will negatively influence the way Google views your page.
Firstly, it’s important to avoid ‘thin’ or ‘shallow’ content. Google’s domain-level penalty predominantly targets sites with subpar content, so it’s critical to not only provide relevant content consistently, but to ensure it adds value to readers.
Search engines will penalise your rankings for cloaking content, which is a sophisticated way of rigging your page so search engines see a different version to what’s actually on display for audiences.Cloaking is essentially baiting search engines with optimised content to manipulate search results yet having entirely different content on your page. This practice can get you banned by Google.
Search engines want you to use words you’d like to be found for on your pages. However, some people use the same words numerous times in a row as quick fix for boosting SEO. This process is called ‘keyword stuffing’ and can see your page get penalised by search engines if you do it.
Some naughty users also make text white, so it blends into a page’s background and lets them spam search engine results by helping them cloak content or hide their keyword stuffing. Google doesn’t like anything to remain hidden, which is why they developed Google Home devices to record your conversations, anticipate your every need, and essentially eliminate privacy. Anyway, don’t hide text from Google – whether by using styles, fonts, ‘display:none’ or any other means that prevents users from seeing all your content.
Google also penalises sites that receive a large number of Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown requests. While most sites won’t have to deal with these issues, you should handle any DMCA takedown notifications or copyright infringements that show up in your Google Search Console account.
Google’s page layout algorithm was designed to address sites bury content amongst a heap of advertisements. Often referred to as Top Heavy, these types of pages are penalised for frustrating users by placing an overabundance of ads before getting to the content.
This is also the reason why so many recipe webpages start with long-winded introductions before getting to the actual ingredients and method. If users scroll to the end of your page, then it will help establish your page’s authority, but if you flood your page with ads at the start, you’ll likely scare off audiences, which will hurt your SEO.
Google aggressively penalises those who buy and sell links – so avoid buying or selling links in a way that passes on SEO rankings. Also, link spamming on forums and blogs won’t give you the SEO boost you expect and could see your page penalised, even if those links are highly optimised with anchor text.
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