What’s off-page SEO?

Off-page SEO includes any actions taken outside of a site to boost its rankings on search engines. Link building is a major part of off-page SEO, although it extends beyond that.

Off-page SEO vs. on-page SEO

You can control on-page SEO, but you cannot control off-page SEO.

For instance, if you reach out to a person, and request them to link back to you, it’s off-page SEO. And why is that? You did not exchange anything about your site during the process. On the other hand, if you improve your page speed by optimizing images, that’s on-page SEO since you have made the change directly on your site.

So, if you are still confused about on-page SEO and off-page SEO, then ask yourself whether you can control it. If the answer is yes, then it’s an on-page SEO tactic.

Please note that there are some off-page SEO factors that you can control, like Google My Business.

Why do you need off-page SEO?

When determining where and if to rank a web page, Google normally puts into consideration several off-page SEO factors. Links are among these factors, but there are still other many factors. Because of that, it’s a challenge to rank because of your content.

Off-page SEO factors related to links

One of the most essential parts of off-page SEO is backlinks.

Why is that? Google has developed an algorithm known as PageRank. This algorithm looks into the quality and quantity of backlinks directed to a website. Even though some SEO experts consider PageRank to be an outdated SEO concept, Google continues to insist that it’s still a ranking factor.

Off-page factors related to backlinks:

The number of referring domains

Having links (referring domains) from unique sites does not only lead to higher rankings, but it also leads to more organic search traffic. You can use various online tools like Ahrefs’ Site Explorer to check the number of backlinks on your website.

The objective here is not to build more backlinks to your site, but to build these links directly to the web pages that you want to rank in search engines.

Link authority

Not all links are the same—quality matters too.

This fact is based according to the way PageRank functions. If a web page has a higher authority, it has the capability of passing more authority to pages that it links. Therefore, links from high-authority pages are more valuable than links from low-authority pages.

So, how can you determine the authority of a web page?

Previously, Google had public PageRank scores that were discontinued in 2016. Even though there’s no replica of PageRank, there are other similar metrics, like Ahref’s UR (URL Rating).

This metric can show you how strong a target URLs backlink profile is, using a scale of 0 – 100. To see a web page’s URL score, you only need to paste its URL to Ahref’s Site Explorer.

Also, you can view all the referring page’s URL rating in the backlinks report. This can significantly assist you to determine the authority and quality of a linking page when doing your research on backlink opportunities.

Nofollow vs. Dofollow

Google cannot transfer PageRank to nofollowed links—that is, links that have a rel=”nofollow” tag. That means Google gives high priority to building dofollow links.

You will notice that most links across the web are followed. However, certain sites like Forbes “nofollow” close to all outbound links. Therefore, if you are actively pursuing or building links from a certain site, always make sure that it has followed outbound links.

To assist you in doing that, consider installing the nofollow extension on Chrome, which highlights all nofollow links on a webpage. Also, you can choose to filter out most of the reposts in the Ahref’s Site Explorer and choose to “dofollow” links only. This is very beneficial when searching and prioritizing your backlink opportunities.

However, you should note that nofollowed links have value too. These links can direct referral traffic, which can, in turn, have an indirect positive effect on your SEO campaigns. However, if you are investing a lot of effort and time into link building tactics, you should consider prioritizing your SEO efforts.

Anchor text

These are the clickable words used when linking one page to another. In its original PageRank patent, Google states that:

Google uses several techniques when improving search quality, including anchor text, page rank, and proximity information.

That means, there’s a possibility for backlinks with an anchor text that’s related to the topic of your page can influence your rankings. However, if you choose to build links using white-hat SEO methods, then you will not have a lot of control over the anchor texts of the links you will be earning. This, however, has an exception of guest blogging.

But, if you had some control over the anchor text, there is a possibility that it will work in your favor. Penguin—is part of Google’s core algorithm, and it penalizes websites that try to manipulate rankings via building links with anchor texts that have a lot of keywords.

Fortunately, most people love linking naturally and in a relevant manner. If you’ve written an article about z, then there is a high possibility for another person to link with an anchor text related to the topic.


When thinking of backlinks, you can consider them to be votes. If a website links to you, then they are guaranteeing the quality of your business or content. However, not all of these votes are equal, since the relevance of the linking web page and site also matters.


If you want to pursue a certain link building tactic or replicate backlinks used by your competitors, you can easily sort out an organic traffic report so for you to prioritize and track links from high-value web pages.

Although it makes a lot of sense to prioritize links from web pages with high-value web traffic, you cannot ignore links from pages with less or no web traffic, since there is no proof that these links don’t have value. If the linking page is relevant and has some authority, you should consider pursuing it.

Off-page SEO factors not related to links

As we said earlier, off-page SEO is SEO tactics undertaken outside your site and has the capability of affecting your search engine rankings. A good example of this is link building, but there are several other off-page factors other than link building.

Local businesses that would like to rank locally should pay special attention to the factors we are going to discuss below since they are related to local SEO. We’ve marked these factors with an asterisk (*).

NAP Citations*

What is a NAP Citation? This is an online mention of a business, and it displays a business’s name, address, and phone number—these also called NAP (Name, Address, and Phone).

Citation signals are among the top ranking factors for local off-page SEO—that’s according to Moz. This means citations are important for local businesses that want to rank locally, be it in Google’s snack pack results, or normal organic search results.

When doing this for your competitors, cross-reference the sites that appear in search results, and you will easily discover more websites that you can use to build citations. However, this can be tricky and a challenge, to determine which citations are bound to boost your ranking as higher as possible.

A solution to this is using a dedicated tool, like Whitespark to find citations. Also, you can opt to use Ahref’s Link Intersect Tool, which searches for sites that link to numerous competitors, but not to your site. Since most NAP citations have links, though nofollowed links, this can show you the citations that you don’t have, but your competitors have.

Brand mentions

One thing about brand mentions is that they can be linked or unlinked.

Linked mentions come with SEO value, and this is for obvious reasons. What about unlinked mentions?

In one of Google’s patents, you will realize that Google indirectly talks about unlinked brand mentions, which mentions a system for tallying linked mentions (express links) and unlinked mentions (implied links).

Therefore, if there is a possibility that brand mentions are an off-page ranking factor, what can you do to get more of these mentions?

The following are a few ways that can assist you to do that:

  • Writing guest posts
  • Doing blogger outreach
  • Being a guest on podcasts
  • Going viral—this is easier said than done

Also, you can use tools like Ahrefs Alerts or Google Alerts to monitor new competitor mentions, and then join the conversation whenever possible. For instance, someone working for MailChimp can set up alert mentions for competitors like ActiveCamping or ConvertKit.

Google My Business (GMB)*

This is a free business profile provided by Google. These profiles rank in Google’s Pack results that display at the search results for local search queries. However, just claiming your Google My Business profile is not enough.

According to Moz, an optimized GMB profile is the most essential ranking factor that a business needs to rank in Google Pack results and the 4th most essential factor for ranking in the normal local organic search.

Therefore, if you want to rank for search queries with local search intent, then consider claiming and optimizing your Google My Business profile, as it is the most essential part of all your off-page SEO efforts.


According to a study conducted by Moz, review signals are the 3rd most essential ranking factor for a business that wants to rank in Google’s Pack results and the 5th most important factor for ranking in the normal local organic search.

The more genuine and positive reviews a business has in its GMB profile and on trusted 3rd party websites, the higher the possibility for the business to rank in the Google’s Pack. Negative reviews, on the other hand, have the opposite effect on ranking.

The study also discovered that the authority on 3rd party sites where reviews are present can influence normal local organic rankings.

Social signals

According to Google, social signals aren’t a direct ranking factor.

The primary reason for this is that social signals can be easily manipulated. It’s so easy to buy hundreds, if not thousands of social shares from websites like Fiverr. What you should note is that things that can be manipulated easily cannot be reliable ranking factors.

With that said, we cannot neglect the fact that social shares can positively influence rankings. Why does that happen? Real social shares increase the visibility of your content, and increased visibility lead to increased mentions, links, as well as the other off-page SEO factors that have a direct effect on your rankings.

Bottom Line

Off-page SEO looks harder when compared to on-page SEO because of the many factors that you cannot control—but that’s the point about off-page SEO. The harder and more challenging some is to earn, the more its reliability as a ranking factor.

Also, you should note that traditional offline and online marketing activities have an indirect influence on most of the factors that we have discussed above.