Rank High on Google: Off-Page SEO
If you have been following our 3-part article series, you already know just how vital it’s to rank top of the page for Google. You get all the hits, all the new orders, and basically, leave your competition in the dust… Your brand becomes the go-to choice for netizens.
This is the final instalment of our article series, where we share the tips and tricks to help you rank higher for Google. In the first article, we talked about how Google’s ranking algorithm works, along with different ways you can measure your website’s SEO performance. If you missed it, check it out here.
In the second part, we shared various techniques to boost your on-site SEO. If you haven’t already, read it here.
In today’s article, we will further our efforts to optimize SEO by looking at some off-page SEO techniques.
Match search intent
Search intent is the underlying reason, the why, behind a Google query. Understanding search intent of the most popular keywords, and aligning your content with said intent, can do wonders for your website’s rankings. For example, when someone enters, “best movie streaming website”, they don’t want to land on your company’s homepage; they want to read articles with comparison tables, helping them make the best choice.
But why bother?
“Why care” you might ask? The key is relevance. Google’s evolved AI engines can predict (with a high degree of certainty) what a user is really searching for. And if they don’t find the relevant answers on your website, it won’t display it in the search results, at-least, not at the top. Even if your homepage is optimized for “best movie streaming website”, if it doesn’t compare different streaming websites, it probably won’t make the cut.
Determine search intent
In the latest edition of Google’s official Quality Rater Guidelines, Google repeatedly talks about search intent, across multiple chapters. We know just how important it’s, now look at ways to determine it:
Identify types of search intent
There are four main types of search intent:
- Informational: People searching to know more about a subject. Keywords typically include modifiers like: how, why, what, who, examples, teach, learn, and guide etc. E.g. how to reset my Gmail password, tutorial to learn web development, why does search intent matter etc.
- Transactional: People looking to buy something. E.g. buy a laptop, buy secure hosting, or affordable smartphones etc. Keyword modifiers can be: price, coupon, buy, purchase, cheap, expensive etc.
- Navigational: People (i.e. all of us) who prefer Googling the name of the website they want to visit, instead of entering its address. E.g. Twitter, Facebook, and HOSTAFRICA blog etc. Keywords can contain names of brands, products, or services.
- Commercial research: People who are researching about a topic, service, or product. E.g. website hosting review, Gmail vs. Outlook, or Dell HP laptop comparison etc. Keywords may contain modifiers like best, top, comparison, vs. etc.
Analyse the search results
Search for the keyword on Google, and see what kind of results appear.
Often, you should be able to categorize the keyword based on intent type.
Let’s look at a few examples:
For informational intent
We searched who is Elon Musk on Google. Here’s what we got:
When Google determines that a user is seeking information, it usually presents them with a featured snippet, knowledge card, along with a “People who ask” section. The top results are usually Wikipedia pages, dictionaries, or informative posts.
For transactional intent
We entered buy toys online. Here’s what we got:
For transactional intent, the results can contain ads, shopping carousels, and/or product reviews.
For commercial research intent
We searched for best movie streaming services. What we got is this:
For commercial research intent, you may also get a featured snippet, along with any advertisements. The top results will be articles comparing the streaming services, instead of ones explaining what a streaming service is.
For navigational intent
We searched for Facebook, and were presented with:
The most relevant page, which is usually the actual website, is the top-most result. Top stories, knowledge cards, along with other site links (e.g. Log into Facebook, Business etc.) may also be shown.
Optimise for search intent
Once you have understood the intent behind the most relevant keywords, here are a few tips to optimize your content accordingly:
Analyse the high performing pages
Examine the pages currently ranked high for your desired keyword. Note things like:
- What are they saying in their first paragraph?
- How have they formatted the page?
- What about their tone? Is it formal, or conversational?
- What kind of content have they used? Only text, or are there any visuals?
- What are they not doing? (This may help you identify ways to outrank them).
Optimise content to match intent
Once you have identified the keyword and its intent, you can focus on optimizing the content of the relevant page accordingly. Start with the title tag and meta description. Optimize them using the right keywords, to have better chances of getting clicks.
Redo your headings, and the rest of the text to better represent the search intent. E.g. if you want to rank your homepage for “best hosting company”, perhaps include a comparison table, that lists out the difference between different hosting companies.
Keep the relevant SERP features in mind
Note the way the content was formatted on the search engine result pages (SERPs). We were presented with a list of movie streaming services when we searched for the best. This could indicate that Google prefers numbered lists for the keyword. Similarly, we also saw a list of relevant questions when searching for Elon Musk, so it would make sense to also answer those questions on the page being optimized.
Build page authority
Page authority is a predictive measure of how high a page will appear on the SERPs. Page authority scores typically range from 0 to 100. The highest ranked pages usually have the highest page authorities.
It’s important to track individual page authorities on your website. They are a great metric to know whether or not your SEO strategies are working.
How is page authority calculated?
Moz, the original developers of the score, use a multitude of factors to determine a page’s authority. Some of them are as follows:
- MozRank: Another metric developed by Moz, it is calculated by evaluating the strength of the external links/backlinks that your website has gained. Both the quantity and quality of the links are considered while generating the score. However, just like Google, quality is given a greater weightage.
- Social signals: Content that’s being actively liked, commented on, and shared via social media is believed to have a “higher quality”. After all, who would share or like content that’s not providing any value? While generating page authority, social signals are also considered.
- MozTrust: Moz defines MozTrust as the “link distance between a particular page and a ‘seed’ website i.e. a trusted source on the internet.” Depending on how closely linked you are to a trusted source (e.g. research, educational, and government websites etc.), you will be given a MozTrust score between 1-10.
Boost page authority
We have acquainted ourselves enough with page authority. Now, let’s look at ways to enhance it:
Post good, fresh content periodically
It all starts with good, high-quality content. Put yourself in your target audience’s shoes, and get to thinking. What topic will pique their interest? What will make for an interesting read? What will make people like, comment, and share your post?
Also important is to keep posting regularly. If you post something good, it’s likely that people will keep coming back for more. Give them reasons to stick around.
Interesting, unique, and informative content not only does well on social media, but also makes more websites link back to you.
Gather external links
You need to earn external links/backlinks from high authority websites. The two names describe the same link, from different viewpoints. External links are from the source’s perspective – providing links from their site to yours. Backlinks are described from your perspective – earning these links back to your site.
Not only will it increase your readership, as people from other websites land on your page, but it will also signal to Google that your page has some valuable information on it (Why else would authors of high quality websites direct their traffic to you?).
Wondering how to gain these priceless external links? Here are a few ways:
a) Good content. As always, it all starts with good content. The better it is, the likelier it’s to get links.
b) Link to high authority websites. If you start sending traffic to a high authority website, and they notice it, it’s likely that they will return the favour.
c) Write guest blogs. Find high authority websites in your industry, and write guest blogs for them. Make sure that the blog contains a link or two back to your page.
d) Social media promotion. Promoting your content on social media will expose it to a wider audience, which will also include other website owners.
Remove harmful links
All your hard work can be undone if your page is gathering links from bad websites. These links may lead to a lower page authority, and in some cases, even a Google penalty. To identify these pages, you can use tools like Google Search Console or Moz’s Open Site Explorer. Find any links that contains inappropriate anchor text, or links from controversial websites like porn or gambling etc.
If you end up identifying any such links, contact the site’s webmasters and request them to remove the links, as they are hindering your optimization efforts. If that doesn’t work, you can always request Google to remove the links from your profile using the disavow tool. Be very careful when using this tool though as it can damage your sites reputation. Google advises that you only use this tool if you have a manual action against your domain.
Avoid Google penalties
Ranking higher is very important in establishing a competitive advantage. So much so that people often try to use shortcuts and hacks to achieve it.
However, it’s not easy, let’s just say, virtually impossible, to trick a system as sophisticated as Google. As soon as Google identifies something fishy, it penalizes the website, which often leads to a drastic drop in traffic.
One major reason behind Google penalties is “bad” links, which we covered in the previous section. Let’s look at a few more reasons people get penalised, and how it can be avoided.
Don’t use auto-generated or copied content
Never use auto-generated content, i.e. content produced by AI bots, aimed at manipulating search engines, that doesn’t address any particular topic, or provide any value. Such text usually contains poorly formed sentences that don’t make sense.
The same is also true for copied content. Ensure that whatever you write is unique and informative. Text that contains high amounts of plagiarism gets flagged instantly by Google.
It has become very easy for Google to detect and penalize auto-generated, copied, or poorly written content. So, avoid it at all costs.
Don’t overuse keywords
Keywords can make or break your site’s ranking. One thing that a lot of people forget is that more (or too much) is not better. As we discussed in the last article, your keyword density should not be more than 1-2%, which means that a keyword appears 1 or 2 times, every 100 words. Not only does keyword stuffing hamper your content quality, it can also lead to serious Google penalization.
Avoid buying links
No matter how convincing their sales pitch may be, don’t ever buy links from link selling companies. They may claim that their links are “undetectable” by Google, but remember, Google is always one step ahead. It’s whole purpose of existence is to provide users with the most relevant answers, and a big part of that is filtering out websites trying to game the system.
Don’t hide text or links
Google values transparency. It will not tolerate if you try to deceptively hide text or links on your website. E.g. using white text on a white background, or hiding text or links under images.
To avoid getting penalized, use a consistent, readable font size.
Avoid getting hacked
Take your website security seriously! Believe it or not, you can also get penalized if someone hacks you. E.g. Google penalised an online university after hackers created hundreds of spam backlinks to it. The traffic for the university’s website dropped soon after the penalty.
However, after the university put in a reconsideration request to Google, detailing the incident, the penalty was removed. But that doesn’t mean that it gets removed every time. To stay safe, keep a close eye on your website’s analytics, and ensure high levels of security.
Tracking your SEO performance
If you have come this far, you have learnt quite a lot about ranking high on Google, so pat yourself on the back. In this final section, we will use ahrefs’ rank tracker to monitor our website’s SEO progress, as we go.
Step #1 – Start a new project
Log in to your ahrefs account and set up a new project. A lot of the details are self-explanatory, so you can fill them out yourself. Here are a few things to remember:
- When choosing the protocol for your domain, chose http + https. This will ensure that all your rankings are picked up accurately.
2. When adding keywords, you can add a comma-separated list of keywords, or upload a .csv file containing all the keywords. You can also add a tag to group the keywords.
You can also scroll down to select keywords that your website is already ranking for.
3. Then, choose the location from which you want to track your keywords.
4. Next up, you will be asked to add competitors. Don’t skip this, because when specified, ahrefs generates an entire competitive analysis report. On the left, you will see a list of websites that are ranking well for the same keywords you want to optimize. Add competitors to the list and hit Next.
Step # 2 – The overview section
Once the project has been set up, it will take a few days for the relevant data to accumulate. Once it has, you can start examining the overview section.
The overview section is made up of three sub-sections: filters, expandable graphs, and raw ranking data.
Go through various graphs like visibility, average position, SERP features, and traffic and analyse how the data changes overtime.
You can filter by date, keyword category, and location among other things.
Step # 3 – Competitors
The competitor section has the same three sub-sections (filters, graphs, raw ranking data) as the overview section. Only in this section, you also see how you fare against your toughest competition.
Step # 4 – Metrics
All the important keyword metrics, aggregated in one place, form the metrics section. If you want a quick overview of all the metrics for the tracked keywords, just toggle to the metrics section.
Step # 5 – Grossing
The grossing section shows you the ups and downs in keyword positions, over defined time periods.
This was a brief overview. To learn more, use this detailed guide on ahrefs rank tracker tool.
This concludes our article series, aimed at empowering you to rank top of page for Google. We tried to make it as comprehensive as possible, without flooding you with too much information. We hope you found it helpful.