4 Off-Page SEO Strategies to Drive Traffic to Your eCommerce Site

Ron Dodby Ron Dod

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Context is everything. Imagine a perfectly-cooked steak, but with no seasoning and no sides to complement it. It might have a lot going for it, but most people will choose an equally nicely-cooked steak that does come with the sides and seasoning. 

That lonely steak is how search engines see a site with good on-page SEO that hasn’t properly cultivated its off-page strategies—things like backlinks from other sites, an active social media presence and strong branding across different platforms. If on-page SEO is the science (or something close to it), off-page SEO is the art. Off-page strategies are how you cultivate a brand that people trust, enjoy hearing from and want to engage with on platforms that matter—which, in turn, helps your brand climb the SERP rankings. 

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Off-page SEO is less complex and intimidating than it might seem. In many ways, it’s about using the time-honored tactics of marketing and branding that most people are familiar with, applied to the wide and ever-evolving online world. With a little understanding of context and best practices, and some time to build up your presence organically and holistically, any business can cultivate off-page SEO that helps it climb the rankings. These four strategies make for great starting points. 

1. Step up your social media game. 

It’s 2019—we all know that social media is a huge component of the marketing toolbox, but the principle bears repeating here because it’s particularly critical for off-page SEO. One study found that of all the time that people spend online, 30 percent of it goes to social media. If your brand isn’t engaging with your customers on social media, someone else’s is, and you’re certainly not helping to drive traffic and climb SERP rankings by neglecting social platforms. 

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You usually don’t need elaborate strategies to build up some off-page SEO using social media, just some expertise on your chosen platforms and a willingness to pursue what works: 

  • Pick a platform that fits your vertical and your target demographics—Instagram for fashion and lifestyle brands, LinkedIn for B2B, Facebook for brands aimed at families and older people—and target that platform. 
  • Make sure your social media is well-monitored, and take the time to respond to consumers’ queries and concerns. A legitimate complaint posted on your Facebook page without a response is a bad look, but a complaint that gets a caring and empathetic response from your brand helps create authority and goodwill. 
  • Allow your team to get a little creative with your social media—for example, fun moments caught on Snapchat and Facebook Live can give your pages a human touch to which consumers respond. 
  • Cultivate relationships with influencers in your field who can help bring your brand into their social media orbit. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should drop big bucks on an influencer campaign right away, but it does mean that you should know who’s who and keep an eye out for advantageous partnerships
  • Make your social media content useful to your consumer base. Content like how-to videos and infographics is engaging to consumers in a way that simple advertising isn’t, and it’s a great way to build credibility and authority on the topics that are important to your customer base. 

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Of course, these are all the things most brands already want to be doing on social media, but the point is that they really do affect your SEO in ways you might not expect. An active and well-optimized social media presence has measurable results for SERP rankings. It both improves opportunities for link building and gives your page some extra juice with the algorithms. 

2. Build your backlinks the right way. 

Building a backlink presence is still important for SERP results, since search engines weight backlinks fairly heavily in how they appraise a page’s credibility. A wide variety of backlinks from around the Internet means that customers and other parties in your industry consider your brand to be an authority, and that’s exactly the kind of thing that Google wants to see.  

In general, there are three different types of backlinks:

  • Self-created links are just what they sound like: links to your pages that you insert directly into another page. This also includes the link farming and link exchange that were staples of old-school black hat SEO, but Google has been wise to these tricks for a long time, so it’s important to stay away from anything that smacks of them. But there are still some ethical ways to do it. Some popular ones include press releases and reputable online directories. 
  • Manually built links are links from sources you’ve reached out to as part of a coordinated strategy. If you’ve asked a blogger to link to your site or partnered with an influencer, you’re creating manually built links. Guest blogging is another time-honored way to manually build links, but its popularity has led Google to get tough with low-quality posts, so make sure that your guest posts include high-quality, relevant information if you choose this route. 

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  • Natural links are links you haven’t taken any direct action to create. In time, if you’ve put in the work to cultivate your authority in your vertical, influencers in your field will start linking to you without you reaching out to them. A brand’s ability to accumulate natural links often takes some time to develop momentum, but once you’ve got it, it’s a gift that keeps on giving. Creating quality blog posts that provide useful information is a great example of natural link building. Other sites can link to them as sources and you might pick up some social media shares along the way, too. 

A sustainable off-page SEO strategy will focus on creating high-quality manually built and natural links. But it’s also key to remember that Google doesn’t see all domains as equal in authority and value.

3. Be choosy in pursuing link building targets, and clear out bad links. 

Take time to research the link building targets you pursue. These sites should ideally have the same traits that you want yours to have—authoritative, information-rich and popular. Note that more authoritative domain suffixes like .org and .edu can provide you with a lot of bang for your buck, so try targeting those if you can find any that are a good fit. But above all, don’t force anything—Google will probably spot it. 

There are also a few instances in which you’ll want to actively remove sites that link to your page, as Google’s algorithms can ding you if you’ve got a lot of links from spammy, low-quality sites. Perform a link audit using one the many backlink analysis tools available and investigate which pages are linking to yours, paying special attention to: 

  • Sites from unrelated verticals with no reason to link to your content
  • Foreign language sites from countries in which you don’t do business
  • Obvious spam, link farming or malware sites

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If you find links on these types of sites, contact the webmasters and ask for the links to be removed. Failing that, you can always use Google’s Disavow tool (although you should be careful to follow the instructions correctly). 

4. Curate your Web presence based around what makes you unique. 

Whatever your “extra something” is, it’s going to be an important part of your off-page SEO tactics. Standing out from the crowd is a key part of off-page SEO because it helps your page get mentioned, linked to and remembered—and it’s easiest to stand out when your brand isn’t fighting for the same marketing lanes as everyone else. 

Ask yourself what your brand has that others may not, and if you’re working with an eCommerce SEO agency, engage them to help brainstorm on how to use the resources you already have: 

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  • Environmental and health credentials like organic and/or sustainability certifications
  • A unique origin story
  • A more narrow demographic target or an unusual crossover 
  • Unique product designs and features
  • Relationships with other well-known brands
  • Notable achievements or awards

Whether you’re doing off-page or on-page SEO, come back to these touchstones. They help consumers and influencers (and, by extension, search engines) develop knowledge of and trust in your brand. As a side note, if your brand doesn’t have enough recognizably unique features to build a Web presence strategy around, it could be a sign that your marketing needs a revamp. 

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Off-page SEO is a more organic type of SEO that requires building up your brand and reputation online through the use of best practices. For most companies, a great brand isn’t born overnight—it’s nurtured, developed and guided to maturity through thoughtful strategy. Take the same view of your off-page SEO and you’ll set your marketing on the right path. To wrap things up with yet another food metaphor, good off-page SEO is similar to a stew. It requires a complementary combination of many ingredients, and it can’t be rushed—but when it’s ready, the results can be delicious.

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