Off Page SEO: The Complete Guide

If you have a fast-loading website with awesome content and it’s still not ranking, you ought to check on the off-page SEO.

Are you spending enough time on off-page optimisation? Or more importantly, are you performing off-page SEO techniques correctly?

While it’s true that content remains the fundamentals of SEO, off-page signals are crucial in a competitive industry.

Without a strong off-page strategy, you’ll find that it’s almost impossible to break into the top page of Google’s search result.

In this guide, we’ll go in-depth on what is off-page SEO all about, the strategies that it entails, and how to execute them correctly to benefit your website.

An Introduction to Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO involves SEO activities that are performed outside of a website. Often, off-page SEO is perceived to be synonymous with link-building and understandably so. Despite going through multiple algorithm upgrades, Google still depends on backlinks to determine the authoritativeness of a website.

Google’s link-analysis is made possible by the popular PageRank algorithm. While the patent for PageRank has expired, it is still used along with other algorithms to compare the importance of websites based on backlinks pointing to the site.

Ahrefs recently did a case study by acquiring 36 backlinks for an article, which saw it rise to the #1 spot for the search term “SEO stat”. It proves that backlinks remain one of the most important SEO ranking signals.

Off page SEO

Despite being a major ranking factor, off-page SEO isn’t just about link-building. Strategies like guest-blogging, PR marketing, social media engagement and brand building are some of the off-page techniques that are important in an SEO campaign.

Depending on your industry, you’ll want to invest in more than one of the strategies to create balanced off-page SEO signals to your website.

Focusing on backlinks alone and engaging in "black hat" techniques can be detrimental to SEO efforts.

Off-Page SEO: The three hat colours

You’ll often hear the terms white-hat, black-hat and grey-hat within the SEO community.

What do such terms mean? And more importantly, how does it affect your SEO results?

Black-hat SEO

Black-hat SEO refer to techniques executed to manipulate the underlying search algorithm of Google.

Like any program, Google’s search algorithm is not perfect and is improved over time. As such, there may be loopholes that could be manipulated by black-hat SEOs to their advantage.

Google has explicitly stated what link-building tactics that are deemed ‘black-hat’ in its guideline.

In recent years, Google has gotten wiser with its algorithm and has punished websites that are built on such devious techniques.

Here are some examples of off-page Black-Hat techniques that could land you Google penalties or worse.

  • Link Farms - Backlinks are placed on link farms, which are basically sites with low-quality content built to create backlinks.
  • PBN - PBN is a series of interconnected blogs, which are developed for link-placement. It’s considered a black-hat technique by Google.
  • Excessive link-exchanges - where you swap outbound links in huge numbers with other websites.
  • Automated link creation - There are software programs that could automatically generate a link at various places on the web and it’s against Google’s policy.
  • Paid link acquisition - Cash is, unfortunately, not king when it comes to link-building. If you’re paying for backlinks and caught by Google, your site will be penalized.

If you’re considering black-hat SEO strategies as shortcuts to ranking on Google, you’re taking a huge risk. While some black-hat tactics may slip through the cracks in Google’s algorithm now, it doesn’t mean that you’ll get scot-free forever.

Check out this article for black-hat SEO techniques to avoid at all cost.

Google continuously upgrades its algorithm to provide a better search experience. If you’re caught in its upgrades, it could mean undoing years of hard work and investment.

Grey-hat SEO

Grey is an overlap of black and white, and in SEO, grey-hat are practices that are not flouting Google’s policy and yet, aren’t aligned to Google’s vision of a search-friendly ecosystem.

In short, grey-hat doesn’t break the rules, nor does it add values to users.

Here are some common grey-hat strategies employed by some SEO marketers.

  • Directory submissions - Submit website’s URL to web directories that provide high-quality backlinks.
  • Create multiple social media accounts - Social media signals are probably ranking factors. This practice involved creating multiple social media accounts and engaging with your website.
  • Get links from Web 2.0 properties - Sites like Wikipedia, Quora and Medium are considered Web 2.0. Create content and answer questions on these sites to build backlinks.
  • Get positive reviews -  This is a common tactic used by businesses, where they give freebies to bloggers and influencers for a review. The review often comes with a backlink to the site.
  • Using expired domains - Some expired domains already have valuable backlinks. They can be turned into assets by building a site out of it and linking back to the primary domain.

The problem with grey-hat SEO strategies is that there aren’t proper guidelines and you’re relying on the experience of the SEO consultant to get them right.

When executed perfectly, grey-hat techniques could lead to better ranking. Yet, you can easily slip into black-hat areas if you’re not careful.

White-hat SEO

White-hat SEO is the safest approach as it’s strictly compliant to Google’s guideline and also commonly practised by SEO agencies in the present.

The fundamental of white-hat SEO lies in the principle of creating great content that helps users to achieve their purposes on Google.

Here are some legit white-hat SEO techniques that work:

  • Keyword research - A user’s search journey starts by keying in the search phrase. Therefore, you’ll need to identify and target keywords that your audience are searching.
  • Create great content - Without content, your SEO campaign isn’t going anywhere. Offer high-quality content that answers the user’s search intent and optimise it for the targeted keywords.
  • Mobile optimisation - Considering that mobile traffic has overtaken desktop in 2017, Google has shifted to mobile-first indexing. Ensuring your site is mobile-friendly is crucial to secure favourable ranking on Google.
  • Link-building - Backlinks are important, but they must be acquired via the promotion of high-quality content. The source of the backlinks matter. A link on an authoritative, relevant site that requires editorial review offers huge SEO value.
  • Focus on UX - User experience (UX) is highly-related with SEO. A fast-loading site, navigation-friendly menu and a good site architecture contribute to ranking boost.

We strongly recommend using white-hat SEO to eliminate the risk of Google penalties. When you’re applying white-hat SEO, you’re building the site for the sake of users. Naturally, it will lead to better engagement, conversion and revenue for your business.

Google Updates over the years

There are good reasons for sticking with white-hat SEO with how Google has been releasing one update over another each year.

Some notable updates have wiped off sites that are utilising black hat techniques while rewarding those built using legit strategies.

These are the major Google algorithm updates that have shaken the web.

  • Panda update - The Panda update released in 2011 is meant to target sites that publish thin or low-quality content. Content farms, which publishes copied or spun articles, are demoted as they do not add value to users.
  • Penguin update - Google clamped down on link-buying and other dubious link building schemes with the Penguin update in 2012. Sites that turn to black-hat SEO to build links are greatly penalized with some deindexed from the search engine.
  • Hummingbird update - This update which happened in 2013, is a major overhaul of Google’s core algorithm. It enables Google to understand search intent beyond the individual keywords and return more relevant results.
  • Medic update - Health-related websites went through a tumultuous period when Google released the Medic update in 2018. Sites that offer low-quality content suffered while health sites that thoroughly answered the search intent are promoted in the update.

How To Do Off-Page SEO the right way

Now that we’ve got a good idea of what off-page SEO is all about and how it’s pivotal in ranking on Google, let’s explore the various techniques that work.

Use white-hat SEO only

Regardless of how tempting a technique could be, it is important that you’re sticking with white-hat SEO techniques only.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve come across a specific way of ranking quickly on Google. If it’s black-hat or grey-hat, your efforts could backfire and cause more harm than good.

There are often cases of how business owners spent months recovering from Google penalties just because they can’t resist the temptation of black-hat SEO.

Whether it’s off-page, on-page or technical SEO, stick with white-hat practices, and you'll be safe from rude surprises of having your sites going off the chart.

Build backlinks using various methods

Until Google has found a way to evaluate websites without backlinks, they remain one of the most important ranking signals.

However, it is a best practice to diversify your backlinks or risk creating an unnatural link profile. For example, if you’re building links only from a handful of authority sites, it could be flagged as unnatural by Google.

The same applies if you’re exclusively gaining links from guest posts or you’re targeting only ‘do-follow’ links.

An effective link-building campaign is about creating a natural link profile. This involves link acquisition from various sources and techniques.

Here are a few popular ones.

Be a data source

Articles that showcase statistics are highly popular amongst websites and blogs. Such articles tend to be shared around and are often cited in content.

Check out this article by Hubspot that ranks for ‘marketing statistics’. It has garnered 62,806 backlinks at the moment of writing.

 off page seo data source

Stats-based articles are also easy to create. You’ll need to scrape the website for statistics and compile the largest collection available on the web.

Present the statistics in easy to understand format. Hubspot categorises the type of statistics and uses short sentences for explaining the numbers.

Creating stat based articles

If you offer the most comprehensive statistics compilation for a specific topic, it will eventually be found and cited.

You can be more aggressive in promoting the article with an email outreach, which brings us to the next technique.

Broken Content Building

Pieces of content are shifted continuously or deleted on the web, which gives rise to broken links. In a twist of the popular broken link building, Backlinko’s broken content building provides an efficient method of getting backlinks from broken links.

You’ll need the Ahrefs Content Explorer for this method. Use the tool to search for a specific topic, and filter out broken pages.

broken content building


From the result, you’ll have a list of pages that are broken but were possibly linked to from other websites.

It’s an opportunity to reach out to the linking sites with the broken link-building technique and offer your resource, which is not only active but also more detailed.

Again, you’ll need to use Ahrefs Site Explorer to search for websites linking to the broken page.

Ahrefs site explorer


From the list of websites, start an email outreach campaign where you mention how their sites are linking to a broken page. State that you’ve created a more comprehensive and relevant article.

Chances are, the webmasters will gladly link to yours.

Double Down On Long-Form Content

What is long-form content?

While there isn’t a precise definition, it is agreeable that long-form content is articles with more than 2,000 words.

There are many benefits in terms of SEO in creating long-form content. According to a study by Backlinko, long-form content gets 77.2% more backlinks than shorter articles.

Not only that, long-form content also tends to rank higher on Google, with the top 2 position averages beyond 2,450 words.

The problem is, it’s comparatively harder to create compared to short articles.

Here are some tips.

  1. Identify a topic that’s neither too broad nor narrow. Popular long-form content is usually in the form of definitive guides, tips and strategies.
  2. Create an outline for the content. When you’ve structured the content, fleshing it out becomes easier. It prevents overlapping and provides flow to the entire article.
  3. Use images and videos. It’s hard to retain the reader's attention over thousands of words. Use visuals to sustain their focus and to make your points clearer in other formats.
  4. Create compelling meta titles and descriptions. You want to capture user’s attention on Google and social media. Numbers, years and power words are a good combination in drawing user’s attention.

Strategic Guest Posting

This seasoned technique still works for SEO if done right. Strategic guest posting allows your content to be featured on websites that are authoritative and relevant in your industry.

The keyword here is ‘authoritative’ and ‘relevant’. First of all, you don’t want to guest post on a spammy site as it is sure to hurt SEO.

Secondly, publishing on a relevant site is important in establishing your site’s authoritativeness.

For example, if you’re running an interior design business, you don’t want to guest post on a pest-control website. Instead, you’ll want to submit guest posts to real-estate, renovation, home-improvement or similar sites.

While guest-post can lead to gaining backlinks, your attention should fall beyond that. The process is an opportunity to get your brands out to new sections of readers.

By creating a wide digital footprint of your brands, your site stands a chance of getting high ranking on Google for brand searches. Even if some of the brand mentions are unlinked, they could still improve SEO.

There is various evidence that suggests that unlinked brand mentions are as good as their linked counterparts in off-page SEO.

More often than not, webmasters allow a couple of self-directed ‘do-follow’ links on a guest post.

So, how do you find guest post opportunities?

The easiest way is to use Google and search for

  • “Write for us”
  • “Submit guest post”
  • "Guest post guidelines”

Guest posting

Sometimes, the website may not explicitly state that it accepts guest post submission. But if it publishes guest posts in the past, it may do so in the present.

All you’ll need to do is to send an email pitching your idea. To have a greater chance of having your article published, prioritise quality as if you’re publishing on your site.

Generate Brand Signals

For businesses, brand signals are often an overlooked part of off-page SEO. Brand signals tell Google that your business ‘exists’ within the digital world. Otherwise, your business is barely distinguishable from other generic blogs.

Try searching your business name or brand on Google. If it fails to show up on the top, you’re not doing enough to boost brand signals.

Here are some ways to work on brand signals.

Audit your branded searches

As a business, you’ll need to get the words out. The problem is, have the words gotten far enough in the digital community?

You’ll want to know if people are searching for your brand frequent enough on Google. You can do so easily by checking the impressions on queries from Google Search Console.

Audit brand searches


Invest In YouTube

If you’re looking to create strong brand signals, YouTube is one of the most important platforms to start with.

As of late 2019, there are  on YouTube, and each spends an average of 11 minutes watching videos.

Even within the local community, YouTube is still the best opportunity to get your brands to potential customers that are new to your brand.

And it wasn’t all about entertainment on YouTube. Users are watching more videos on product recommendations and informational guides than ever. That’s a positive sign for businesses to hop onto the YouTube wagon.

Create videos that align with your brand and connect with the users with helpful content. As the users become more aware of your brand, it will lead to more brand-related searches on Google.

Having an exclusive channel for your brand is also an indicator that you’re running a legit business.

Set Up Brand Tracking

It isn’t enough to have people talking about your brand on the internet. You’ll want to know if the conversations are positive or heading off in the wrong direction.

Positive conversations on your brand may result in Google recommending your website over competitors. However, that doesn’t mean negative reviews are totally bad.

You can turn complaints into your advantage by responding to the complaints. The key is being able to track and respond to them efficiently.

Hence, you’ll need to start tracking brand mentions, trends and get alerted with tools like BuzzSumo and SocialMention.

Publish Research-Backed Content

Rehashed content are everywhere; online websites are in need of refreshing, unique articles. It will be a brilliant move to published research-backed content.

Doing so provides an opportunity to market the content to blogs, marketers, and other stakeholders in the industry while creating brand awareness.

Well researched content will attract natural backlinks and positions your business as the leading voice in the industry.

Improve E-A-T

E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. The subject is widely covered in Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guideline.

Suspicions of Google using E-A-T as part of its algorithm is confirmed in various documents. In a March Update to its Webmaster blog, Google confirms that it is building its search algorithm towards how an individual would assess web pages from the E-A-T perspective.

Off page SEO EAT

According to its guideline, webpages are evaluated based on expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness of its author and content. E-A-T greatly affects websites that deal with YMYL (Your Money Your Life) content.

For example, if you’re reading a medical site, you’ll be sceptical of the advice written by someone without professional medical certification. Blogs that cover financial topics written by bloggers without professional certification can be misleading.

Google uses E-A-T to protect users from disinformation and rewards sites that seemed to have the right E-A-T signals.

Unfortunately, Google’s algorithm isn’t perfect, and there are chances that you have trustworthy content on your site but fail to rank because you lack on the E-A-T factors.

Here is what you could do to improve the E-A-T of your site.

Expertise (E)

Expertise is demonstrated by the content published on your site. Are the articles of the highest quality, in-depth and satisfy the search intent of the users?

It has to be a resounding yes to differentiate your content from other mediocre ones on the web.

Not only it has to be professionally-written, but you’ll need to make the fact obvious for the users. This means having an author-byline and offering reasons why you’re qualified to offer opinions on the topics.

Include links to your LinkedIn profiles and other professional publications to increase the expertise factor of the site.

Authoritativeness (A)

Google measures authoritativeness by evaluating backlinks to a site. This is explicitly mentioned in Google’s WhitePaper on countering disinformation on the internet.

EAT google

For a business, getting brand mentions on authority sites is a sure way of increasing its authoritativeness.

Both linked and unlinked mentions play a role in boosting the ‘A’ in the E-A-T.

Trustworthiness (T)

Google is concerned about the safety of its users, therefore, it strives to return results of pages that are deemed trustworthy.

For businesses, trust is the reason why customers return to repeat purchases. It’s also how Google decides to send more traffic to a site.

So, how do you demonstrate trustworthiness to Google?

The answer lies in getting positive reviews for your business. Whether it’s on Google, Facebook, Yelp or on your site, the accumulated positive reviews increase the trustworthiness of your site.

Trustworthiness Google

Make it a point to encourage happy customers to leave online reviews for your business.

For local businesses: Work with your GMB

GMB or Google My Business is a free business listing service provided by Google. It enables business owners to register their business, create product offers, receive reviews and share updates on the directory.

If you’re running a local business in Singapore, you ought to sign up and optimise your GMB account if you haven’t already.

Businesses that with verified GMB stand the chance of appearing on the top 3 results of the local map pack.

Google my business

There are huge benefits of having an optimised GMB account, particularly when it involves local SEO.

GMB listing appears on top of the search result before the #1 of organic ranking. Optimised businesses that appear on the local pack will get a massive portion of search traffic.

Local users searching for products and services tend to visit one of the businesses listed on Google local pack.

Therefore, it’s important to secure your GMB account. However, to rank in the top 3 spots, you’ll need to optimise the GMB listing.

Here’s how to do so.

  • Fill up your business information on GMB as detailed as possible. This includes the description, opening hours, address, and contact details.
  • Google allows business owners to publish posts with the GMB app. Use it to publish information that is valuable for the users. Use relevant keywords on the content but do not be excessive.
  • Geo-tag and upload related photos to your GMB account. Ensure that the profile and cover photo are published.
  • Ask for reviews on your GMB account and respond to each of them. The effort you put in will contribute to your site’s rise in the local pack ranking.


Among the off-page strategies mentioned in this guide, link-building is by far the trickiest one. Get it right, and you’ll have a boost in ranking. Yet, it is easy for business owner unexperienced in SEO to mess up the process.

Before you build backlinks to your site, it is crucial to vet every website you’re trying to link from. Some are obvious spam sites, but others could be PBN disguised as normal blogs. It will be disastrous if you’re getting links in numbers from such sites.

With the burden of running a business, you don’t need such mishaps for your site. Instead, you can engage professional SEO agencies like Heroes Of Digital to tackle the tough part of off-page SEO.

Our team has years of experience in link-building with results to show. What’s more important is that we strictly abide by Google's policy and only use white-hat link building techniques.

Contact us today to learn more about getting off-page SEO done for your business!

Xavier Tan
Xavier is the Co-Founder of Heroes of Digital. He started social media marketing and SEM long before it became popular in Singapore. His passion is in helping businesses grow through effective lead generation. He has overseen campaigns for Amara Hotel, NTU, Marina Bay, L'Oreal, and 100+ SMEs.
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