The days when PR was a handshake and a well-placed logo on a celebrity are gone. Now that we are all slaves to the search engines that run our world (mostly kidding), our brands compete in a digital landscape that is constantly changing. Sometimes it feels like going into a sword fight blindfolded.
How do you outsmart your competitors on a battlefield that Google arbitrarily controls and slants when it sees fit? The answer is with a ninja.
Off-page SEO is the mercenary of the PR world: it’s stealthy, it’s quiet, and it’s powerful.
Whatever the reason you want to build your business’s authority on search engines—whether you’re a startup just entering the market, hitting a plateau in your SEO results, or you’re launching a new product—off-page SEO (think of it as digital PR) can get you seen. Even if you’re ranking on page one for key terms in the SERPs, link-building is a critical part of keeping you there. An off-page SEO campaign is one of the best tools to proactively drive both organic and referral traffic to your site, build domain authority, and meet your audience where they are living and engaging on the web, building brand awareness in the right places at the right time.
Digital PR is not easy, though. The landscape is always changing —it takes a lot of strategy and quite a bit of chutzpah to get your foot in the door anymore, let alone to acquire a precious back-link. And the search engines are watching—
When off-page SEO strategies are done wrong, penalties can cost your site dearly.
Here’s one ninja’s summary of what it takes to master off-page SEO:
The Three-Pronged Attack
While it is not necessary to engage in all three of these strategies, they are all powerful solutions for different reasons. Things to consider when deciding on your approach are: 1) manpower, 2) time investment (how soon do you want results), and 3) your company’s goals and needs (i.e., product launches, site rebuilds, overall authority growth, etc.)
- WHAT: This is the bread and butter of digital PR. Your off-page SEO strategist would write articles for media outlets and publications on tangential topics to your industry, and link to your site content as a resource in a contextually-relevant, keyword-rich article.
- WHY: This is a natural way of earning backlinks to your site (when it’s done right). Relevant, well-written articles that link to your site as a source boost your authority in your industry. When a relevant site with a high domain authority links to you some of their link equity is passed on to you, slowly increasing your site’s ability to rank in organic search.
- WHAT: Your off-page SEO strategist would promote your product or website launch to relevant media outlets and journalists across the globe, or just your backyard (depending on your goals), aiming for coverage of your site or product landing page.
- WHY: This can potentially drive a lot of traffic to your site in a short amount of time, and can quickly grab the attention of a wide audience, increasing your domain authority as media outlets link to your content.
- WHAT: This is a large-scale team effort. Your off-page SEO strategist creates data-driven or evergreen content (like a tool), the page is designed, copy is written, and is then published by a developer on your site. The off-page SEO strategist then promotes the piece of content as if it were a Digital PR play, promoting it to journalists and media outlets.
- WHY: Much like Digital PR, this tactic can result in referral traffic to your site in a short amount of time. Evergreen content (like a calculator or tool) can be outreached indefinitely, and builds your authority as a thought leader in your industry, providing useful content for your site visitors. These pieces are also highly shareable. Newsworthy, data-driven content is more commonly a one-off, meant to get the attention of media for coverage across several verticals at once. Both types of promotable content build authority and increase your site’s organic search traffic.
The Skills that Pay the Bills
Like any good ninja, there is a special set of traits that every good off-page SEO strategist has in her arsenal. She is…
A Natural Salesman. Your off-page SEO strategist has mastered the elevator speech. From promoting newsworthy content, to pitching tangential content linking to your company’s site to highly discerning editors, she’s convincing. Let’s just say she could sell a ketchup popsicle to a lady wearing white gloves.
Resilient. Your off-page SEO strategist is tough as nails. Digitally knocking on doors all day, getting rejected, failing, and picking up the pieces, going back to the drawing board, repurposing dry content and starting over again. Your ninja lets failure be her fuel for greatness.
Researcher. Your off-page SEO strategist does her homework. She’s researched your competitors, analyzed where they’re getting coverage, and gone after it herself. She’s found all the journalists that are covering your industry and has dug until she found every single one of their emails. She knows your site and knows how to pitch it. She is able to dive deep into data sets and create additional content that she can promote for you.
Persistent. Your off-page SEO strategist doesn’t give up. Ever. If someone mentions your company, she’ll pursue a link. If one editor turns her down, she finds another. She follows up religiously on every email she sends.
Well-written. Since the majority of your off-page SEO strategist’s communication is by email, your off-page SEO strategist must know how to craft the perfect email. She has mastered the subject line. Her grammar and her writing skills are top-notch. In the digital battle, the email, after all, is mightier than the sword.
The Battle She Must Face
Off-Page SEO is challenging—your strategist has her work cut out for her. These are just some of the issues she faces:
Burnout. Being rejected for a living is not easy. The wins make it worth it, and the resilience of the off-page SEO strategist is key. She needs to be able to get back on the horse over and over again, while continuing to be innovative and responsive.
Lack of Control (Beware the Link-Stripping Editor). Once a guest post, pitch, or email is in an editor’s hands, anything can happen. With skill and good link placement, most of her relevant, contextual links will remain. But if an editor wants to strip her link and replace it with another, or just cut it out during the editing process, there is little that can be done. That being said, any good off-page SEO strategist has been known to fight for a link—en guarde!
Lack of Linkworthy Content. Some websites are flat-out easier to link to than others. When content is thin, overly promotional (salesy), or doesn’t provide clear value and authority on your given subject, placing it in an article can be dicey. Editors simply don’t like linking to overtly promotional content. So if your website is thin on content, Content Strategy should come before any link-building efforts are pursued.
Time. Off-page SEO strategist is a major time investment. It usually takes an average of six to twelve weeks of hard work to see significant improvements in organic search traffic and keyword rankings, although with bigger, large-scale and consistent content promotion, your site can potentially see gains more quickly. As a rule, you should invest in off-page SEO campaigns for at least six months to a year to create the momentum necessary for success and to allow the links your off-page SEO strategist builds to positively impact your site. As a wise ninja might say: It is a slow, but a fruitful endeavor.
When You Should Consider Digital PR for Your Business, a Summary
Off-page SEO is a powerful marketing tool. Again, whether you’re a startup facing down well-known competitors, a veteran in the market who is starting to see a plateau in your SEO results, or somewhere in between, off-page SEO can take you further.
But it’s not easy. Be sure you have a team that:
- Has mastered the art of Digital PR
- Has the tools to be successful
- Has the time, energy, and resiliency to go to battle for your brand hard, every day.
A final caution: Google is always watching and when off-page SEO is done wrong, penalties can be costly.
Go into battle well armed, my friends.
-The Portent Off-Page SEO Team