Off-site Search Engine Optimization

In our earlier posts we have reviewed how search engines work and the idea of the results as “elections”. Additionally we have discussed how on-site search engine optimization is the process by which you can through site updates and content creation, develop your website into a candidate that deserves to be elected. Off-site search engine optimization is the process of actively working to gain votes.

The Catch-22

The basis of the search engines model is that websites and webpages that deliver great content should/will naturally gain votes, as other website owners will find the content and then link back to it. This is what would be considered a “natural” link or vote. The more links a webpage has pointing to it, the more the search engines can trust that the content on the page should rank highly in the next election it runs (learn more about what the page will rank for here).

Unfortunately the problem that many website owners run into is a catch-22 where they are not being elected high enough in the search results to be seen, so no one can find their website, so no one is linking to their website, so their website isn’t being seen in the search results.

Off-site optimization is the process of working to acquire links by directly working with other website owners to develop links/votes back to your website. There are a myriad of ways to do this but one of the most important is understanding the difference between what is and isn’t allowed by search engines.

Black Hat vs White Hat

Off-site optimization makes sense, there is a catch-22 and sending out a tweet with a link to your website alerting the world that the website/content exists is the correct way to begin building links/votes back to it.

However, the “more links equals more votes” allows individuals to exploit the system, and potentially ballot stuff for websites, leveraging robots and spam attacks to build millions of links to websites and webpages that do not deserve them.

When creating the algorithms to rank websites, the search engine developers realized that there was the potential for individuals to game their systems, and as a result developed Terms and Conditions that they require websites to abide by in order to be considered in their election results. Websites that go against these terms and conditions are free to stay on the internet, but will not be considered in the elections they run and will not be seen in their search results. This is the equivalent to saying that if you are found guilty of ballot stuffing, or doing anything else that allowed you to be elected artificially, they reserve the right to remove you from future elections.

Black hat search engine optimization most typically applies to generating links in such a manner that violates the Terms and Conditions set forth by the search engines. 

White hat search engine optimization refers to building links within the guidelines.

Gray hat is another term used in the field which refers to building links in a way that may not directly violate the guidelines, but certainly goes against the spirit of them.

Developing Links/Votes

The best way to ensure that your website is developing links according to the guidelines set forth by the search engines is by focusing on developing a great website and content on it and then promoting that content. If you are trying to have your website rank for “best laundry service in norfolk county”, then develop a webpage that explains why it is the best laundry service in norfolk county. Once that has been completed, the next job is promoting it. You can promote it both through your existing social networks, as well as search for any independent website that may be talking about laundry service in norfolk county; reach out to the owners/writers of those website and present your case. If you have developed the best webpage for that term, the hope is that they will include your webpage when they write about it next, or update their existing content to include you.

If you have a local business work to include yourself in as many local events as you can, many of these events will have websites and they may mention you and include a link back to your website. However this is where you ned to begin to be careful; if you were to be a sponsor of a local 5k and the event’s website now includes a link to your website on it that is considered an approved White Hat link, however if you were to directly pay that website for a link it would be considered Black Hat and illegal. If you paid to sponsor the event, but only did so as you knew you would receive the link on their website you have entered Gray hat territory and with extended use potentially run the risk of these tactics being flagged and your website suffering a penalty.

If you are working with an Internet Marketing company on your search engine optimization it is extremely important for you to understand what tactics/techniques they are using in your off-site optimization to ensure that you are not risking the long term health of your website for short term gains.