Off-page SEO refers to actions taken outside of your own website to improve your ranking on search engine ranking pages (SERP).
The predominant factor that impacts off-page SEO is high-quality backlinks to your website. Backlinks are clickable links that point to your website’s pages, posts or root domains from other websites. From your site’s perspective, they are known as “inbound links” as they are coming into your site.
The best way to understand backlinks, or high-quality backlinks, is to think of them as online word of mouth. When you have many backlinks pointing to your website, it tells search engines like Google that your website is important. As a result, your site will rank higher in search engine results.
While the goal is to increase the number of backlinks to your site, the quality of the backlinks is more important than the quantity. High-quality backlinks refer to links from sites with higher domain-authority ratings. Google measures domain authority with a measurement called PageRank.
In 1998, Google created a unit of measurement for a backlink’s authority called PageRank. PageRank is used to measure the page’s quality, where the page is ranked based on the score of 0 to 10, with 10/10 with the most “authoritative voice”.
So if your webpage receives a backlink with a PageRank score of 9/10 (PR9), you have a chance of getting your website rank higher. Getting a single P9 backlink is worth more than 100s of PR1 backlinks.
Domain Authority and Page Authority
Unfortunately, due to misuse of selling PR backlinks, PageRank has become a hidden ranking signal used by Google since 2006 to curb the misuse.
With this missing measurement, many professionals have turned to using Domain Authority and Page Authority. Created by Moz, the Domain Authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA) are based on 0 to 100, with 100/100 as the highest score.
As the names suggest, Page Authority measures the page’s authority while Domain Authority measures the authority of the domain name. So a website receiving a score of DA75/DA85 has a higher chance of ranking their websites than the another website receiving a score of DA12/PA15.
You can download the MozBar extension for your browser and check your website’s DA/PA score as well as the value of your backlink’s DA/PA score.
You can even check your competitor’s DA/PA score and gauge how much work is needed for you to outrank your competitor’s website.
Currently, the Page Authority and Domain Authority scores are the closest representation of Google’s original PageRank. Many professionals use the DA/PA scores to determine the strength of the backlinks and use these scores to plan their SEO strategies.
What Constitutes a High-Quality Backlink?
The most important factor in backlinks is the quality of the backlinks. As a guide, high-quality backlinks usually have a Domain Authority/ Page Authority score of at least 50.
Signals that can indicate a high-quality backlink include:
The Linking Site's Popularity
If the website is popular and has high organic traffic, its popularity can rub off onto your site. “Link juice” can be passed onto your site via a backlink and due to the natural high traffic, some of that traffic might also come your way via the backlink.
Relevance of Topic
The relevance of the topic and nature of the site is very important. A food blogger linking to a restaurant it is reviewing would be considered very relevant.
"Freshness" of the Link
The newer the backlink, the better is the quality.
Anchor Text Used
Anchor text refers to the words that are used to hyperlink to your website. For example, if a food blogger writes a review and links to the restaurant site with the words “click here”, the quality will not be as high as if the words “good pizza restaurant” were hyperlinked.
Trustworthiness of the Linking Site
If the website is known to be a trustworthy source (e.g., news website, educational website or government site), it will increase the quality of the backlink.
The Number of Other Links on The Linking Page
If the linking page has only five outbound links, it will pass more quality then a linking page with 100 outbound links.
Three Main Types of Links
To better under backlinks which are at the heart of off-page SEO, we must first be familiar with the different types of links.
There are three main types of links, and the quality of these links are rated based on how they are earned. The three types of links are natural, manually built or self-created links.
Natural links are links given by the website without any actions taken by the page owner. That means the website owner did not go to the targeted website to request or do anything to obtain the backlinks.
Most of the time, these backlinks are related to the website. For example, a food blogger might review a restaurant and link to the restaurant’s website. This can be a high-quality backlink, especially if the website linking has high domain rating
Google values natural links as it reflects the true intention of backlinks.
Manually Built Links
Manually built links are links that are obtained via intentional link-building activities. These links are usually built based on requests with a specific backlinking purpose.
Some examples include asking your customers to link to your website, guest posting or getting an influencer or key opinion leader to link to you.
In online marketing, self-created links are those that you create from content that you might create in third-party websites. Some ways of doing this include adding backlinks to online directories, commenting on socio-discussion sites like Reddit, forums, and blog commenting.
Google does not favour self-created links although sporadic links of these nature in relevant platforms and discussions are logical and not unnatural.
Which is the Best Type of Backlink?
From a search engine’s perspective, natural backlinks to your website are the best. They are natural organic referrals due to your site providing good content, a positive user experience or offering something of value that other sites do not.
That is also why websites that provide useful information like Wikipedia receive a lot of natural links due to their content. This is one of many reasons why good original content is so critical to a website in SEO.