In our last post, we looked at how to measure the true performance of your content, both on-site and off-site, through the tracking of engagement. Today, we want to discuss how to improve the discoverability of your off-site content in search, so it can be found in the first place.
When marketers think of SEO, their initial thoughts probably revolve around on-site content and their website in general. While every organization is aware of life beyond their own site, they may not always be thinking about how to best optimize their digital presence in those spaces.
Let’s start with a very obvious question for anyone who is new to the game or perhaps knows it under a different name. What is off-site content? The quick answer is any content you own, control or have earned which is not published or living on your existing website.
Off-site content can take a number of different forms. It could exist on a property you own, such as an off-site blog or on social media accounts. It could be content you’ve initiated but do not own, such as content created via influencers, press releases distributed through third-party sites or client case studies published on client websites. Lastly, off-site content can also include content you did not initiate and don’t own, such as third-party reviews.
The first reason you should care about off-site content is Google’s stated goal of diversifying search results so as not to include content from the same domain on Page One. With this in mind, brands can only benefit from owning or earning optimized content on other authoritative domains, thereby increasing their chances of being discovered in the top search results.
Off-site content can also help to build brand awareness with new audiences. When done with a proper distribution strategy in mind, these audiences can be developed in alignment with your desired target market.
Several digital marketing studies point to the new reality of the customer journey, 60 to 90 percent of which occurs outside of your brand’s website. Consumers are relying on review sites, social networks and influencers to inform their buying decisions. So you need to ensure your brand is visible in these places, via organic search or otherwise.
Off-site content can also improve the authority of your on-site content by increasing content frequency and reach. Lastly, off-site content can be an excellent source of referral traffic and authoritative backlinks.
Optimizing the content living outside of your website is not always easy to do. You don’t necessarily have full control, or you may have limited opportunity, such as with the character count on social media. However, where you can, remember to think ahead about the audience who will potentially be engaging with this content and which keywords would most appeal to them. If you use a persona-based strategy, be sure to optimize content based on who you believe will be reading it and engaging with it in each specific channel.
You can use much of your existing keyword research for your digital marketing strategy and apply it as suited to off-site content. You may also want to do some additional keyword research specifically for each channel, such as determining popular hashtags in to include in your Twitter posts.
Social media posts are increasingly showing up in Google SERPs, as well as those of other search engines, so optimizing them has become vitally important. You ideally want to try to optimize them just as you would any blog post or page on your website.
That being said, many social users have adapted to the online behavior of searching directly within the native platforms. Therefore, you will also want to optimize your content to be found within the search feature of each social network. For instance, YouTube and Pinterest are as much, if not more, search engines than they are social networks. Content in each should be titled, described and tagged with appropriate keywords and hashtags to ensure maximum discoverability.
Let’s be clear: you can’t tell influencers what to write. Many organizations try, but that only stands to dilute the sincerity of the content and true strength of the message. However, you can give influencers an outline, bullets and key talking points and highlight certain high-volume keywords you would like them to use. You can also provide them images with optimized file names and, of course, trackable links to the content you are wanting them to help promote and build authority for. The aim, naturally, should be to have them produce authoritative content that will rank in its own right.
Treat your influencers like an extension of your marketing team. The majority of influencers are very professional and are open to working with brands to get the most life out of the content for everyone involved.
Be sure to track all ranking content relevant to your brand. This includes any of the content you own, both on-site or offsite, as well as the stuff you don’t own. Any URLs containing content about your organization should be on your radar for how they are performing in search.
Don’t be afraid of off-site content ranking greater than your on-site pages. Some companies view any outranking content as competitive, but in reality, you’re only competing against yourself. Those pages and posts simply drive a different customer journey and strengthen your brand image and awareness in the process.
When combining the performance of off-site content with the corresponding landing pages of your site, try using conversion path metrics to understand further opportunities for off-site optimization along the way.
As mentioned in our previous post, smart URLs (unique links containing additional data for tracking purposes) can help provide in-depth insights into engagement with your off-site content. By tracking this content in search and using smart URLs within the content and in distribution, you can gain full insight into not only which content is ranking, but also which content is driving interaction with your audience.
Learn more about using smart URLs for your off-site content, as well as deeper detail around the off-site challenges facing marketers today — download a copy of our guide, Mastering Smart URLs.