Creating the Right Offsite Signals for Maximum Ranking Impact

link signals
Link building is never easy and is probably the most frustrating task an SEO has to undertake. There are many different tools and techniques designed to help you be a more effective link builder, however if you use them without a plan or in isolation of each other you’ll soon find that it just doesn’t work.

Whenever you start a link building campaign you have to seriously consider the signals you are presenting to Google, including velocity, anchor text, sources and content. What kind of link patterns would you associate with a natural profile? How would these links be developed and where would they come from?

It doesn’t take a genius, just some logical thought and application. Think about it, when an online source suddenly gains a lot of links, how does this normally happen? You can bet Google are thinking about what these signals might be and how they can develop their algorithm to benefit websites that display such signals.

I am not endorsing the ‘build it and they will come’ mentality, I am simply encouraging some thought around the ‘natural’ offsite signals that might occur when something does go viral and/or acquire a lot of strong quality links in a reasonable amount of time.

This post is slightly linked to one I wrote on YOUmoz (not yet published) which considers the amount of budget wasted on isolated link building techniques.

The Viral Content Myth

At Branded3 we spend a lot of time trying to understand what offsite signals give us the biggest impact, it’s not always easy, but one thing I constantly have an issue with is ‘viral’ content. What is it? Why does certain content just work?

With not far off a decade in the SEO industry I have come to some conclusions regarding viral content, and that is:

The success of viral or link worthy content is more dependent on the publisher, than the true quality or appeal of the content

I believe many work under the false assumption that if they create something really awesome everyone will come along and link to it. The truth is unless you get the right sources to talk about it, it is never going to get the links it deserves.

It’s all about trust, think about it…. If you see a tweet/stumble/Facebook share linking to what seems like an interesting title, are you more likely to share it if the source is a trusted one? My guess is that you would.

I see it all the time on this blog and others that I read, some of my poorest content does better than much better articles simply because the right person has got hold of it and shared it with their community. There is some great content on SEOmoz, however the author of the article will often be the determining factor of how well liked or linked to it is. The more popular the author is the more popular the content, regardless of the actual quality.

The bottom line is trust matters, and if you don’t have it then you need to find someone who does and reach out to them. It’s time consuming, disheartening and difficult to master, but it is an absolute necessity.

Knowing this will change the way you link build, it will change the way you execute your viral efforts.

So how do we apply this? I want to run through a typical link building process we use to develop what we believe are the best possible offsite signals.

Creating the Right Signals

Let’s first take a look at a process chart I put together, then I’ll take you through each step and the reasoning behind them.

link process chart

This process is set up to create the signals Google pick up on if you were to create a viral piece of content on your site, and/or that same content was referenced by an authoritative source somewhere else on the web.

Social/Content Idea

We have already established one of the determining factors of well linked to content is the source or publisher, however the content that you create still needs to be of interest to your audience whether it’s an interesting statistic, infographic or contention opinion.

You need to decide not only what type of content will be successful through social channels, but what type of content is going to attract links. Sure social sharing is fast becoming an important signal but if you want the maximum impact on your rankings it has to appeal to the linkerati not just those who share on Twitter and Facebook.

That’s why infographics are so popular because they are republished all over the web, with a link 🙂 Bingo

Sourcing the Publisher

I must stress at this point, if you are fortunate enough to be the authority, the voice that everyone listens to and links to, then you don’t have to worry about this step, whatever content you decide to go with can go on your own domain.

However, the majority of us aren’t fortunate enough to be the authority, or we have a business that is never going to be conceived as commercially unbiased. So for the majority we have to highlight the authority sources in our industry and reach out to them. If your industry is particularly niche, then look to local and national newspapers and reach out to journalists that write in relevant columns.

If you’re persistent there is always a way to find these authority sources, maybe you won’t be in a strong enough position to reach for the top sources, so start with some mid-level players and work your way up. If you have an adequately sized budget money always talks.

Getting the Content Live

The next few steps can be rolled up into one, and let’s face it, there’s not much to discuss around getting your content live, however there are a few tips I’d like you to consider:

1 – Agree on the content beforehand with the publisher, this will save you a lot of time rewriting and amending

2 – Use a quote from your company somewhere in the article if possible, others will no doubt write and refer back to the publisher, you want a reason for them to link back to you too

Once the content has gone live you need to seamlessly move into the next few phases.

Leverage Relationships

Any SEO or Link Builder should be continually developing relationships within the blogsphere and reaching out to bloggers of all sizes within the industry they are working in. When your content goes live on the ‘authority’ source you can then leverage these relationships to develop guaranteed discussion and links.

Either re write the story, or ask the blogger to write and comment on the source from their own perspective, obviously attributing the links in a way most beneficial to your cause.

It’s important that these posts go live within days of the main resource going live, freshness is key to getting the maximum benefit.

If you’re struggling for bloggers to help you try BLU.


Now I know there are mixed feelings about this in the SEO community, however I personally believe creating ‘noise’ links through press releases and syndication can be beneficial as part of the complete strategy.

Whenever you get a link on a ‘top’ resource, that article will go on to be scraped, hundreds if not thousands of times. It will also be re-reported all over the web on websites differing in terms of quality.

Google knows this, don’t you think they will consider it when weighing up offsite signals? I do, in fact I have seen much better results from using this as part of the strategy.

How do I use it? Re write articles around the subject matter, link back to the main resource as well as the target page on your website and spread the content around the web using press/article distribution. Use differing anchor text in each article, you’re not trying to Google bomb your site, just helping to recreate what happens when something naturally gets spread around the web.

Creating Social Signals

We all know that the social graph is growing in strength in terms of its impact on rankings, nowhere near as strong as the link graph but we know it’s a factor none the less.

Just like with bloggers you need to be continually reaching out to people via social media, constantly expanding your circle of influence. Then when your grand link building plan goes live you can send it their way and hopefully rely on some very influential shares.

Due to the viral nature of some of this strategy it is important to monitor your Google alerts, and contact any sites that have failed to give you a link. I am of the opinion that once content has been crawled new links put in it don’t count half as much, however I still think it is worth the effort to drop a short email to all those who fail to add a link, especially if they are a potential source of traffic.

There are three key points I’d like people to get from this post:

1) Creating link worthy content is as much about the publisher as it is the quality of content, trust is everything

2) Don’t use link building techniques in isolation, one strategy alone is never going to give you the results you want

3) Try and make all this happen in the space of a week, it has to resemble links and content that have a viral nature

Oh and when my YOUmoz post finally does go live, please head over there and give it a thumbs up 🙂 There are some pretty interesting stats in there.

As always I’d love to hear your thoughts and any strategies that you find work.


Tim Grice is the CEO of Branded3, a search marketing agency in the UK. Tim has over a decade of experience in search and regularly speaks at key events and conferences.

Latest posts by Tim (see all)

10 Replies to “Creating the Right Offsite Signals for Maximum Ranking Impact”

  1. II can’t read the whole right side of your post because your stupid share buttons block the left side and continue down when you scroll down. For an SEO who supposedly knows what he is talking about, I am surprised you make such a basic mistake with your blog. If I can’t read your posts, why would I come back?

  2. Hi Jim,

    You must be having a bad day, gees.

    I have tested it in Safari, IE, Chrome and Mozilla and the sociable plugin is displaying without any interference. However, if you’re using an old version of Firefox this could be causing issues as it is incompatible with a few WP plugins. You’re the only person that has ever had an issue, social buttons should be appearing down the left.

    Anyway, I have disabled the plugin for your viewing pleasure, chill out buddy.

  3. No not a spammer, I think the plugin has some issues in older versions of Firefox. Just a little OTT in terms of the reaction but no biggie.

  4. I could only imagine how Tim would be shocked to see such a reaction after a Good post like this… anyways I think all is well now with Jim

    Tim I would like to know that with the increasing interference of Social Signal as a Ranking Factor/Signal would it be a wise decision to try out service like “Synnd”.

    Another things is Yes Keyword variability is a factor now.. but how much variation would you suggest .. like 50% main anchor and 50% variation or something else..


  5. Hi Ishan,

    To be honest I’m not familiar with the service Synnd offers, however I would suggest that any generation of social signals needs to be manually achieved. I am guessing this tool automates tweeting, facebook shares etc…

    In terms of variation it’s a difficult one and can vary depending on the circumstances, I would a say a normal site with no penalties you want to be looking at 25% brand 25% brand + anchor 25% exact, then fill out the rest with tons of variation and noise type links.

  6. Excellent post. I absolutely agree that viral content is not just about the content, but about who you are set up to share it with and how well thought out your promotional process is. I think sometimes viral content is presented as succeeding by virtue of its pure marketing genius – which is rarely the case. You’re going to need to use at least half the imagination you put into the project into finding the right people to share your content with.

    Ian Lurie did a post on linkbait that I like as well for its honesty. There’s no recipe for 100% successful content, and even brilliant content has to be pushed.

  7. Thanks Robyn,

    We have done enough link bait now to understand that even the best ideas need to get to the right people before they effectively pull in new links. Some of the poorer ideas we have come up with have done better, simply because they appealed to a person with influence.

    I think the key is to tailor your content to a particular authority or community, try and understand the type of content they generally want to talk about and link to, step one in the viral process for sure.

    A post for another day I think 🙂

    Thanks for the share, I like Ian’s stuff, generally very informative and transparent.

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