Almost every strategy under the SEO umbrella can be categorized as “onsite” or “offsite.” Onsite refers to all the site structuring, basic setup, and ongoing work you do on your domain, while offsite refers to anything that happens away from that domain. Strategies like guest posting, link building, and social media marketing all fall into the offsite category, and are critical if you want to rank for any cluster of keywords.
Depending on the size of your site and on how many people have access to it, odds are your onsite structure and content aren’t going to change frequently. Occasionally, you should run an onsite audit to ensure no new pages have gone untitled or no duplicate pages have been indexed, but unless there’s a serious performance issue with your site, it’s unlikely that an onsite hiccup can cause your rankings to fall. If you see unexpected volatility and your onsite SEO is in order, the only reasonable possibility is that something has gone wrong offsite.
There are five common offsite SEO hiccups that can interfere with your rankings, but fortunately, all of them have relatively easy fixes:
If you’re experienced in SEO, you know the deal; offsite links are necessary for building authority and building on low-quality sources is easy, but can actively damage your reputation depending on the source. A rogue link pointing to your domain on a scam site or a virtually unknown publisher could drive your domain authority down and prevent you free gaining any positive momentum.
There are a few ways links like these could pop up. They could be remnants from an older strategy, or links you forgot you built. They could be links built by someone else on your team without your knowledge. They might have even been built without your company’s consent. In any case, you can find them using a link search tool like Moz’s Open Site Explorer, and usually get them taken down with a simple request to the webmaster in question.
Just because your link is on a medium- to high-authority source doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods. Google’s Penguin update detects the natural or unnatural presence of links, and can penalize those that appear to have been built for the sole purpose of manipulating rank. For example, if your link appears randomly in an online forum thread about a topic completely unrelated to your industry, it could register as spam. If your link is embedded in keyword-dense anchor text with no legitimate purpose, it could register as spam.
These links are a little harder to detect, so you’ll have to be dutiful in your scan. Again, a search tool is useful here, but you’ll have to dig a little deeper and use your best judgment if you want to estimate the perceived “naturalness” of the link in question.
You might have posted heavily on your first guest posting opportunity, rather than seeking out newer sources. You might have two separate sites and link between them to boost each other’s rankings. Whatever the case, if you have too many links pointing to your site from one source, it can make Google think you’re trying to game the system. You can use a search tool to evaluate this, but chances are, you won’t need one. If you’re engaging in a link exchange like this, even an innocent one, you’ll need to supplement it with other outside sources and more nofollow links.
This is a specific problem for local SEO, but no matter what your goals are, it’s worth fixing. Your NAP information refers to your company’s name, address, and phone number—the information Google thinks is most important to searchers. If this information exists on third party directories and review sites, but is inconsistent with the NAP info you have on your site, you could miss out on achieving a local rank. Work with these directories to ensure that all your information is accurate, complete, and up-to-date, and reach out to new directories to prevent the problem from recurring.
This one comes with a clarification—few actions on social media directly influence your domain authority or rank. However, Google does index social media content, and your presence on these external profiles could give it more accurate information to index on your company (especially for queries with rich answers). Similarly, neglecting to include social media icons on your site stifles users’ abilities to share your content, restricting the social signals your company can earn and reducing your potential reach. To prevent this, claim all your major social media profiles, fill out your information completely, and make it easy for users to share your onsite content.
When you see your rankings shift, don’t panic. It’s something that happens even to the best and most experienced search marketers of the world. The key is to track down the source of the problem quickly and resolve the issue with surgical precision. Even if you don’t see volatility in your rankings, it’s a good idea to occasionally check your link profile, local citations, and social media profile statuses, as it’s easy to overlook common issues or slip up and inadvertently damage your own reputation. Still, if you work quickly and remain vigilant, there’s no reason these small offsite hiccups should be anything more than a minor, temporary inconvenience.