Off-Page SEO | How To Start Link Building [2021]

03/12/2021 12:00 AM by Seocatly in Off-page seo

Off-Page SEO:  A Definitive Guide To Link Building

Welcome to the realm of Off-Page SEO.  In this guide, we will cover:

1. Off-Page SEO and Link Building

2. Backlinks and Their Importance

3. DoFollow and NoFollow Links

4. The 6 Anchor Types

5. Backlink Quality

6. Link Building Methods

1. Off-Page SEO In A Nutshell

Off-page (off-site) SEO refers to any action you take off your website to improve its search engine ranking.  For instance, optimizing your website's social profiles, listing your site on an external directory, and forum posting about your website are considered off-page SEO.  

Although these are different strategies for off-site optimization, they are all variants of website link building.  Link building refers to actions that increase the number of links to a particular webpage on your website.  

2. What Is A Backlink and Why Is It Important?

If you're unfamiliar with what a backlink is, it is when an external website links to your website.

An example of a backlink

As shown in the image above, website B (our site) will have a backlink to website A (external website) if website A has an external link to website B.   Therefore, any mention (link) to your website will add to your site's number of backlinks.  

But why are backlinks important?

Backlinks have the ability to increase a website's credibility, relevancy, and link equity.  Anytime a high-authority external website refers (links) to your website, they are vouching to Google that your website is relevant and credible.  As a result, Google and other search engines will want to show your content to more people.

If you're unfamiliar with link equity, it is an SEO ranking factor that helps determine a website's value and authority.  Of course, link equity accounts for the number of backlinks a site has, as well as where those backlinks come from.  So the more backlinks your site has from authoritative websites, the higher your site's overall link equity will be.   

3. DoFollow and NoFollow Links

As mentioned in section 2, backlinks are great for increasing relevancy and improving link equity.  Because of this, we should address the difference between DoFollow Links and NoFollow Links.  

DoFollow Links are links that search engine crawlers determine as backlinks for sites the links point to.

  • HTML:  <a href="">Example</a>

NoFollow Links are links that search engines "ignore" when crawling a webpage.   

  • HTML:  <a href="" rel="nofollow">Example</a>

From an SEO standpoint, NoFollow Links do not pass SEO rank credit to the site they are linking to, while DoFollow Links do the exact opposite and are the ideal backlinks you want for your website as they help with link equity and page visibility. 

Although NoFollow Links sound non-beneficial, they do have their uses.  According to Google's announcement in 2019, the "nofollow" attribute is now treated as a "hint."  This means that NoFollow links now have the potential of improving off-page SEO.  

Aside from page rank, the first thing to mention about NoFollow Links is that they still help with website traffic as users can still follow these links.  They are also useful if you don't want to associate with a website that you link to or have backlinks from.  Some examples can include links left in the comment section by random users or links to forums and irrelevant content.

The best way to ensure that a particular backlink has the "nofollow" attribute is to reach out and ask the website in question to make your link a NoFollow link. 

To spot the difference between the two when visiting a webpage, you can use the SEOquake extension (compatible with Firefox, Chrome, and Opera) or Google Chrome's developer tools.  

Once the SEOquake extension is installed on your browser, you need to go to the options and check the "Highlight no follow" box (see image below).

SEOquake options and Highlight no follow checkbox


To open Google Chrome's developer tool, right-click anywhere on a page and click inspect.  For example, we'll go to a page on the food photography blog, Serious Eats, and inspect a link in the contents and the comment section.

DoFollow Link in the contents of Serious Eats

DoFollow Link shown in the Google's developer tool

By inspecting the link placed in the blog, we can see that it is a DoFollow Link as rel="nofollow" is absent within the anchor tag.  Next, we can inspect a link in the comment section.  

NoFollow Link located in the comment section of Serious Eats

NoFollow Link HTML for a link in the comment section of Serious Eats

Inspecting a link within the comment section shows that the anchor tag has rel="nofollow" (underlined in red), which indicates that this link is a NoFollow Link.  

4. The 6 Different Types Of Anchor Text

Before we start, it's important to mention that knowing the different types of anchor text is only useful if:

  • You can control how external websites mention (link) your website (similar to NoFollow Links)
  • You are linking to external sites while optimizing for on-page SEO

Either way, knowing the different anchor types is useful for your website's off-page SEO because search engines like Google factor in these anchor types when ranking your web page. 

What is an anchor text?

An anchor text is clickable text on a webpage that links to another URL.  For example, this is an anchor text that links to SEO tools on our homepage.  As you can see, an anchor text will appear as blue, underlined text and is used to direct users to another page on the web. 

anchor text comparison in HTML and on page

There are 6 types of anchor text that we can use or refer to when link building or linking to external pages from our site.  For each example, we will use

Brand anchor text is when we use the brand name.  Example:  Example

Pure URL anchors are the URL of the webpage.  Example:

Exact Match - referencing a target keyword.  Example:  Free SEO Tools

Partial Match - partially referencing a target keyword.  Example:  tools that can help your Google ranking

Image anchors are when an image is used as the clickable link.  

Miscellaneous anchors are when the clickable link is generic text.  Example:  Learn moreClick here 

What types of anchor text do you need or should you use for your website?

Ideally, the best practice is to do what's most natural.  If the anchor type naturally fits in the contents of your page, then that might be the best one to use at that moment.  When choosing an anchor type, it's important to account for over-optimization.  For example, using too many exact match anchors can result in keyword stuffing because they are usually filled with keywords. 

Search engines like Google see keyword stuffing as spam, so we suggest that you use all variations of anchor text.  Another solution is to use partial match anchors as they appear more natural and are not keyword-heavy.  You can also spread your keywords throughout a sentence to lower your keyword density.  

5. Determining Backlink Quality

An important thing to know is that not all backlinks are created equal.  This means that some backlinks to your website can have the opposite effect of what's intended.

But how?  Well, no matter the number of backlinks your website has, if they are all from spammy or untrusted external sites, then search engines will see this as a red flag and may penalize your site.  When optimizing for off-page SEO, you should consider doing a bit of research on websites you are trying to get backlinks from.  

So what makes up a good backlink?  Backlink quality can be summed up by:

1. Domain authority

As stated in previous sections, backlinks have the ability to pass on power and authority.  Higher authoritative websites will transfer more power and authority to any site they link to.  You can easily check a website's domain authority with Mozbar (Google Chrome extension).  We cover the Mozbar chrome extension in our article about keywords.  A good authority score to look out for is at least 20 or above. 

2. Keyword ranking amount

If a website is already ranking for a large number of keywords, then that site is SEO friendly and has a good relationship with Google (or other search engines).  Getting these types of sites to link to your website will be a huge help in your SEO campaign.  

3. Organic traffic

Website traffic is always a good sign, but organic traffic is always a more stable number to look for as it determines the SEO status of a website.  Similar to keyword ranking amount, the amount of organic visitors to a website shows if it's in good standing with Google or not.  Also, traffic from other websites can potentially go to your website through backlinks.  

4. Referring Domain amount

To put it simply, the referring domain amount is the number of external websites that link to a common website.  Getting a backlink from a website that already has backlinks is great for link equity.  If your website (site A) is getting backlinks from a website (site B) that is also getting backlinks, then there is a good chance that all that power and authority coming from site B's backlinks will transfer to your website (site A).  If you're still confused, the image below might help. 

It's important to know that are no free methods we know of to access the referring domain amount.  If you're a beginner and do not have access to paid tools, it's okay to go based on the total number of backlinks a website has.  

example of link equity and how authority flows from website to website

Before we go into how you can determine a website's keyword ranking amount, organic traffic, and the number of backlinks, there is one more factor to consider.  That is the number of links that the website has.  Because quality backlinks will always help your website's off-page SEO, this factor isn't as important as the ones listed above. 

The higher the number of DoFollow links a webpage has, the more diluted the SEO boost will be between all of the external sites it links to.  For example, if your website has a backlink from a webpage with 15 different DoFollow links (including yours), the power you get from that link will thin out between the other 14 links.  This is just something to keep in mind if you want to increase your off-page SEO even further.  

Aside from the referring domain amount, there is a free tool that can provide the data we need for determining backlink quality.  Ubersuggest is a keyword research tool that allows all users to do 3 free searches daily.  With a simple domain search, the app will provide that website's organic keywords, organic traffic, domain authority, and backlinks.  The below image shows a search example for Serious Eats.  

example search results from Ubersuggest

If you're considering heavily investing in an SEO tool that does the same job and more (such as providing the referring domain amount), we recommend you to check out Semrush or Ahrefs.  Of course, this is up to your needs and budget.  

If you're a beginner and your budget is low, free tools are always the best tools.  Once your website traffic is decent, you should consider investing in quality tools like Semrush (7-day free trial)and Ahrefs, as these tools can help with scaling.  

6. Link Building Tactics

Now is the time that we get into the actual link-building methods.  These methods involve building for both NoFollow and DoFollow backlinks as both types can improve our website traffic.

It's important to consider backlink quality when choosing which website you want your backlink from.

6.1 Building DoFollow Backlinks

Broken Links & Resource Page Link Building

Broken link building consists of:

  1. Finding webpages relevant to your niche
  2. Checking for any broken links placed in the contents
  3. Reaching out to the owner of the website, notifying them about the broken links
  4. Offering similar content from your webpage that they can link to instead

Most of the time, website owners are inclined to link to your website as it is convenient for them to do so.  This method not only helps fellow website owners but helps build backlinks to your website.

Of course, finding web pages specifically for broken links can be tedious.  Luckily for us, resource pages exist.  

If you're unfamiliar with resource pages, they are simply web pages that list helpful links on a particular niche.  For example, a resource page about SEO would have a list of links pointing to different SEO tools and articles.

Resource page link building consists of:

  1. Finding resource pages relevant to your niche
  2. Reaching out to the owner, sharing your content
  3. Asking for a link to your content

To find resource pages, you can input various search strings into search engines:

  • keyword + inurl:links            
  • keyword + intitle:links
  • keyword + "helpful resources."
  • keyword + "useful resources"
  • keyword + "useful links"

Using the keyword "dog toys," for example, our search string (inurl: links) would look like this:  dog toys + inurl: links. 

From here, it's just a matter of reaching out to the owner of the resource page or the page that has a broken link.

Guest Posting

Guest posting consists of:

  1. Finding webpages relevant to your niche that allow guest posting
  2. Reaching out to the owner of the website regarding a guest post
  3. Add a backlink to your website in your guest post

To find a website that allows guest posting, you can use the search string:

  • keyword + "submit a guest post."
  • niche + "submit a guest post."

Using the keyword "yoga pose," for example, our search string would look like this:  yoga pose + "submit a guest post."

Some websites have a guest posting submit form ready for use, but you can send an email if the website does not have one.  

Skyscraper Link Building

Skyscraper link building consists of:

  1. Finding websites/webpages relevant to your niche
  2. Checking what websites they are already linking to
  3. Writing content similar to those other websites, but making it superior
  4. Reaching out to the owner, asking if you can get a link as well

Finding good websites to use this method on is quite simple as all you have to do is input a popular keyword related to your niche. 

For example, broad or short-tail keywords are more likely to have higher search volumes, so they are good keywords to search when choosing a website for skyscraper link building.

If you're unfamiliar with short-tail keywords, they are keywords that consist of 3 or fewer words.  For more information, you can read our article about keywords.  

6.2 Building NoFollow Backlinks

Optimizing Social Media Profiles

Building links through your social media profiles is fairly straightforward.  The first step for this method would be to create a profile for your website on popular social media profiles.  The first ones that come to mind are:

  • YouTube
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Tumblr
  • Pinterest
  • Quora
  • Reddit
  • Medium

Optimizing your social media profiles is quite powerful as it can help with content sharing.  The first step is to place your website link in your profile description or bio.  Followed up by sharing your content or creating new content for that particular platform.  

Q & A Forums

This method is simply answering questions from forums.  There are 3 simple steps to this method:

  1. Find a forum or forum topic related to your niche
  2. Be as helpful as possible when answering a question or discussing
  3. Add a link to your website when appropriate

It's important to be as natural as possible when recommending your link to anyone through a forum.  Of course, this is dependant on the forum guidelines.  It's always a good idea to build a reputation on the forums you discuss or answer on.  Doing so will allow regular users to trust anything you post. 

Blog Comments

As shown in section 3, links in the comment section of blogs are NoFollow Links.  But why do blog commenters do this?  Well, they do this to build links to their website.  Although there a simple steps to this method, it's important that you know the appropriate approach.

The first step is to find a blog relevant to your niche that also allows commenting.

It's important that you fully read the article and comment with a proper response.  For example, you can share your opinion on the article.  When adding in your link, it's important that you choose an appropriate anchor type and that your sentence with your link appears as natural as possible.  

Most blogs have comment moderators who will trash any comment that appears like spam.  So it's in your best interest to comment on something relevant to the article.  


Off-page SEO is essentially about building backlinks from websites in good standing with Google and other search engines.  Compared to on-page SEO, optimizing off-site may be outside of your comfort zone.  However, both ends of the spectrum (off-page & on-page) are necessary to be at the number 1 spot of Google and other search engines.  

With that being said, we hope this information helps with your success and keep up the hard work.  

For more information about on-site optimization, you can check it out here