Topics: Search Engine Optimization (Seo) Content Marketing

5 Critical Off-Page SEO Mistakes to Avoid (or, Do You Know What's Happening Behind Your Back?)

Picture of Chris Heiler Author: Chris Heiler

off-page seo mistakesThis is the second post in a two-part series outlining the most common mistakes we see green industry companies make related to search engine optimization (SEO) and their websites. In the first post we talked about the on-page SEO mistakes companies make. In this final post we'll cover the off-page mistakes green industry companies make.

As I mentioned in the previous post, you have complete control over the on-page elements on your website so mistakes can be easy to clean up. Fixing what has been done off site is much more difficult because many of your issues may be out of your control.

Have you worked with an SEO firm in the past? Or are you currently? If this is the case, many times the mistakes we're going to cover here were committed by the SEO company you've hired. You probably don't even know these things are happening. Yeah, awesome, right?

Let's dive into five of these common off-page SEO mistakes.

Off-Page SEO Mistake #1: Comment Spam

I should list all of the landscape-related companies who spam this blog with their comments. The reason I don't is because, unfortunately, the sad truth is that most of these companies are completely unaware that this is even happening. They hired some SEO firm who promised top rankings for $300/month and now has an army of cheap labor in India dropping comment spam on industry-related blogs.

Here's the problem with comment spam: It doesn't fricking work! Leaving comments on other blogs with a link back to your website does absolutely nothing for your rankings. All of these links in comments are considered "no follow" links, meaning the search engines pretty much ignore them and attribute them no value.

So why do these shady SEOs even bother doing this? My guess is that the SEO firm promised you a specific number of links each month and they are counting the "no follow" links left in comments in that total. All you see is a number (Awesome! We got 100 new inbound links last month!). Too bad they carry no value....

Off-Page SEO Mistake #2: Buying Links

There are companies that will actually "sell" you links back to your website. I'll be honest, I'm not 100% clear on how this works exactly. It's a shady tactic I've never wanted to learn much about.

A couple of things on this: First, Google and the other search engines are getting really good at sniffing out purchased links. That means you're buying links that carry no value. Second, the search engines put a tremendous amount of value on the authority and relevancy of the websites that are linking back to your site. When you buy links you don't know where those links are going to be placed. A website selling knock-off Rolex watches or Prada hand bags could be linking back to your site. There's zero value in that.

Off-Page SEO Mistake #3: Article Marketing

Article marketing used to be a go-to tactic for SEOs. Many will still use it even though it doesn't work. I'm referring to writing articles for sites like and the hundreds of other sites like them. The intent was to get an article placed on one of these high-traffic sites along with a link pointing back to your website. Sounds good, right? It used to be effective...until Google Panda slapped the hell out of these sites a couple years back.

Bottom line: Don't waste your time creating content for someone else's site when you could be creating original content for your own (Disclaimer: unless it is a locally-relevant or industry-relevant site).

Off-Page SEO Mistake #4: Directory Submissions

This mistake is similar to the others mentioned already. There are literally thousands of directories online where you can add your business details. You don't need to be (nor should you be) in all of these directories. Add your business to the directories that are:

  • Most popular. You know, people actually use them. I'm talking about the Yelps, Kudzus, MerchantCircles, etc. Grab a list of the most popular directories here. You could also use software like Yext to add your business to 40+ popular directories.
  • Locally-relevant. Are you a member of your local chamber of commerce or another local group or organization? By all means, if possible, make sure your business is listed on their website.
  • Industry-relevant. Does one of your suppliers or manufacturers list their partners on their website? Sure, get your business on that list.

Again, if your SEO company is promising you a specific number of links back to your site each month, chances are they're adding your business to mostly irrelevant (i.e. worthless) directories that have nothing to do with your unique location or industry/service/product.

Off-Page SEO Mistake #5: Unnatural Linking

Careful with search engine optimized press releases and guest posts with "unnatural linking". This is probably not something you're doing personally. Again, it may be a tactic being used by your SEO firm acting on your behalf.

Earlier this year Google updated their Webmaster Guidelines' Link Scheme document which points to Google devaluing unnatural links in off-site content like press releases and guest blog posts. 

Here's an example from HubSpot's blog post on this topic illustrating unnatural linking:

There are many wedding rings on the market. If you want to have a wedding, you will have to pick the best ring. You will also need to buy flowers and a wedding dress."

That just sounds stupid. Not to mention, it's an obvious attempt at manipulating the search engines.

Bonus Off-Page SEO Mistake: Off-Site Blog

If you're blogging and creating awesome content, do it on your own site! Don't host your blog somewhere else like Wordpress or Blogger, separate from your main site. Make sure your blog is hosted on your own website.

If your website and blog are separate you essentially have two different sites you're managing and trying to optimize. No thanks, one is hard enough!

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Image credit: Peter Werkman

Picture of Chris Heiler

About Chris Heiler

Chris is the founder and CEO of Landscape Leadership. He has been in the green industry for over 20 years. Aside from leading the team at Landscape Leadership he enjoys speaking at green industry events across the country sharing his insights on marketing and sales. Chris now lives in Austin, TX, a transplant from the midwest and the great state of Michigan.

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