Off-Page Content Strategy in the Age of Pandamonium

Google’s recurring Panda updates have some marketers questioning whether link-building should be abandoned altogether. For the record, in no way is it a good idea to take the position that links don’t matter anymore. Instead, they’re simply under more scrutiny from Google. The vehicle for much of the future of link-building is off-page content marketing (more on that later).

In this Age of Pandamonium, you just need to be more thoughtful and strategic in the links you build. It’s the old phrase, “You are the company you keep,” played out in a digital world.

Matt Cutts, Google’s chief spam fighter, emphasized the continuing value of links at SMX last July and again at SES San Francisco last August.

What all this Panda business is about

Panda’s focus has been to penalize sites that contain thin, stolen, or duplicate content; sites with poor content; and sites with high ads-to-content ratios.

Basically, Google wants to cut the junk out of the web so they can serve users the relevant, high-value content they’re looking for.

Why the changes

In the past, you could submit anything to article sites (and others) and it would get published automatically.

For example, you could mass produce hundreds of lame pieces of content, all keyword-stuffed with links to your site, and it didn’t matter. Google, being none the wiser back then, gave you credit for those links, and you got page-one ranking.

Now, however, Google has raised the bar.

If Google sees a site that’s not reviewing submissions and is publishing crap content, they will de-index the site and tell them to clean up their act. As a result, many of these sites disappear forever because they weren’t in the game to publish good content—they were in the game to make money from ads.

The remaining sites are the credible ones that actually review the content that’s submitted and check for duplicate, spammy, or keyword-stuffed content. Yes, it’s true: Some sites actually care about their readers.

So what’s off-page content?

The simplest definition of off-page is this: Off-page is anything that’s not on your website. The words “page” and “website” are interchangeable for our purposes here, so you could call it “off-website,” but that’s kind of clunky.

So let’s put that the definition in the context of content. You post content on your website and your blog all the time (right?), so that’s on-page content.

Off-page content comprises content that’s off your page. This would include bookmarking sites, article sites, guest blogs, press releases, presentations, PDF documents, social media, and so on. In short, it’s any content that’s off your website and is intended to market your website, brand, or both.

Bonus Nugget: The off-page world accounts for about 65 percent of the SEO pie. What this means to you is if you’re serious about SEO, then you need to get outside the safe confines of your website and publish on other sites.

How to spot good and bad off-page content

Good off-page content characteristics include:

Original, keyword-relevant content written by a human who can write well
Content sites that are concerned with the quality of submissions
Content that has true value for the reader
Bad off-page content characteristics include:

Content spinners (taking existing content and rewording or, “spinning,” it) and content copiers
Sites that have little value and run lots of ads
Keyword-stuffed nonsense that has no point
The good news with Panda releases is that the guys using the bad off-page tactics above will get shut out of the game. Conversely, those marketers who produce high-value content with the consumer in mind will continue to be rewarded and see positive results.

Strategy moving forward

Now and in the future, great content creation and distribution will be rewarded in SEO.

To win you need to diversify your off-page SEO portfolio in the channels mentioned previously to show Google that you are relevant in your market.

With time—lots of time, like a year—and effort, you can benefit from a sound off-page content marketing strategy that complements your website’s content.