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A referring URL is the URL of a web page that links to a page on your website, thus sending traffic to you. If you use a web analytics application, you can see all referring URLs pointing to your website.
If strong performance in organic search results is a delicious peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwich, referring URLs are the slices of bread, the peanut butter, and the fluff. Without referring URLs, your site has little to no chance of ranking organically.
Google wants search users to have great experiences, right? As long as Google keeps people coming back, they can sell ad space and the lights will stay on. To that end, Google rewards those websites that have built reputations as popular, authoritative resources. These are the websites people want to see on page one.
The best way to become a popular, authoritative resource is to earn links from other websites. Essentially, a link from one site to another is a signal to Google that the latter site is creating good content. So, when Google’s web crawler, Googlebot, sees that a reputable website (say, Search Engine Journal) has linked to your newest blog post, it notes that your content is informative and enjoyable.
Think of external links and referring URLs as one-way train tickets to the first SERP.
What you’re really looking for is a quick guide to off-page search engine optimization—the subdivision of SEO that includes all the stuff you can do outside of your own pages. Let’s do it.
One quick reminder before we dive in: although there are several off-page SEO tactics, they all come back to earning backlinks and building Domain Authority. At the end of the day, your success with off-page SEO comes down to how hard you work for those links.
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Guest blogging. In the world of content marketing, nothing is more tried and true than blogging—it’s the Magna Carta with a dash of Rosetta Stone and a sprinkle of 99 Theses. Guest blogging is the practice of writing a post for a reputable website as a representative of your business. It’s a win-win for both parties: the site gets new content, and the guest writer can throw in a link to his or her site. Reach out to editors with strong pitches and some great writing samples and you’ll be on your way.
Social media. Fact: there is a strong correlation between social media engagement performance—how many likes, comments, shares, and clicks your social content gets—and where you end up in the organic SERP rankings. More engaging content is more likely to get backlinks, and more backlinks boost you up the SERP. Create content (and social copy) that encourages user interaction.
Influencer marketing. Influencers are online personalities—bloggers, YouTubers, social media giants—with big followings. As such, influencer marketing aims to tap into the power of these personalities to, uh, influence their fans. One great way to do this: write about an influencer. Then, contact them and provide a link to the content. If you’ve done a good job, and the influencer is excited about the piece, there’s a solid chance they’ll share it with their fans. Not only does this directly drive new traffic to your site, it also creates another strong backlink for search engines to notice.
Awesome content. You can think of guest blogging, social media engagement, and influencer marketing as three sub-tactics beneath the umbrella that is high-quality content. Consistently creating excellent stuff will increase your chances of landing guest blogs, boost your engagement metrics on social media, and give you more opportunities to link up with influencers. So, what is awesome content? Typically, it’s long-form, loaded with images, and unique.
Once you’ve built a sustainable reputation, get going on those other tactics and you’ll be swimming in external links and referring URLs.