What's The Difference Between On-page And Off-page SEO?
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Any business that’s in the process of growing should already be aware of SEO. Search Engine Optimization is a marketing strategy that makes businesses rank higher on search engines like Google. A higher ranking means more organic traffic, which in turn means more potential customers.
When developing SEO strategies, businesses need to be aware of the different on-page and off-page ranking factors that will help them reach their goals.
So what’s the difference between on-page and off-page SEO?
Simply put, on-page SEO is any ranking strategy that is happening on your own website, while off-page SEO involves ranking strategies happening on other sites. In terms of ranking, on-page SEO determines your website’s ranking for specific subjects and keywords, while off-page SEO determines how high you rank for those subjects or keywords. On-page SEO also includes anything that makes your website easier to crawl, index, and use, while off-page SEO adds trustworthiness and authority to your page.
When it comes to webpage interaction, on-page SEO includes all the aspects of a site that the business has direct control over. These include things like SEO tags, headings, titles, keywords, alt text, anchor text, and content. It also includes user experience factors such as a user-friendly home page, page load speed, internal and external links, and optimization for mobile devices.
Off-page SEO, on the other hand, relates to how a site interacts with other sites. The more relevant and quality sites that link to a website’s content, the higher that site will rank in search queries. This process is called link building, and it’s arguably the main aspect of off-page SEO. While a business can control the quality of their user experience and their content, they may have less control over how many places they backlink from.
In other words, on-page SEO is any optimization done to a business’s website to improve its relevance and quality in a specific niche. Off-page SEO involves making connections with other sites to build a business’s trustworthiness and authority, which results in a higher ranking.
Let’s take a look at the following example:
You run a marketing company in Los Angeles. You want your website to rank highly for digital marketing in Los Angeles, Glendale, Long Beach, and Pasadena. To do that, a few things have to happen.
Your on-page content must reflect that you offer valuable marketing services for the above locations. It must also provide potential customers with information about your business, as well as useful information about digital marketing in general. When potential clients perform a Google search for keywords such as “digital marketing Los Angeles”, “marketing services near me” or “how to market small business LA”, they can be directed to your page and your content, so long as you’ve included these keyword phrases naturally in the content on your site. Someone who is searching these phrases will then click on your content to see if it is valuable. If so, they may click on other internal links on your site or share your content with their business partners or on social media.
To expand this process even further, you could consider adding related content, perhaps covering topics such as social media marketing, content marketing, and grassroots marketing. This will bring more people to your site, resulting in more traffic, more shares, more backlinks, and a higher ranking.
To make this successful, all your content must be mobile-friendly, easy to download, and easy to navigate.
Once you have the above on-page SEO techniques in place, off-page SEO can come into play. Utilizing location-based review sites such as Google My Business, you can make sure that you rank when people search for “marketing Los Angeles”, “digital marketing Pasadena”, “affiliate marketing Glendale” and so on.
Another off-page SEO strategy you will need to employ is getting your content linked to other websites. This is called link building. Backlinks to your marketing content on other authoritative sites such as ad agencies, startup blogs, entrepreneurial podcasts, and related social media accounts will tell search engine bots that your marketing content is not only specific but relevant and popular.
This means that when people search for the keywords in your content, your page will begin to feature higher and higher results.
On-Page vs. Off-Page: Which is more important?
Search engines rank sites based on a few factors:
When a user types a search term into a search engine, the search engine will return only what it deems to be the most relevant results. Relevance relates to things like location and timeliness. Making sure you rank for specific locations ensures your content is seen as relevant in local searches. Constantly adding new, fresh content will tell the algorithm that your page is up-to-date and therefore, more relevant.
Page content is the bridge between on-page and off-page SEO. Your content tells crawler bots what you should be ranking for and indexes your site in the appropriate databases, while backlinks tell them that the content is valuable and should, therefore, be ranked highly on search engine results pages (SERPs).
According to Google, backlinks create authority. If a site that has already been deemed reputable links to your site, then Google assumes your site and content must be valuable and reputable as well. This is what causes you to rank higher in SERPs.
Your site should be easy to crawl because that means it’s most likely easy to use. A site that is difficult to crawl will return errors when the search engine is indexing your site, meaning it won’t have all the information it needs to decide how you should rank.
Enabling SSL or HTTPS security ensures that nothing will come between you and your potential visitors. Google gives preference to security-enabled sites and therefore assigns them a higher ranking than their non-secure counterparts. Page security also provides peace of mind for visitors, as it indicates that any information they provide while on your site is secure.
Each aspect of on-page and off-page SEO relates to one of these SEO tactics. What’s more, none of these things alone can boost the ranking of a site on its own. A secure site with no content may rank as poorly as a site with loads of content and no backlinks or a site with loads of backlinks but no SSL or HTTPS security. That’s why it’s key for businesses to become familiar with the different types of SEO so that they can understand their ranking and take steps to improve it.
This means that neither type of SEO is more important than the other. They are two sides of the same coin. One without the other has little to no value.
Here’s a more in-depth look at what both strategies involve, and why they are so important to the growth of a business.
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On-Page SEO Strategies
Once your site is up and running, is optimized for mobile, and has a search-engine-friendly site structure, it is time to create quality content. When it comes to SEO rankings, content is king. This should be high-quality, valuable information that prospective clients and customers are searching for, and other sites will want to link to. The content should contain a target keyword or keyword phrase that your target audience will be searching for, as well as related keywords to broaden your reach.
Once they find it, it is now your job to keep them on your site. One way to do that is through internal linking. Much like backlinking, which brings people to your content from an external website, internal linking allows visitors to easily access more of your content using links. This holistic linking strategy can keep potential clients on your page for longer and increases conversion.
A website with plenty of useful content isn’t that useful if it’s difficult to navigate. A website with slow load speed, a messy interface, and no mobile optimization will not keep people around for long. Optimizing your website so that it’s easy to use will invite people to spend more time looking around. Users can test their website through freeload speed tools online.
Other Types of On-page SEO
When you hear the word content, you probably think of blogs articles, FAQs, About Us pages, and so on. While this is the bulk of the on-page material helping you rank, there are many other types of on-page SEO factors you should focus on.
Metadata includes meta tags and title tags that are embedded in your site’s HTML. These help crawlers index your page easier. Incorporating relevant metadata ensures you will rank for the correct searches.
A meta description is a short line of text that explains what the content is to the user. This short description can be the difference between a user clicking on the link to your content or scrolling past to something more relevant.
Depending on the type of business you run, your site may have more or less images and these images might carry different levels of importance. An online clothing boutique, for example, will get a lot of value from utilizing alt text. This allows you to assign keywords and keyword phrases to images so search engines can pick them up and index them accordingly. A website that sells a service can also benefit from this on-page SEO tactic by including images relevant to their service and tagging them appropriately.
As previously mentioned, internal links are a good way to keep visitors on your site and engaging with your content. But when creating links, the anchor text should reflect where the link goes, what the content will be, and how it relates to your business. The right anchor text not only keeps users browsing but also tells search engines how to index your site.
Social tags are an on-page SEO tool that can build your off-page SEO reputation. By giving readers the ability to share your content easily to several popular social media platforms, you show search engines that your content is valuable and popular. Social shares are not the same as backlinks, but they can create a lot of inbound traffic from other pages, which can improve your ranking.
Off-Page SEO Strategies
For a business to do well, they need prospective clients and customers to visit their website. To do that, their website needs to be shown to the customer during their search. While the easiest way for this to happen is to appear on the first page of search results, there are other paths for businesses to extend their reach and boost their ranking.
One way to do this is by diversifying your online presence. Social media, blogs, message boards, trade publications, podcasts, networking events, and mailer campaigns are just some of the ways that businesses can connect with clients. Collaborating and guest posting on sites related to your business builds trustworthiness and authority, especially if the business you collaborate with ranks higher than your own.
Guest blogging is a strong method to build links back to your content. By creating content on another, more reputable site, you can borrow some of their authority every time someone clicks an inbound link from their site to yours. The more traffic you get from these high-authority sites, the more reputable you become in Google’s eyes and other search engines.
However, getting your name out there is only useful if your site is ready to accept and hold on to its visitors. A site with a thousand backlinks that are poorly optimized is sure to see a low rate of retention and a low ranking. This is why it’s important to work on your on-page SEO while building your backlinks and off-page connections.
How to Improve On-Page and Off-Page SEO for Your Business
Many business owners believe that improving their ranking on search engines is solely based on keywords and backlinks. While these features do factor into what your company ranks for, and how high, there are plenty of other factors at work as well.
It’s also important to improve these features organically. It can be tempting to resort to keyword stuffing and paying for backlinks, however, these methods are arguably a waste of money and can penalize you with crawlers that look out for non-organic SEO strategies. Instead, improve your content, your site optimization, and your network by guest posting on a blog, working with an influencer, or engaging with prospective clients on social media. If you do want to invest in your online presence, consider working with a professional SEO company.
About the author
As CEO at Dabaran, it's my role to execute an optimal online marketing strategy to maximize client visibility. My process begins with executing tests, collecting and analyzing data and results, and identifying trends and insights in order to achieve maximum ROI in organic search engine optimization campaigns.