You hear a lot about on-page and off-page SEO strategies, but do you know the difference between the two? asks Karen Dauncey, SEO expert and founder of BlueCherry Online Marketing.
This article unpacks the differences, gives some examples of each strategy and explains why every SEO campaign needs a combination of the two in order to be successful.
The difference between on page and off page SEO
There’s a distinct separation between on-page and off-page SEO. Basically, on-page SEO covers anything done on a website to promote its ranking in the search engines. On the other hand, off-page SEO relates to anything done outside of that website.
Both strategies contain some fairly straightforward elements whilst some are more technical and require in-depth knowledge of the workings of SEO. If you’re new to the world of search engine optimisation but need to give your website a headstart or don’t have the inside track on the technical side of things, you may need a helping hand from an SEO specialist.
So, let’s first discuss on-page SEO and look at some of the most common ways of putting this powerful strategy into action.
A good SEO campaign doesn’t only focus on attaining top rankings in the search pages. Of course, flying high in the SERPs is every business owner’s dream but the website also needs to deliver a five-star user experience too.
That’s the goal of on-page SEO. It’s about doing things on a website that drive search engine success as well as doing things that drive a positive user experience.
On-page SEO includes optimising visible content as well as optimising the HTML source code.
Some common on-page SEO tactics
Quality content. This is both the starting point and the building block of any successful SEO campaign. If you don’t have quality content on your website, it will fail. Every. Single. Time. As mentioned earlier, the goal is two-fold. Your content needs to provide the search engines with the necessary signals to help them understand your content and determine whether it is a relevant result for the search query. Your content also needs to satisfy the reader’s expectations. It has to be well-written, original, engaging, compelling, informative, useful, relevant, credible and it needs to focus on the user intent. In other words, your content needs to answer the reader’s search query. And remember, Google is always looking for keywords and it’s better to have them higher up in the content. The first 100 words of your content should contain your main keyword phrase.
Content structuring. This relates to the way the content is structured, rather than the way it’s written. All content needs heading tags or H-tags to show the search engines that a) the content is divided into paragraphs and b) how important each paragraph is. Always check your site’s code to make sure your title is wrapped in an H1 tag which includes your main keyword.
URL structuring. Many website owners don’t realise just how important the address structure of each of their web pages is. The search engines depend on the URLs for insights into the page and users also make decisions based on what they read in them. You need to include your primary keyword for a page into the URL, plus you can boost the opportunity for optimisation by including a descriptive link in categories and sub-categories.
Meta title optimisation. When someone is browsing the search results, the first thing they see is the title of a webpage and its meta description (the 160-character blurb which outlines what the page is about). These two things – meta titles and meta descriptions – are like the bait that catches the fish. They need to be compelling and enticing, and they must include your primary keywords and any other related terms. If you don’t do a meta description, Google will generate one for you which may not be ideal.
Image Alt-Text. Images are a key part of your content strategy and need to be optimised for SEO. Adding Alt-Text is an opportunity to describe the image (including your keywords of course) and a way of showing the users and the search engines what the image is about. This is also helpful for visually impaired site visitors using screen readers or when an image is slow to load. Just remember to keep the text logical and readable, and use your keywords.
Page loading speed. This is a key ranking factor for Google and is one of the main components of its new Page Experience ranking signal. Google wants to deliver the best search engine experience possible, which means that fast loading websites will get the jump on slower ones.
Internal linking. Internal linking is huge for SEO as it helps the bots and crawlers discover more pages around your site. It also encourages visitors to spend longer on your site, and as everyone knows, dwell time is an important Google ranking factor. The goal is to link from high-authority pages on your site to other pages that need a boost or which you need to prioritise. Remember to always use key-word rich anchor text.
External linking. Adding links to external content provides another opportunity for Google to work out what your website and content is about. It also demonstrates to Google that your content is a quality resource. But remember, external links have to be to relevant, trusted content otherwise your strategy will be counterproductive.
Listen to hear more ways you can get your business noticed online.
Off-page SEO involves activities that you do outside of your own website which boost your search engine rankings. These include hyperlinks on other websites back to your pages, brand mentions and social media activity. The greater your off-site presence, the greater the likelihood that the search engines will see your web pages as important, trustworthy, authoritative and useful to readers.
Link building is the best-known off-page tactic and really should be the mainstay of your off-page SEO strategy. External links from authority websites back to your websites are a key way of demonstrating to Google that your site is an authority too. Quality counts here, not quantity.
A brand mention is exactly that …. a place where your brand or business is mentioned outside of your website. This could be on any online platform such as forums, articles, reviews, social media, business directories etc. Google considers branded websites as authoritative and trusted and generally mentions them at the top of the results pages.
An unwritten rule of off-site SEO is that the greater your social media presence, the better your chance of getting noticed by Google. That said, Google has stated that because social media likes, comments and shares can be artificially inflated (ie they can be bought or manipulated), they don’t affect rankings, but any SEO specialist worth their salt knows that they are valuable. The more places on social media that your web pages are published and shared, the wider the audience and the greater the chance of getting external links.
Online reviews on platforms such as Facebook, Trustpilot and of course, Google are a key element of off-site SEO (and of course, they’re a really resource for potential customers). Reviews are one of Google’s ranking signals for Local SEO, and you should therefore claim your Google My Business profile on all the main review sites and work hard at acquiring reviews on an ongoing basis. You should also feed the reviews into your website to help establish your site’s EAT (an acronym for Expertise-Authority-Trust).
Guest posting, podcasts, influencer marketing, citations and Google My Business are just a few of the many off-page SEO tactics that will improve your chances of search engine success and which will help build your brand.
As you can see, both on and off-page tactics are crucial for SEO and some elements are easier to do than others. In the highly competitive online space where visibility is imperative, the difference between success and failure is often technical SEO expertise. It’s one thing having a strategy, but it’s another thing implementing it.
If you’d like to sharpen your SEO expertise and learn the key tricks of the trade, you’ll be interested in The SEO School. This is a new online DIY course aims to help business owners gain practical insights into the main elements of SEO as they progress through the course modules.
For more information or to book a place on The SEO School course visit https://theseoschool.com
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