What is the Difference Between On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO?

While many people tend to think that all things search engine optimization (SEO) related fall under one category, there are actually two very distinct branches of SEO that need to be addressed in order to properly optimize a website: on-page SEO and off-page SEO.

As a digital marketing company that offers a range of search engine optimization services, we understand how important it is to know the difference between on-page SEO and off-page SEO. In an effort to help our clients better understand some of the different on-page and off-page SEO tasks that we are able to provide, we have put together an overview of common SEO best practices.

What is On-Page SEO?

On-page SEO covers all of the basic SEO measures that can be performed directly on a website in order to help improve its search engine ranking position. Some of the most common on-page SEO factors include:

Content

Content is so important for both users and search engines and can take many forms, including everything from the HTML text on your website to images, videos, recipes, infographics, and much more. Your website’s content is its primary value proposition and what makes it unique. Your content should answer questions like, “why should I visit your website?” or “what’s in it for me?”. Without quality content on your website, all of the remaining factors are irrelevant.

Keywords

Carefully selecting the best keywords to use throughout your website is an integral part of on-page SEO; however, using the same primary keywords over and over again will no longer help your website as much as it used to. Ever since the launch of Google’s RankBrain algorithm and its transition to machine learning technology, Google is able to better understand the context of websites without the need to have the primary keyword repeated over and over.

When keyword mapping, be sure to also plan for long-tail keywords, keyword variants, and LSI keywords. Long-tail keywords that resemble common phrases or questions used by people in conversations can help optimize your website for voice search. It is also important to take the time to perform proper keyword research, as skipping keyword research can be like heading into the wilderness without a map or compass.

Meta Tags

Meta tags or a meta title and meta description are the short heading and description that appear beneath a website’s URL on a search engine results page. Meta tags should always be written in a way that describes the content on the page, while also being optimized to include the most relevant keywords, so that they can be picked up by search engine crawlers.

Alt Attribute

Alt attributes (alternative text) are used to describe the context of an image. This helps search engines understand the context of an image and can help users understand the image’s intent in case an image is unable to properly display for some reason. Inserting relevant keywords, while accurately describing the image, can help search engines better understand the page’s content, as well as help the image rank better in the image results. In the United States, alt text is actually a requirement for images on some websites.

Headings

Since headings tend to be the largest words on a page, search engines tend to give them a little more weight than the other content. This means that it is always a good idea to work relevant target keywords into the headings of each website page, so that search engines can better understand the context of the page content. In terms of importance, search engines usually give the most value to the Heading 1 followed by Heading 2s and so forth.

URL Structure

Having organized URL structures can make it easier for search engines to crawl from page to page on your website, while also making the navigation of your website more efficient for visitors. A well organized URL structure is important when it comes to your site architecture and the ability for search engines to properly crawl your website.

SSL/HTTPS

With Google’s emphasis on EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness), enabling Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) security technology has never been more important for improving a website’s security, trustworthiness, and visibility. SSL works to provide a safer website by preventing a third party from coming between your web server and the user’s web server, ensuring that any information entered on the site is completely safe.

Search engines, such as Google, also prefer sites that have SSL enabled. This means that they are more likely to appear at the top of the search results, boosting their visibility to users.

Internal Linking

Internal links allow your website to distribute PageRank (PR) throughout and provide search engines with a crawl structure, making it easier for them to crawl the entire website. Proper internal links structures can also help keep users engaged for longer periods of time. When developing your internal linking structure, it is important to properly plan for accordingly, as internal links can actually have a negative impact on your website’s performance if implemented incorrectly.

Page Speed

Page speed is important for the online performance of websites, as pages that load slowly or are not mobile friendly tend to frustrate users who will leave your website, increasing the bounce rate. To help increase the overall page speed on your website, consider optimizing image file sizes, reducing redirects, improving mobile responsiveness, and minimizing the amount of CSS and Javascript. While there is still some debate in the SEO community about the weight of page speed in Google’s ranking algorithm, most SEOs are now convinced that page speed is a key ranking factor.

What is Off-Page SEO?

While on-page SEO refers to the changes that can be made directly to a website, off-page SEO refers to page ranking factors that occur off of a website. Some of the most common off-page SEO factors include:

Backlinks

One of the biggest factors in off-page SEO is link building with quality, trustworthy websites. While the old consensus for backlinks was all about obtaining as many links as possible, this is no longer the case. When it comes to link building, it is now all about quality over quantity. This means that having a single backlink from a highly trusted website with great authority has more value than a hundred spammy links from websites with irrelevant, low-quality content.

While backlinks can help to significantly improve a website’s performance, they also pose a high risk if not done properly. Spammy backlink strategies have caused many websites to be penalized by Google. Using SEO tools like Ahrefs, SEMRush, and Google Search Console can help monitor both the number and quality of incoming links.

Citations

Online citations are important for SEO because they help communicate a level of trust with users and search engines. Citations (mentions of your business online) work similarly to backlinks. When building online citations, it is important to ensure that your business NAP (name, address, phone number) is both accurate and consistent across all websites. Citations can be done through social media platforms, online directories, and local organizations like your area’s Chamber of Commerce website.

Google My Business

A Google My Business listing could be considered both a backlink and citation; however, in reality, it is its own entity. Claiming your Google My Business listing is critical for local SEO as it helps users find your business on both Google Search and Google Maps. While a Google My Business listing will not directly impact the performance of your website, as it is its own entity, it can definitely improve your business’s visibility and performance online.

Social Media Signals

While page ranking may not be directly related to social media interactions, social media marketing can help generate a lot of clicks, boosting website traffic and link shares. Having a strong social media presence can also make a company appear more attractive and make it easier for customers to find them online.

While on-page and off-page SEO are technically two separate branches of SEO, using them together can help drastically improve search engine ranking results. To learn more about the difference between on-page SEO and off-page SEO, get in touch with our expert team today.