Search engine optimisation (SEO) can be split into two major schools of thought: on-page SEO and off-page SEO. If you’re a master at wrangling these two concepts, digital doors will open up wide for you and you will be enticing to the discerning eyes of search engines — to the point that you will be rewarded with thousands of hits in organic traffic.
But what is the difference between on-page SEO and off-page SEO? On a global network with billions of web pages as competition, it’s crucial to know how they differ from each other. That way, you can leverage them individually to increase the success rate of your SEO campaign.
In this article, we will discuss what is on-page and off-page SEO, the ins and outs of each and their major differences.
What is on-page SEO and off-page SEO?
As Google continues to get better at understanding search intent and makes constant updates and modifications to their search engine algorithm, one thing stands true amidst all the changes — you can’t focus on only one aspect of SEO. Your strategy needs to address both on-page and off-page ranking factors.
Here’s a comprehensive review of each SEO approach to better understand what is on-page SEO and off-page SEO.
What is on-page SEO?
In a nutshell, on-page SEO focuses on optimising the parts of your website that are within your control. It involves all the measures you take directly within your website to improve its position in the search results and earn relevant traffic.
Think of the most basic SEO tactics such as using keywords in your meta data and page copy or using alt tags and HTML code. Those are the foundation for on-page SEO. It also takes into consideration content structure, page performance and overall content quality.
That’s because on-page SEO considers how relevant your website’s content is compared to its overall theme and intended purpose. It also analyses how each page as an individual entity fits into the grand scheme of your website as a whole.
What about off-page SEO?
While on-page SEO refers to the factors you can control within your website, off-page SEO focuses on the ranking factors that occur outside your website. This includes backlinks, promotion methods and even the amount of exposure your website receives on social media. We’ll delve deeper into these factors in the next sections, especially when we discuss what is on-page and off-page optimisation.
What is the Difference Between On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO?
Now that you know their basic definitions, what exactly is the difference between on-page SEO and off-page SEO?
As previously mentioned, it all boils down to their individual ranking factors and the results they bring. While on-page SEO looks at what your website is all about for you to rank, off-page SEO looks at how popular or authoritative your site is to help boost your rankings.
To put it in simpler terms, on-page factors determine what you rank for. Off-page factors determine how high you will rank in the search results. That’s why a winning strategy needs both.
Let’s look at the various on-page and off-page SEO ranking factors you need to focus on.
On-page SEO Ranking Factors
If you’re looking to do on-page SEO properly, there are three main areas you need to focus on. These areas differ vastly from off-page SEO, and they clearly delineate what the difference is between on-page SEO and off-page SEO.
The first two are straightforward — you just need to have meta keywords and optimised header tags. The third one is a bit more complex, complete with terms that might scare away arachnophobes — you need to have a website that is easily crawlable for search engine spiders.
Some areas in which you can improve your on-page SEO include:
Before anything else, don’t forget to audit your website. There are plenty of third-party tools or websites that can provide you with a free SEO audit. Its sole purpose is to check your site’s general SEO health and then you’ll receive a detailed report containing actionable insights to improve your site’s organic traffic.
Title tag and meta description
This will be the first thing online users will see when they search for your site so make it compelling enough that they’ll want to click on yours. Put your targeted keywords in the title tags of each page on your site. Keep it to 50-60 characters.
Your meta description appears below your URL. It describes your page’s content and helps your web page stand out. Keep it under 160 characters to ensure that it doesn’t get truncated.
It’s important to approach on-page SEO with the mindset that ‘Content is king.’ You can do all of the other optimisation tactics such as keywords and internal linking but if your on-page content isn’t compelling or relevant, no one is going to visit your site.
The content on your page needs to be useful to users. For instance, if they search for something specific, they need to be able to find what they’re looking for on your page. The content needs to be easily readable and provide real value to the readers. You can check the Google Webmaster Guidelines for effective tips so Google will find, index and rank your site.
Here are some helpful pieces of advice from us:
- Aim for at least 750 words of copy per page or blog article. While there is no exact formula or magic number for how many words a page should have, Google prefers long-form content over thin content. When your text is longer, the search engine has more clues to determine what your content is all about. Lengthy text addresses various topics and helps you rank for multiple long-tail keywords. You can also do strategic internal linking to drive more organic traffic to your site.
- Do not plagiarise content from other websites. Your copy should be unique unless you want to be penalised by Google.
- Place the keyword in the first 100 words, but only if it can be inserted naturally.
- Insert the keywords in your headings. Headings are usually the largest words on a page, so search engines give them more weight.
As much as possible, place keywords into your URLs. Label directories and folders in a way that makes sense for online users. Keep URLs as short as possible.
However, it is advisable to not change all of your current URLs just so you can have keywords in them. Consult a professional before doing this as you shouldn’t change your old URLs unless you’re going to redirect old ones to your new ones.
Keep in mind that an organised URL structure is crucial for marketers as it allows search engines to crawl your website easily from page to page. It also makes navigation much more efficient for your visitors.
This refers to the phrases or words that can be attributed to image files to help ensure they will be indexed and search engines will understand what your images are all about (they can’t see images, only text). For instance, if you use an image in your article that outlines how to decorate a minimalist kitchen, you can save the alt text for that graphic as ‘minimalist kitchen decorating tips’ and that image will start to rank for that phrase in the image search results.
Linking to multiple relevant web pages on your site will make it easier and faster for Google to crawl everything. It also keeps visitors interested or engaged longer. For instance, here’s an internal link to another blog post on our website that talks about SEO pagination and linking. Very meta!
When adding internal links, make sure to include relevant anchor text, otherwise known as the clickable text to a hyperlink. To ensure your anchor text is optimised, make sure the selected phrase or word is relevant to the page you’re linking to.
While other on-page SEO factors focus on site structure and content quality, the performance of your pages and website are also on-page ranking factors. Pages that don’t render properly on mobile or take longer than three seconds to load rank lower in search results, as users can get impatient and leave, thus increasing the bounce rate.
If you want to improve on-page performance, it’s important to reduce redirects, consider the image file sizes of your graphics and improve the mobile-friendliness and responsiveness of your site.
Off-page SEO Ranking Factors
Once you improve the optimisation of your website through on-page SEO, you will need to use another set of off-page SEO techniques to help you rank higher in the search results.
Optimising for off-page ranking factors involves the user perception of a site’s trustworthiness, authority and relevance. In other words, it’s a popularity contest and you need to get vouched by other websites for Google to take notice of you.
On the topic of what is on-page and off-page optimisation, here are the off-page ranking factors you will need to focus on.
The number and quality of backlinks you have referring to your website is undoubtedly the biggest off-page SEO factor. The more high-quality sites that link to your content, the more domain authority Google grants your site to boost your rankings. There are several organic approaches to produce effective results including:
- Guest blog outreach
- Participating in industry forums
- Press releases
- Being featured in industry trade publications
Measured on a scale from 1-100, your site’s domain authority is a number given by search engines to determine your website’s strength. It’s basically a grade measured by factors such as how long you’ve had your domain name (the longer, the better), the number of backlinks you have, the history of the domain name and the number of 404 pages you have.
Websites with a higher domain authority have better rankings than those with a lower domain authority. To maximise your domain authority and improve your rankings, you can check out our article on the best off-page SEO tactics.
Which is More Important: On-page or Off-page SEO?
As explained above, you need both. Your first concern is to get your on-page SEO optimised so that Google and other search engines understand your content. Once you have enough high-quality and optimised content published on your site, you can move on to off-page SEO tactics to get strong natural links that will further boost your rankings.
On-page and off-page SEO work together in harmony but keep in mind that you should do on-page SEO first. By working on what you can control today, you will be producing quality and value-rich content that will earn you backlinks and improve your domain authority.
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