What’s the Difference Between On-Page vs. Off-Page SEO?

Written by Derick Turner
On-Page vs Off-Page SEO: What’s the Difference?

Everyone’s heard of SEO, otherwise known as Search Engine Optimization. Not everyone’s heard about the fact that there are a number of unique varieties of SEO.

As a B2B SEO company, we’ve learned how to structure a website effectively for strong SEO results. We consider both on-page vs off-page SEO when developing our strategies: because both are important! This article will help you better understand what on-page vs. off-page SEO entails and how to better implement and utilize both.

Before we begin, there’s something important to note: SEO is not as simple as just one or two things. We’ve already mentioned the two key components, which work as part of an overarching search engine ranking strategy. Learning about how these work and why they’re important will improve your overall strategy, but they shouldn’t stand alone.

Let’s take a closer look at the differences between on-page SEO and off-page SEO.

On-Page SEO

When it comes to on-page vs. off-page SEO, the first thing to understand is what makes each one unique. We’ll start with on-page SEO.

On-page SEO is made up of all the things you can directly change on your website to influence how likely search engines are to show you in search results.

These changes include the following:

Primary Heading

We’re all familiar with the concept of content headings. I’m using them in this article to help differentiate between types of content. Headings bring order to the content, and in our case, the webpage. This is why using them appropriately is necessary.

When it comes to on-page SEO, the primary heading on each page, called the H1, should be the most prominent heading, and should be displayed clearly at the top of the page. The H1 should include your primary keyword, so as to reinforce to the search engines how important that keyword is to this page.

Each page of your website should have a single H1. This H1 with its respective target keyword should be the only one like it on the entire website. You don’t want to have duplicate H1s. You also don’t want to be missing a unique H1 on any page.

Meta Titles (Title Tag)

The meta title is what shows up on a search engine results page when your site is delivered as one of the top results for a specific keyword query. It is also what shows on the browser tab at the top of a page.

The meta title is one of the most important ways to tell search engines what keywords you want that page to be ranked for. Having a primary, and when possible, secondary keyword designated for each page is the best way to accomplish this.

The meta title should be approximately 65 characters or less, counting the spaces as characters. List your primary keyword first, then your secondary keyword, then (if possible) your business name. This is typically done with a ( – ) or ( | ) in between the keywords.

Meta Description

Like the meta title, your meta description is usually also shown on search engine results pages. It’s found in the smaller sized font below the larger meta title. It’s there to further show to the search engines, and the searcher, what your page’s primary focus is.

For this reason, you must also include your primary and secondary keywords in the meta description. Consistency between the H1, meta title, and meta description will show clearly what keywords you want to rank each page for.

The best practice is to keep the meta description between 145 – 160 characters, including spaces. Like the others, this description should be unique to a single page. You should not forget to add a meta description.

Alt Image Text

Every image on your website offers the opportunity to get hidden SEO credit. This is accomplished by optimizing the image’s alt text. The alt text is used by search engines to further identify target keywords, while also serving the purpose of allowing a screen reader to present to blind internet searchers what the image is about.

While most site visitors won’t see the alt text, search engines do, and they can often present your web page as a top result for a search. Of course, this only works if the image has something to do with the rest of the page, as you should be using your target keyword, or variations of that keyword, as your alt text.

If and when possible, you can also get credit for identifying locations associated with images by including a geolocation word such as the name of a city, state, or county.

URL Structure

While not required, it’s also a smart idea to create your page URLs with keywords in them.

For example, if you need a new page for Custom Carbon Filters, you should include the primary keyword “custom carbon filters” in the URL like this: /filters/custom-carbon-filters

Note that you do not need to go back through all of your previously built web pages and change their URLs. You can, but you would have to make sure to redirect the old ones to what was newly formatted.

As usual, each page should have a primary keyword which is unique to only that page. Try to keep the URL short and simple. Consider the path the user would take to reach a given page, and set up the URLs in a logical manner.

Page Loading Speed

In Q2 of 2021, Google released a major algorithm update designed in large part to address page speed issues. Websites which load page content and images slowly were generally punished, while pages that loaded quickly were rewarded.

This measurement of page loading speed is commonly referred to as Core Web Vitals.

There are numerous things that fall into these page speed measurements, which can be challenging to quantify, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some factors that tend to be more impactful than others. These include:

  • (LCP) Largest Contentful Paint. This is the measurement of how quickly the largest block of content or images loads at the top of the screen, or in the area that is known as “above the fold” on the page. It can measure images, including background images. An ideal LCP is less than 2.5 seconds.
  • (CLS) Cumulative Layout Shift. This is a measurement of any buttons or clickable links on the page which shift while the page is loading. This shifting tends to lead to a bad user experience, and will generally impact your site’s score. An ideal CLS is 0.1 or less.
  • (FID) First Input Delay. This is a measurement of how much time it takes for a web page element to respond when a user clicks on it. This input latency is a common frustration for website users, and is equally as frustrating to website developers. This issue is often caused by the various widgets or plugins used on a site. Since you are tracking clicks of buttons or links, an ideal measurement is immediate with no delay.
  • (FCP) First Contentful Paint. This is a measurement of how quickly your site loads images, elements that are not white, and SVGs. These are known as DOM elements, and what is being looked for is a render-blocking element. An ideal FCP is 0 – 2 seconds.

Other slightly less important (but still good to know) metrics include:

  • (SI) Speed Index. This is a measurement of the average amount of time it takes for content to display to a site user. It watches for excessive use of javascript. An ideal SI is 0 – 4.3 seconds.
  • (TTI) Time to Interactive. This is a measurement of how long it takes for content loading on the page to be interactive and functional for the user. It watches for the unnecessary use of javascript. An ideal TTI is 0 – 3.8 seconds.
  • (TBT) Total Blocking Time. This is a measurement of how long it takes for your site to respond to user input. It watches for unnecessary javascript. An ideal TBT is 0 – 300 ms.

Content

Keywords aren’t just for the meta details: they belong through your on page content as well.

Content is one of the most powerful ways to influence ranking, and in turn site performance. Content is not just about having a lot of words on the page, although the more content you have the more opportunity you have to make your case. 

Content should be educational, informative, and value-added to the searcher. Having “the best” content about a topic is certainly one of the strongest ways to compel search engines to show your page first in search queries.

It’s a good rule of thumb to make sure that any content you create includes your primary keywords at least 1% – 2% of the time. This goal of achieving an optimal keyword density will prove to the search engines that your page is one of the best results to share.

Content should be unique and original to each page, so avoid the temptation to copy content from any other page. Include internal links from different pages throughout your website. As you are building out your website, keep in mind your overall B2B website strategy and stick to it consistently.

Internal Linking

When writing content for your website, include internal links from different pages of your site. Linking from one page to another creates a spider-webbing effect which makes it easier for both search engines and users to navigate your pages.

An example of proper internal linking would be when you use a target keyword from another page somewhere in your text, and you hyperlink that keyword to its respective page.

This further emphasizes your intended keyword optimization. Ideally you should have 2 – 3 internal links on each page, helping lead people to other valuable pages on your site.

Mobile Responsiveness

If your website does not look good on a mobile device, you’re missing out on valuable SEO impact. Search engines, now more than ever, want to ensure they deliver the best experiences to their searchers. This means they only want to send traffic to pages that render properly on their device, whatever it may be.

This is called mobile responsiveness, and it simply means that your site fits any screen with the appropriate layout that fits, and is easy to use.

If you are unsure, using a test such as this one from Google will help you discover if your site is responsive or not.

Schema (Structured Data Markup)

If you truly want to help search engines see what your page is about, you should consider adding schema markup. This is a form of backend JSON-LD, coding that works behind-the-scenes, which allows search engines to see Rich Results for better understanding of what your page is about. You can add structured data markup a number of ways, but it is best to use the common structure found at the schema.org website.

On-Page SEO Summary

There are obviously many things that should be considered and addressed when you are thinking of improving your on-page SEO. It will take time, but consistently doing these things will help your site perform better.

You’ll also find that establishing these practices early on will make future site development even easier. With the plan in place, all new pages should be optimized from the time they are published, allowing them to perform better from the start.

Off-Page SEO

As the name suggests, off-page SEO is about increasing the perceived authority of your site through external influences, primarily in the form of backlinks from trusted external websites.

While there is much less to be done in off-page SEO, and it should follow work done to your on-page SEO, it is no less important. In fact, without high quality off-page SEO you will likely struggle to compete online.

This is why there really is no debate on whether you should do on page vs off page SEO. You should be doing both!

The key to off-page SEO is having other high authority websites linking to your site, ideally with your target keywords as the anchor text. Not just any site will do, however. You want to consider a few metrics that could help you determine the quality of a site you’re considering receiving links from.

Authority Scores

There are numerous authority score metrics to be considered when trying to build your off-site linking profile. Every website is given an authority score by different SEO tools. Authority scores are determined by algorithms which use data from search traffic, backlinks, and numerous other sources to equate to a number on a scale from 0 – 100. Because search engines want to deliver high-quality results to searchers, the higher your website’s overall perceived quality, reputation, trust, and authority, the more likely your site is to rank for your desired keywords and be shown in search results. 

  • Domain Authority. Domain Authority is the name the third-party tool Moz uses to describe how safe and credible a site is perceived to be. 
  • Trust Flow. While the metric known as Trust Flow is unique to the third-party tools of Majestic, it is another form of measuring the perceived trustworthiness of a particular website.

It should be noted that while these metrics can be helpful and influential in your SEO efforts, the major search engines don’t actually use these metrics in determining rankings. However, by allowing these metrics to guide your work, you will likely find that your actual rankings and performance do in fact improve.

Domain Authority vs. Page Authority

While websites have an overall domain score or authority, individual web pages can also have a page authority score. This represents how that page itself appears to meet the basic measurement metrics. The better each individual page performs, the higher the likelihood that the site overall will perform well.

Page authority is heavily influenced by the on-page SEO of that page, but is also impacted by link coming to that specific page from external sources.

How to Influence Domain Authority

While links from outside sources are the primary factor for influencing your site’s authority, you can control the quality of those links. Consider these points:

  • Quality trumps quantity. More backlinks aren’t always better. Focus on getting high quality backlinks, which will likely influence other organic links you will eventually pick up.
  • High quality content. The better the content on your site, the more likely you are to pick up free, organic backlinks from other site’s who see your content as a source of reference.
  • Consider the competition. Spy on your competitors and see where they are building their links from. If you can also get links from those sources, you are more prepared to compete head to head.

Don’t forget that you can always refresh existing content when you don’t have the bandwidth to create new. Repeat after us: you don’t have to create brand new content all the time. Refreshing your existing content by improving explanations, and optimizing the content better for target keywords, are all ways to influence page authority and pick up additional links.

Are There Bad Backlinks?

While most links you will get to your site will be good to one degree or another, eventually you may discover that some of the links to your site are not good, even “toxic” in that they come from low-quality or spam sources. Most likely these were links purchased en masse or they are links that are part of a problematic private backlink network, also known as a PBN.

These bad links can be removed, although sometimes the trouble is not worth the minor reward. It is relatively simple to remove any penalty from bad links, however, thanks to the support offered by search engines such as Google. 

By identifying the bad links and adding them to a Disavow list, you can submit them to be ignored. This may be necessary if Google has informed you that you have “unnatural links” for which you seem to be being punished.

Just know that in the effort of disavowing bad links, you may inadvertently also remove hard to identify good links, and this can have a negative effect on your site. Anytime you make changes to your site, you run the risk of impacting the site’s performance.

Off-Page SEO Summary

Considering everything that comprises your off-page SEO will allow you to start creating a trusted and reliable backlink strategy. You can then consider if other links you pick up over time are good and worth keeping.

The biggest factor is knowing what you have and paying attention to it. If you are blindly operating without any clue as to what is happening, you will likely have a rude awakening when one day you realize things are not going well with your neglected site.

When determining how to spend your time doing on page vs off page SEO, just remember that they are both important, so they both deserve your time and attention.

Bringing it All Together

Understanding that there is a difference between on-page vs off-page SEO is the starting point you need. By spending time understanding and improving both your on-page seo and off-page seo, you will be able to take control of your website’s performance. While you won’t have full control, your influence will be measurable, and the results will become more predictable.

SEO in general is a long term strategy, and there is no silver bullet to fix all your problems. Establishing a strategy, following that strategy consistently, and always looking for ways to improve your site are all going to impact your success.

We’ve offered a lot of details so you can perform much of this work on your own, but if you find you need help we are happy to take your call. Our team of experienced digital marketing strategists are on standby.

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