On page SEO and off page SEO are two commonly discussed terms in the field of Search Engine Optimization. For years, people have debated which is more important. Despite all of the changes to search engine algorithms over time, a clear cut answer has yet to emerge.
The truth is, both are vital to your overall SEO strategy. The emergence of social media has changed SEO forever, but it is important for businesses to understand each of these techniques and how they affect the way search engines index and rank sites.
Before we dive any deeper, let’s first define what on-page SEO and off page SEO are.
What Is On Page SEO?
On Page SEO: All activities you do on your website to improve your ranking, such as internal linking and adding ALT tags.
Another way to put this: on page SEO is focused on what your page(s) are about. Search engines are able to identify what topic you are covering.
Keywords are specific words/phrases that tell search engines about your site. Let's say you sell dog food so you set one of your search keywords to "dog food". When someone looks up "what should I feed my dog", your site will come up high in the search results because you intentionally chose those keywords. But, don't just put every keyword possible (aka keyword stuffing) - search engines will penalize you if you have too many irrelevant keywords.
This one is going to be different for different types of websites. In general, produce content that your target audience will want to read. This can be in the form of a blog, an FAQ section, a “resources” section, etc.
3. Load Speed
How fast does your site load? You may think it loads fast, but Google might not. Find out once and for all here: Google PageSpeed Insights
4. Alt tag images
With more and more websites getting sued for lack of ADA compliance, you may have heard about alt tags. Attached to images, these alt tags tell machines what an image is. While alt tags have gained popularity for their ability to make websites usable for people with visual impairments, they also help search engines like Google know more about your page. Put simply, search engines can’t see images, but if you include alt tags they can better understand what they are. Much like keywords, alt tags are indexed by search engines and can help you rank higher for important keywords/topics.
What Is Off Page SEO?
Off Page SEO: Activities you do outside of your website that help improve your ranking, such as link building
Another way to put this: off page SEO is focused on how the rest of the internet views your site. For example, if the Wall Street Journal routinely links to your blog posts to support their topics then a search engine would infer that your site is reputable and authoritative. Now imagine that a site has zero links on other sites. Much like an online product with zero reviews, sites with zero inbound links are hard to verify as reputable and trustworthy.
Beyond just inbound links from reputable websites, there are several other ways to improve your off page SEO.
1. Sharable content
Much like reviews on Amazon, when people share your content search engines see this as a recommendation. The more shares your content receives, the more credible it becomes to search engines.
2. Review marketing
People use review sites to audit the available options on the market and find the best solution. Search engines do something similar. Credible review sites have high domain ranks, meaning search engines trust them. One way to boost your off page SEO is to actively seek out and manage your reviews across the internet. An hour of research can result in dozens of new review sites to submit your product/service to.
3. Influencer outreach
Influencers are defined as: a person that influences another. When it comes to off page SEO, influencers can also influence your page rank. Identify influencers in your industry and find ways to partner with them. While famous influencers like Kim Kardashian may come to mind, chances are you can’t afford that type of partnership. Instead, find niche influencers within your industry and co-create content together, host webinars, etc. Search engines will take note of this activity and your page rank will rise.
4. Guest Blogging
We discussed earlier the importance of having inbound links, but how do you increase your inbound links? While creating great content and providing exceptional customer service might result in some inbound links, a more proactive approach can result in much quicker growth. A proven way to accelerate your inbound links is through guest blogging. Most guest blogging opportunities allow you to add a bio to the post. In this bio, you can include a link back to your site. By finding successful blogs in your industry, you can increase your inbound links and increase the number of times it is shared all at once. Not bad, huh?
Is On Page or Off Page SEO More Important?
The simple answer is neither. Both on page SEO and off page SEO are vital to your overall SEO strategy. Most businesses focus entirely on improving their on page SEO and then get angry when their traffic doesn’t skyrocket. The image below highlights the importance of both and why optimizing for only one or the other will lead to frustrating results.
Now that you understand what on page SEO and off page SEO are and how they differ, it is time to audit your existing strategy. Maybe you have been neglecting off page SEO entirely. Don’t get discouraged. This gives you a big opportunity! During your audit, you should identify the holes in your current strategy. Turn these into actionable tasks and get to work. SEO is a never-ending process, so don’t expect overnight results. However, now that you understand the moving pieces involved in SEO, you are well on your way to more organic traffic.