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On-page SEO and off-page SEO: What’s the difference?

There’s just one type of search engine optimisation (SEO), right? Nope, there’s a number of different variations and knowing the difference is key to ensuring you’re getting it right.

We’ve already covered the key elements that differentiate local and international SEO, but what about on-page and off-page varieties? These two distinct SEO practices perform different roles in optimising your content and the truth is they have a symbiotic relationship.

Not getting your on-page SEO right will hold back your potential results, while off-page SEO also plays an important part in your success in search rankings and user experience. Luckily, we’ve got the lowdown on all things on-page and off-page to make sure you don’t miss anything.

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What is on-page SEO?

On-page SEO is all the things on your webpage you can control, which signpost Google and other search engines to the authority of your site. The most obvious element of on-page SEO is the content, but this is not just limited to copywriting. As well as useful landing pages, articles and blogs that have been optimised for specific keywords, the headers, internal linking and meta content all count as on-page SEO too.

Definition of off-page SEO

If on-page SEO is the elements you can control, then off-page SEO is the authority bestowed on your domain from outside sources. A large part of this will come from link-building efforts, as good content will receive backlinks from other websites. While it’s easy to think that this is outside of your control, there are lots of ways you can increase your chances of obtaining quality links, which will be covered in more detail below.

Importance of combining on-page and off-page SEO

Most marketers start with on-page SEO and it is indeed a good place to begin. Improving your rankings by ticking off every seemingly small item on the on-page SEO checklist is the equivalent of backing yourself. But in reality, good on-page practices that aren’t supported by off-page elements will prevent your site from ranking for competitive keywords.

Similarly, you can’t expect a page to perform well if all your efforts have been channelled into off-page activity. This symbiotic relationship means working on both sides of your SEO to see sustainable results in search that will continue to attract visitors to your site and drive leads. To ensure you’re meeting these needs, design a strategy that combines on-page and off-page SEO.

On-page SEO techniques

Optimise page titles

Page titles should be optimised for search, but that doesn’t mean cramming them full of keywords. You want your title to target a keyword, but also be descriptive and easily readable for your audience. After all, Google now rewards helpful content, so don’t forget about your reader when crafting your headline.

Optimise subheadings

Speaking of your readers, they’re likely to be easily put off by huge swathes of uninterrupted copy. Split your text into sections with optimised subheadings that include keywords and direct your audience to relevant areas. Signpost Google to these with H1, H2 and H3 heading tags.

Include natural keywords in your copy

Keywords are not just for titles and subheadings but also for your copy too. Include keywords naturally throughout your text for improved rankings. As always, think about the reader and not just the search engine to ensure this on-page element fulfils its purpose and doesn’t look like spam.

Utilise rich media

Everyone loves rich media – marketers, users and search engines – so add visuals and videos to your content. This needs to be done thoughtfully, however, as slow loading times can be counterproductive to your SEO efforts and not providing alt tags and other meta information is an opportunity lost.

Add metadata

And it’s not just rich media that can benefit from metadata. All of your content should include this useful information to signal to users and search engines alike what your pages are all about. One particularly important element not to overlook is the meta description. These 160 characters perform a vital role in encouraging users to click on your page when it appears in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Put your keyword in the URL

Don’t overlook the URL, as it’s an important ranking factor that should be optimised like any other part of your page. That means implementing a clear structure and including one or two keywords from the page’s content. Google now also prioritises HTTPS, so use this secure connection if possible to gain more trust.

Include internal and external links

Links convey authority and it’s not just those utilised by outside sources connecting back to you that are important. Link to relevant pages within your own site through appropriate anchor text and reference trustworthy content on other sites to demonstrate how well-referenced your own content is.

Off-page SEO tactics

Implement a link building strategy

Backlinks from high-authority sites will help your pages rank in SERPs, but it can seem difficult to achieve these when the power lies in someone else’s hands. Up your chances of receiving quality backlinks by building free tools, reaching out to journalists and courting mentions in round-ups.

Distribute your content on other channels

Search engines are not the only platforms to make your content discoverable, so take advantage of social media, guest posting and other PR opportunities to distribute your content. These tactics help to demonstrate EAT, which stands for expertise, authority and trustworthiness – three things you want to be known for.

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Influencer marketing

Working with influencers who align with your brand’s values is a great way to drive traffic to your site. Always do your research into an influencer’s reach and make sure any partnership is clear about where the parameters lie to ensure you get what you’re expecting. This type of off-page SEO can be particularly lucrative.

Syndicate your content

Content syndication sites like Medium, LinkedIn and Substack represent a clear opportunity to get your brand in front of new audiences. Ensure any syndicated content links back to the original version to get the most from it being used on another platform. Also, look at syndication prospects that align with your niche in the market.

Expected results when you get the balance right

Implementing best practices in both on-page SEO and off-page SEO will ensure that content is of a high quality and no technical elements are holding it back, as well as being able to attract backlinks and rank highly in search. Failing to publish useful content won’t appeal to users or search engines and will miss out on building authority from other sites.

Measuring the success of your SEO efforts is always important. Not only will this show the progress you’ve made, but can help to highlight any areas that are holding you back. If you’re not getting the uptick in traffic you were expecting, for example, it could be the result of a small on-page SEO element that can be easily fixed. Get the balance right and the improvements should be clear.
Once you’ve got on-page and off-page SEO covered, it’s time to start thinking about technical SEO.