Onsite and offsite SEO, otherwise known as on-page and off-page SEO, are the two main components of the search engine optimization (SEO) process.
Onsite SEO Vs. Offsite SEO
Onsite SEO focuses on optimizing elements within your website, making your content easy for the search engines to find and relevant to the user’s query. Offsite SEO involves building your site’s reputation and authority through techniques outside the boundaries of your website.
You must optimize your website for maximum visibility to search engine results and higher rankings.
What Is Onsite SEO?
Onsite SEO is the process of making your website search engine-friendly. In simple words, this means adjusting certain elements on your website so that search engines can crawl, index, and understand the content and structure of your website.
The more information and data they can get from your site, the greater your chances of ranking higher in their index.
Working and fixing potential problems related to on-page SEO is the first step you should take when optimizing your website for search engines and, in particular, Google.
How Does Onsite SEO Work?
Onsite SEO is not hard to get right. There are a number of things you can check and fix and a few mistakes to avoid to ensure that everything is set up as it should be.
The most important on-page SEO elements are:
Your page titles and descriptions
If you are into SEO, you must have read this a million times, and this is because it is one of the most important SEO factors.
Search engines ‘read’ the page title and description when crawling a page. If your titles and descriptions are not optimized, you minimize your chances of appearing for any related keywords.
How do you optimize your titles and descriptions?
The rules are simple:
- Keep the title close to 60 characters and the description to no more than 150 characters.
- Avoid keyword stuffing, i.e., adding keywords in the titles or descriptions that don’t make sense, but do try to give search engines and users a good idea of what the page is about.
A good approach when optimizing these is to come up with titles and descriptions that are catchy and encourage users to click but at the same time make sure that they are related to what people may search for (that is relevant to the content of the page).
There are many tools to help you optimize your titles, I use Semrush most of the time and the process is the following:
- Think of search terms users may use to find your page
- Pass those queries through Google, Semrush, and Google Keyword Tool to find out the search volume, keyword difficulty, and what others are using as titles for those queries.
- Identify which keywords (preferably long-tail keywords) are appropriate for your page
- Try to include those keywords in your titles while at the same time giving the title a friendlier and interesting tone.
Search Phrase: ‘benefits of bananas’
Keyword (after research): ‘banana health benefits’
Title: ‘10 Amazing health benefits from eating bananas daily’
Description: ‘Eating bananas on a daily basis offers a number of health benefits. Number 3 is amazing and will definitely surprise you! Read on to find out how.’
The H1 Tag
A well-optimized page should have only one H1 tag and several H2 and H3 tags. The H1 tag is usually the same as the page title (although it doesn’t have to be exactly the same).
A quick way to find out if your page follows this rule is to right-click anywhere on your page and select VIEW SOURCE from the pop-up menu.
Then click CTRL-F to open the ‘Find’ box and search for H1. If you see more than two instances of <h1> and </h1>, ask your developer to fix it so the page has only one H1 tag.
ALT text for images
If you use images within your text (and you should), you need to make sure that the ALT text has a meaningful value that will give a good indication to search engines about the image’s content and how it is related to your page.
I am perhaps the biggest fan of internal links, and this is because:
- They enhance the user experience
- They are ‘safe’ to use
- They help search engines discover more pages from your website
- They help you create strongly inter-related content
- They reduce a website’s bounce rate
- They help you ‘lead’ readers to the most important pages of your website.
Read my post on internal linking best practices for more details, but as a rule of thumb, when you do your onsite SEO review, ensure that your pages have internal links that are useful for the users to see and click.
None of the above techniques would be useful if search engines cannot access your website.
This is SEO 101, but you must ensure you are not accidentally blocking crawlers from accessing your pages.
The best way to determine if you have an accessibility issue is to register your website with the Google search console and run the ‘URL INSPECTION’ tool.
By doing this test, Google will tell you if something prevents them from indexing your website properly.
In addition, you can use other Google search console reports to find and fix crawl errors.
I cannot stress enough the importance of high-quality, interesting, and unique content in SEO.
If you don’t have content with these characteristics, there is no point in dealing with on-page or off-page SEO.
I will not go into many details here about content, you can read my post about evergreen content to learn how to craft content that ranks well and also this post which explains how long to make your articles.
What you need always to remember when working with websites and digital marketing is that content always has to come first and then everything else.
Other onsite SEO factors:
Besides the above, other SEO factors to consider when doing onsite optimization are:
- Well-formatted URLs (words separated by ‘-’)
- Proper use of breadcrumbs
- Use of structured data
- Website Speed
- Transparency (who wrote the post)
- Broken links
- Properly configured 404 pages
For a full list of SEO factors, take a look at my SEO Checklist.
What Is Offsite SEO?
Off-site SEO refers to actions you can take to promote your website on the web (besides advertising).
The most commonly used off-page SEO methods are:
- Link building
- Social media marketing
- Influencer marketing
- Digital PR
- Online reviews
How Does Offsite SEO Work?
When a user is typing a query in the search box (of search engines), they have to decide which websites to show in the first positions of the SERPS and the order they will show them.
They use many factors in their ranking algorithms to do that in a way that will keep their users happy about the results.
The algorithms are influenced (either positively or negatively) by backlinks pointing to a website.
If the links come from trusted and related websites, they are considered a ‘vote of trust’ and can help a website rank higher.
If, on the other hand, they are coming from low-quality websites, they can lower the rankings of the particular website or even get it into trouble (think Google penalties).
To understand how to use link building correctly, you must know what Google says about links.
In summary, Google considers any link that was generated to manipulate its algorithm to be unnatural. A lot of unnatural links will eventually lead to a penalty.
You should not buy, sell, exchange, or ask for links to increase rankings.
What can you safely do? Don’t get into the habit of building links (especially from low-quality sites), but go after natural links. Natural links are given to you by other websites because they find your content and website interesting and worth linking.
This may sound weird, but it does work much better than spending time and effort building links that may get you into trouble.
Read how my blog traffic increased to 400K per month without doing any link building; this is just one of the examples I can share of my own websites or client websites that rank high and get a lot of Google traffic without doing any link building.
You do need links, don’t get me wrong, but you can get them naturally if you have good content and can successfully put your content in front of many people.
What is the best way to do this? Through content marketing, solid promotion tactics, careful guest posting, and social media marketing. Content marketing can help you publish the right content, and good promotion techniques can get your content in front of the right people.
Guest posting on sites that matter and have a high Google trust can give you more benefits than building tens of low-quality links.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is the fastest way to promote your content to people who may show interest. It’s not always easy to do; you need a plan, and you may have to spend some money, but it works and is safe and solid.
Onsite VS Offsite SEO. Which Is Better?
As explained above, you need both. Your first concern is getting your on-page SEO correct so search engines can understand your content.
Then, once you have enough quality content published on your website, you can start thinking about off-page SEO and how to get strong natural links from other websites that will further boost your rankings.
Don’t start the other way around. If a website doesn’t have all those characteristics to be considered a great website, it’s not a good candidate for link building.