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On-site vs off-site SEO

Technical search engine optimisation is split into two main categories: on-site and off-site optimisation.

In simple terms, on-site SEO refers to the techniques that you can implement on your website to make it more search engine friendly. Off-site SEO refers to everything that happens outside of your website such as, backlinks, social media shares, and guest posts which in turn signals to the search engines that your content is badass!

What is on-site SEO?

On-site (also known as on-page) SEO helps users and search engines quickly identify if a page is relevant to a user’s search intent. If you want to rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs) and gain more relevant traffic to your website, there are two different elements of on-site SEO you need to consider; content and technical.

How to improve your on-site SEO content

Search engines are not stupid! In fact, their sophistication has grown dramatically over the years and it’s no longer possible to rank high just because you’ve stuffed a page full of keywords. Search engines are able to understand the context of a page based on the use of synonyms and the frequency in which word combinations are mentioned. 

Creating any old content just won’t cut it anymore. Understanding your target audience and how to speak to them through your content has never been so important. Think about what their problems are and how you can solve those problems through your content. If you want to create content that drives traffic, you need to make sure it’s:

  • In-depth, thorough and well written
  • User-friendly and shareable
  • Relevant to the user’s search intent
  • Solves a problem
  • Optimised for a high-volume keyword

For some extra juicy tips, I’ve written a whole blog post about how to improve your website copy.

How to improve technical on-site SEO

On-site SEO is more than just keywords, there’s a technical side to it as well. There are many different technical aspects of a webpage that can be optimised with on-page SEO, and they include:

  1. URLs should describe the subject of the page. This helps search engines determine if the page is relevant to the query. Make sure you optimise your URL with relevant keywords. 
  2. Title tags are an HTML element that specifies the title of a web page. Title tags are displayed on SERPs as the clickable headline and are important for usability, SEO, and social sharing.
  3. Meta descriptions expand on the title tags and appear below the title and the URL. They summarise a page’s content and tell web users why they should be reading your content instead of somebody else’s.
  4. Headings should focus on relevant descriptive words and not just stuffed full of keywords. For the best results heading should be in H1 format. To break up your content, you can also use subheadings (H2 to H6) using the same best practices, just make sure you don’t repeat keywords or phrases.
  5. Alt text (alternative text) is primarily used to describe images to visitors who are unable to see them. Whilst using alt text on images can make for better user experience, it can also help you earn SEO benefits.
  6. Internal links not only make it easier for visitors to navigate your page, but they also make it easier for search engines to understand your site and index your pages, which in turn will result in a higher ranking. 
  7. Page load speed and responsiveness is super important because if your page is slow to load it increases bounce rate. As such, search engines will penalise slow-loading pages with a lower ranking.
  8. Mobile-friendliness has been prioritised by Google in recent years as a key ranking metric. 

What is off-site SEO?

Off-site (also known as off-page) SEO are the actions taken outside of your own website that impact your rankings within SERPs. Optimising your off-site ranking factors involves improving search engine and user perception of a site’s popularity, trustworthiness, relevance and authority. This means that if other reputable places on the internet promote or link to your site, it tells the search engine that they are ‘vouching’ for the quality of your content. 

How to improve your off-site SEO

A bit like keyword stuffing, search engines have gotten wise to the practice of buying or trading spammy backlinks, and using this method will ultimately get you penalised. Whilst the number of referring links is still taken into account, remember that it’s quality over quantity!

So, how can we actually get good quality backlinks?

  1. Broken links are not only bad for user experience, but they also harm your relationship with the beloved search engine! Scour relevant blogs to find broken links, inform the owner and suggest replacing it with your own content.
  2. Guest blogging useful content on high quality and relevant websites is likely to benefit your search engine ranking position and ultimately bring more traffic to your website.
  3. Create valuable infographics (don’t forget the alt text), that people will want to share and promote.
  4. Build relationships, make yourself known. Have a read of Neil Patel’s post on Building High-Quality Backlinks When Nobody Knows Your Name
  5. Collaborations with other people both inside and outside of your industry, to reach new audiences and build brand awareness. This could be as a guest on a podcast or social media takeover.

Which one is more important?

Having to choose between on-site and off-site would be like having to choose whether to have ice cream on a chocolate brownie or not! They both work together in tandem and complement each other to improve your ranking in the search results. 

My advice would be to work on your on-site SEO first so that users and search engines are able to find and understand your content. Once all of your on-site ducks in a row, you can start planning the off-site SEO to get strong and organic links from high-quality websites to further improve your rankings.


If this all sounds great but, you want some help implementing onsite and offsite SEO on your own website, send me a message to find out more about my services here.

On-site vs Off-site SEO: What is the Difference?

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