What's the difference between on-page and off-page SEO?

You need to master both on-page and off-page SEO in order to give your website the highest chances of ranking on the first page of Google. Learn how.
Jan 21, 2020 • 5 minute read
Adam Mathew @Grizwords
Technical Co-pilot
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Good SEO means both working on your website and branching out beyond your own borders

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) can be split into two schools of thought – on-page and off. If you're adept at wrangling both of these concepts, digital doors will open up wide for you. Superior SEO shall make you enticing to the seeking eyes of search engines. Google will go ga-ga over you. Then the ranking of your business website will soar and you'll be showered in hits and smothered in views. On a global network of billions of pages, it's incredibly important stuff.

On-page SEO

If you're out to earn more relevant traffic and rank higher with Google, then you really need to optimise your individual web pages with on-page SEO. The first step to optimising the traffic on your website begins with building blocks of any page, the HTML source code and the written content itself. On-page SEO considers how relevant your page content is compared to its intended purpose and its overall theme. Also analysed is how well the page as a singular entity fits into your entire website as a whole.

If you're looking to do on-page SEO right, there are three main areas that need to be focused on. The first two are straightforward and the later is a bit more complex and has terminology that's somewhat incompatible with arachnophobes. You need to have clearly defined: meta keywords, header tags, and  a website that is easy to crawl for search engine spiders. Some areas in which one might improve their on-page SEO are as follows:

  • Website analysis: There are a variety of third-party tools out there whose sole purpose is to take a snapshot of a page and spit out a report card of sorts to show you what could be improved.

  • Competition analysis: Basically, this is like the previous entry, except you're peeking over the fence to see what works with your market rivals.  The goal is to get a panoramic view of what's out there and what angles and opportunities are that your competition haven't considered.

  • Keyword research and analysis: In order to rank well in the search engine results pages (SERPs) you need to use tools to discover specially chosen keywords that will increase conversions and organic traffic.

  • Website structure optimisation: The process of meticulously reworking the design of your site and reorganising some navigational elements to improve structural SEO. This means better indexing and more chances in achieving higher ranking.

  • Google tools: Essentially a Google endorsed tool that takes a lot of the mystery out of how to appease them. This utility measures many aspects of a website, including how well it follows SEO best practices.

  • W3C validation: The Wide Web Consortium is a company that develops standards for code on the web. This validation process works to check the HTML code on your site for proper markup and to ensure what you've built is in accordance with Web standards.

  • Metatags optimisation: Metatags offer more details about your site to website visitors and search engines. Highlighting the most important elements of your content and making your website stand out are the goals of this sort of optimization.

  • RSS feeds creation: Admittedly, RSS feed items have content in them that's syndicated and therefore not unique, so it will not boost your ranking through the roof. That said, becoming THE place to get info via a well-stocked RSS feed will increase your traffic and in turn improve your SEO.

  • Robots.txt creation: The robots.txt file, also known as the robots exclusion protocol or standard, is a text file that tells search engines which pages on your site to crawl. It also tells web robots which pages not to crawl. Having this clearly defined equals better SEO.


  • Sitemap creation: Think of a sitemap as an XML file that has an archive of every webpage / URL in your website. This file needs to be in order and easily discoverable in your site so that search engine crawlers can find it.

  • Image optimisation: One of the most important steps in this process is making sure your pretty pictures are unique, in the highest quality format possible and have had their file size reduced. You'd also do well to have concise captions and alt text entries.

Take care of the aforementioned and you'll be well on you r way to getting more hits and online recognition. That said, on-page SEO is only half the battle. There are other considerations at play here...

Off-page SEO

Once again, if you improve the position of a website in the search engine results page, you'll need to use a further set of techniques. Off-page SEO has to do with promotion methods for the purpose of ranking a website higher in the search results, though many people mistakenly assume that off-page SEO is purely rooted in link building and website design.

Optimizing for off-site ranking factors involves user perception of a site's authority, trustworthiness and relevance. It's another bloody popularity contest, in other words. Boosting your esteem is accomplished by having other reputable internet entities, be they pages, sites or *shudder * influencers, link to you or otherwise promote you. Getting vouched for will make Google take notice.

Think of it in brick-and-mortar business terms. Off-page SEO relies on human behavior, word-of-mouth referrals that tells Google that you have some high-quality goods in stock. And in order to get good vouches you'll need to consider the following:

Backlink Building

The core of the backlink concept is that a site with many high value backlinks will be viewed as an entity with quality content.  A comparable site with fewer backlinks will rank worse than yours. Knowing this, SEO deals in three types of backlinks that are sorted into how they were earned: natural links, manually created links or self-created links.

  • Natural links: These are ones given to you freely via editorial means – you've had no part in them coming your way whatsoever. For example, you might have a website that focusses on a certain type of material that catches the eye of a fandangle fashion designer who uses it in their productions. They link to you as a wholesaler in a passing comment, presumably because they like the cut of your cloth. That's a natural link.

  • Manual links: These are links that are deliberately established by link-building activities; networking on a human level, you might say. For example, in a promotion you might ask your audience to put out a hashtag or link to you in order to get in the running for a competition. Alternatively, you might set up a sponsored content promotion for you and your wares via an “internet famous” person or some other breed of professional sellout.

  • Self-created links: These are created by including yourself in either press releases, blog comment signatures, forum posts, or getting into an online directory. By and large, self-created links aren't the way to go as it's considered to be juking the numbers, or otherwise a little unscrupulous by search engines. Google's AI and algorithms will be sure to sniff that out quick smart and it'll earn you the opposite intended effect.

As you can see SEO is indeed a complex beast. But with a firm grasp of both on and off-page techniques you'll stand a much better chance of singling yourself out. Alternatively, you might want to consider delving into the wealth of knowledge possessed by the individuals on Freelancer.com. Off-page SEO in particular can be difficult without having the right contacts. So you should definitely get in touch with folks who are already well established in the online space!


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