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How to Optimise On-Page & Off-Page SEO

August 7, 2020
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written by Luke Davis
On-Page & Off-Page SEO

This guide will demonstrate how on-page and off-page optimisation will boost traffic and sales.

When people outside of marketing hear the term “SEO”, their first response is “what is that?” and “what does that stand for?”. Then you have to try and explain what SEO is.

A helpful way to explain SEO is by splitting it into two parts: on-page SEO and off-page SEO.

The two categories underpin the process of optimising content for users and search engines but they cover different techniques. In this article, I will discuss what they are and how to optimise for them for your SEO strategy.

What is on-page SEO?

On-page SEO refers to collective actions you take on a website to improve your ranking on the SERPs (search engine results pages). It includes both the quality of your content and the technical aspects.

Some examples of on-page SEO features include:

  • Headings tags (H1, H2, H3, H4 etc.)
  • Keyword research
  • Meta titles and meta description
  • Fixing broken links
  • Redirects
  • Page speed
  • Determining a website’s “authority” (known as “domain authority” or “domain rating”)
  • Schema markup

Many of these features are considered ranking factors by search engines and use them as part of their search algorithms.

You can use Adzooma’s SEO Performance Report to receive a detailed breakdown of your onsite SEO. For every recommendation, you’ll find out exactly why it’s been suggested, what it does and how you can implement the change straight away.

This basic SEO Performance report is free for all Adzooma users to access. If you’re not an Adzooma user, you can sign up for free here to be able to access this feature. You can also find out more of the fantastic features of the SEO Performance Report here.

What is off-page SEO?

Off-page SEO focuses on factors outside your website to influence your rankings on the SERPs. The aim is for the search engine and users to perceive your site as relevant, trustworthy, and popular.

Backlinks are a crucial part of making that happen and a fundamental feature of off-page SEO. That is because Google’s search algorithms use backlinks as units to measure a page’s authority.

This plays into a wider concept known as “domain authority” which was popularised by marketing firm Moz.

But apart from backlinks, other features that boost off-page SEO include:

  • Having an optimised Google My Business profile
  • Positive reviews on your Google My Business profile
  • Brand mentions – both linked and unlinked
  • NAP citations – in other words, online mentions that cite your Name, Address, and Phone
  • To a lesser extent, forum and blog commenting (note: this should not be considered a strategy and commenting has varying levels of success for SEO or traffic acquisition)

Unlike on-page SEO, off-page SEO is mostly out of your control, which makes it harder to earn. However, putting in the effort to enhance your off-page SEO – particularly through link building – is worth every minute of your time if done efficiently.

How to optimise on-page and off-page SEO

Now you have an idea of what on-page and off-page SEO is, it’s time to see how you can optimise them for your site.

1. Write authoritative content that serves the user

People need relevant and informative content when they complete a search. How Google and other search engines determine that relevance is a journey through decades of machine learning and hundreds of ranking factors.

Keeping your content useful and up-to-date establishes your brand as a trustworthy authority on related topics and increases relevant traffic to your site.

Advice: One thing to keep in mind is E-A-T. We’ve covered it in our beginner’s guide to SEO but E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness and it describes criteria that Google’s Quality Raters follow in their guidelines. When they assess content they look at:

  • The expertise of the writer
  • The authoritativeness of the writer, the content, and the website
  • The trustworthiness of the writer, the content, and the website
  • Topic relevance

If you can demonstrate all of these criteria well, your content will rank higher than than pages that don’t.

2. Use purposeful meta titles and descriptions

Meta titles often mirror the main heading of a page (also known as the H1) but that isn’t always the case. Optimising your meta titles and descriptions for your users will help improve your click-through rate (CTR).

There are also space limits for meta titles and descriptions. For titles, keep them under 60 characters or up to 600 pixels in width and for descriptions, between 120–160 characters or up to 900 pixels.

Advice: Split up your copy using subheadings to make it more user-friendly. It can also help with click-through rates as Google can render headings as site links on the SERPs. It’s one of the easiest and most helpful ways to improve your on-page SEO.

3. Improve the site speed

If your web pages take a long time to load, that can affect your organic visibility as page speed is a ranking factor and very important for on-page SEO.

According to Kissmetrics, 47% of people expect a loading time of two seconds or less for the websites they visit. If a site takes more than three seconds to load, 40% of consumers will leave the site.

Advice: Get a detailed analysis of how fast your site loads using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. Then improve your site speed by:

  • Hosting your site on a better server
  • Keeping image/JavaScript/CSS file sizes small
  • Load important files first and defer everything else so reduce load time
  • Consider investing in a web developer to handle these amendments

We also have a handy guide on optimising your site speed which you should read.

4. Follow best practice where necessary

Whether it’s on-page or off-page SEO, best practices are established techniques that marketers use to improve organic visibility and user experience. But not all best practices need to be followed to the letter.

Noted SEO professional and managing director, Helen Pollitt, suggested potential issues with best practice in place of pragmatic decisions:

Best practice should be treated like training wheels […] But like any training wheels, at some point, they need to be removed so you can ride over more rocky terrain and accelerate. Use it as a guide in your early days but if you have called yourself an SEO for more than a year it would be worth re-evaluating what you “know” about SEO and seek to prove your knowledge with results.

Advice: Follow best practice where necessary and avoid any questionable tactics to gain an edge. For example, you don’t have to fill your pixel width limit for titles for the sake of it as that will lead to keyword stuffing.

5. Use internal linking

An underrated element of on-page SEO is internal linking.

Internal linking connects pages from the same domain together with common topics and relevant anchor text. They make your site easier to navigate and also allow search engines to understand your website and index your pages more efficiently.

It can also help to pass link equity to other pages. Link equity is the concept of an external link from another domain passing authority to your site. Think of it like someone pouring champagne onto the top of a champagne tower.

Advice: Content pillars are a great way to promote internal linking. They are pages that define a broad term (e.g. Google Ads) and have different related pages feeding off them. Doing this will help web crawlers like Googlebot to crawl through your site regularly and without hiccups and index your pages, ready for people to find them. The more relevant it is, the more likely your site is to pop up in a search.

6. Use external linking

External links show authority when you’re writing content. Remember when you had to write school essays and you had to reference other writers or books? External linking works in the same way.

You need to back up your claims with evidence and search engines use those references as part of E-A-T. (Also important to note: E-A-T is not a ranking factor.)

Advice: Link out to relevant pages that provide contextual proof but make sure they don’t cover exactly what you’re writing about. For example, linking out to an external page that discussed how to optimise on-page and off-page SEO in this article, would undermine my content.

If you reference any statistics or take quotes from people, link to the original sources otherwise people might think you made them up. George Washington once said that and 78% of people didn’t know that.

7. Use adequate meta descriptions

These are concise descriptions that supplement your title tags, summarise your content and give users a reason to read the content on your site instead of other sites.

The meta description is displayed below the URL and meta title and gives users an idea of what to expect on a page before they click on it.

Google rewrite meta descriptions if they think their version serves the user better so be prepared for that. But think of that as a reason to write better descriptions if it happens frequently. It can also help to use your targeted keyword in your description but this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule so use your judgement.

8. Build an outreach strategy

Outreaching is the act of gaining backlinks for a site in order to build authority, ranking, and traffic to it. But it can be challenging.

In the words of my colleague, Amber Dawson:

Outreaching is an uphill battle from the start: you can see the summit and the path that will take you there, you just need to put the graft in. The number one obstacle with outreaching is that 90% of the time you’re a cold-caller – they’re not interested, and it’s up to you to change their mind. Whoever you’re contacting is likely super busy and has little time for helping someone out for no gain. It’s all about showing them what’s in it for them straight away.

But the benefits are significant. So rather than sending random cold emails, create a list of sites you’d want to be featured on, analyse their own authority and traffic estimates to see if it’s worthwhile (you can use a tool like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Majestic for this), and send them emails explaining the benefits for them by linking to you.

Building relationships with site owners and journalists is important to make this work so be personable but not forceful in your approach.

9. Use social media as an off-page SEO factor

As I said above, using forums or blog comments sections aren’t a feasible strategy for link building and they haven’t been for a very long time. But they can still build traffic and some see social media as a form of off-page SEO.

Reddit is a great place to try this as a lot of threads on subreddits are from people looking for answers. And if you can offer those answers (depending on the rules on self-promotion), you’re almost guaranteed to gain clicks.

While social media doesn’t have an effect on ranking, it is still a traffic source, and can help with brand awareness. We have guides on how to create a social media strategy, when to post, and social media marketing tips if you want to know more.

Conclusion

On-page and off-page SEO are the lifelines of your website. They ensure the success of your site in terms of attracting high-quality traffic. For instance, if you are in the business of selling limited-edition comic books, you want more people interested in buying limited-edition comic books.

You want people to find your page on search engines easily and to feel confident visiting and trusting your website. That trust and interaction transfer into them buying your product and even spread the word by sharing links to your page, which further improves your rankings and so on.

Growing your consumer base through efficient SEO is a cost-effective way to boost sales and increase your profits. Adopt these useful tips on how to boost your SEO and watch your business thrive.

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