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How to Optimise On-Page & Off-Page SEO

August 7, 2020
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written by Luke Davis
SEO Executive

A good site is more than just flashy images. 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/what does that stand for?” Then you have to find an easy way to explain it.

People in marketing don’t always have a strong understanding of what SEO involves either but a way to help explain is by splitting it into two parts: on-page and off-page.

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

What is on-page SEO?

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

Some examples of on-page SEO features include:

  • Headings tags (H1, H2, H3, H4)
  • Keyword research
  • Meta titles and meta description
  • Fixing broken links or links that redirect to other URLs
  • Page speed
  • Various estimations of “domain authority”
  • Adding Schema markup

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

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 site visitors 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.

Why are on-page and off-page so important?

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.

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How To Optimise

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 search for a query. How Google and other search engines determine that relevance is a journey through decades of machine learning and hundreds of search factors.

While we probably won’t find out what those factors are, we can estimate them and writing relevant content to serve the user is the first place to try.

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

Avoid filling your site with generic content just to make it seem functional, as this will likely have the opposite effect. Also, keeping your content fresh will allow it to be frequently picked up by search engine web crawlers.

Crawlers (or spiders) are search engine bots that find new content through links discovered online and store them in the search engine index.

You want your site to be crawled regularly and without hiccups so that it can be indexed by search engines, ready for people to find it. The more relevant it is, the more likely your site is to pop up in a search.

2. Use informative meta titles and descriptions

Meta titles often comprise the main heading of a page (also known as the H1) but that isn’t always the case. Best practice dictates that you should optimise your titles and descriptions with keywords without going overboard (known as keyword stuffing).

There are also space limits for meta titles and descriptions. For titles, keep them under 60 characters or around a 600-pixel width and for descriptions, ~160 characters/900 pixels.

Divide up your text using subheadings to make it more reader-friendly. It can also help with CTRs as Google can render some of your headings as site links on the SERPs.

3. Improve the site speed

If your web page loads slowly, it could affect your ranking as page speed is a ranking factor.

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.

Based on these statistics, it will help to get a detailed analysis of how fast your page loads using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.

Then improve your site speed by hosting it on speedy servers and keeping the sises of your images small. Consider investing in a web developer to handle the more technical aspects of optimising your site speed.

4. Follow best practice where necessary

When SEO practices are used to increase a site’s ranking on SERPs but do not benefit the user in any way, these techniques are known as black hat SEO.

These tactics violate the terms of service of search engines such as Google and can result in your website getting penalised with a lower ranking or an outright ban from the search engine and affiliate sites.

Examples of black hat SEO include:

  • Keyword stuffing
  • Hidden links or cloaking (making links the same colour as a page’s background)
  • Sneaky redirects

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

Internal links connect one page on your website to another page on the same domain. They make your site easier for users to navigate and also allow search engines to understand your website and index your pages better.

This will translate as a higher ranking as the quality of your site is improved.

It can also help with passing link equity to other pages. Link equity (also colloquially known as “link juice” but don’t use that term seriously or SEOs will laugh at you) is the concept of a link passing authority from one page to another.

That authority comes from an external page linking to yours and, by linking to other pages on your site, it passes that authority or “juice” onto them. Think of it like someone pouring champagne onto the top of a champagne tower.

6. Use external linking

It’s not just internal linking that can help your SEO. Linking out to relevant sites shows authority and that you know what you’re talking about.

Remember when you had to write papers for school or college 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 that as part of their E-A-T (expertise, authority, trustworthiness) guidelines. (Also important to note: E-A-T is not a ranking factor)

Be prudent, however, with the quality of external links you associate with your page and how many. Few, high-quality external links from authority sites are far more valuable for boosting your SEO than several low-quality links.

Quality links that are likely to greatly boost your SEO are those that are popular, trustworthy and have authority. The linking site’s topic should also be related to your site for optimal results.

For example, linking to a website about dog grooming in an off-topic anecdote when you’re writing about Microsoft won’t have the same effect as linking to a Microsoft help page.

Also consider who you’re linking to and why. If you’re explaining a Microsoft Ads feature, it might be counterproductive to link to another page trying to explain the same thing as the reader might as well go there and not read your content.

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 forums like Reddit and social media

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 if don’t correctly and efficiently.

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 improves the volume and quality of traffic on your site, which translates to increased brand visibility to both your existing and potential consumers.

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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