On-Page SEO Vs Off-Page SEO – A Beginner’s Guide
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) falls into two broad categories, namely:
On-page and Off-page SEO.
On-page SEO deals with all of Google's ranking factors that are determined by looking directly at the particular pages that you're trying to optimize.
This includes your headlines, page structure, and content.
On the other hand, off-page SEO is all about the variables that Google looks at which aren't exclusively in your hands because they depend on various other sources like social networks, the searcher's personal history, and other websites and blogs in your niche.
These two categories of SEO are very different, and in order to perform well on the search engines, you need to do both right.
Here is an example to help you get a better understanding of what this means for your blog:
Say you've got a charming little house that has a garden in the front with a small path that leads through it to your house.
Now imagine these two situations:
1. Your house is extremely clean inside, but the yard looks like a war zone
So what happens in such a situation?
It doesn't matter that your house is the cleanest on the planet. No one will want to visit in the first place because they're looking at your garden which is a total mess (and assuming the house is, too).
This is the same thing that happens if you haven't done your on-page SEO well.
The page may contain great content, and it may even look stunning, but you probably won't get anyone giving you credit for that page or pointing to it.
The page will remain a beautiful masterpiece that no one will see because it won't get any traffic.
2. Your yard is beautifully landscaped, but your house is an unsightly mess
Turning things around, if you have a nicely manicured lawn your yard will attract lots of visitors to your house, but as soon as they step into that messy living room, they'll turn around and leave faster than you can spell SEO.
When visitors leave your site after looking at a single page, Google considers it a bounce, and the higher the bounce rate on the pages on your site, the lower the ranking you'll get on the search engines.
These two scenarios are why you have to do both types of SEO on your site, on-page, and off-page SEO.
To get the former right, there are several things that you can do on your page, and we're going to look at some of them right now.
How To Ace On-Page SEO
On-page SEO can further be broken down into three sub-categories:
Let's take a look at content first. We've heard it time and time again...
Content is King!
But why is that so?
It's because searchers are happy when they find the results that best serve their needs online.
If you search for 'quick and easy brownie recipes', Google puts all its energy into finding and delivering what it believes is the best 'quick and easy brownie recipe' on the entire Internet. One that not only takes the least amount of time but also uses fewer ingredients.
Google doesn't just look for the quickest recipe, or just the easiest one, and it doesn't just throw out some online shops where you can get brownies – it uses the might of all its algorithms to come up with EXACTLY what you asked for.
The search engine giant tries its best to give its users the best possible experience simply by directing them to the best content that it can find on the web.
This is why your main focus, if you want to do well with your search engine optimization, is to create great content.
What Makes Up Awesome Content (in Google's eyes)
Below are the factors which make up great content according to Google:
This alone won't make you stand out or get the results that you're hoping for in your SEO efforts, but it's a great place to start for any online business.
However, it's not easy to come up with great content – after all, you essentially have to be a teacher (and a great one at that...).
Luckily, you do not have to begin from scratch.
If you have your own ideas, then that's great, but you're also able to piggyback off the content of other people in your niche, and simply make it better, easier to consume, longer, more in-depth, and so on.
#2: Keyword Research
This is a vital part of creating content that performs well on the search engines. Ideally, you want to have your targeted keyword in the headlines, URL, and meta description of your post, as well as throughout the content.
Your keyword research will help you choose the right keyword before you start writing.
#3: Freshness of Content
Posting new content to your blog more frequently improves your rankings in the search engines.
But, it's only one way of signaling Google freshness. Other things that you can do include updating content that you have already published to keep it current and fresh.
#4: Direct Answers
Searchers are now presented with direct answers on the search engine results page.
This means that if your content is clear enough for the search engine to recognize that it provides the answer to a particular question, then it will likely show up in direct answers right underneath the search bar.
Next on our list of the three sub-categories that make up on-page SEO we have...
Don't worry, you don't have to have any coding skills to get this part right.
But, if you're running an online business, it is important to know the basics of HTML. There are ways of learning what you need to know about HTML quickly, easily, and for free using places like Khan Academy or Codecademy.
With so many ways of learning HTML basics on the job, there's no excuse for being clueless about this means of improving your SEO efforts.
Here are the four different HTML parts that you need to optimize every piece of content for:
1. Title Tags
These show up in your browser tab when a new tab is opened.
Online, your title tags are the equivalent of a newspaper headline. 'Title' is the HTML tag for them, but with regards to blogs, it's often 'H1' (heading of the first order). Each page should have only one H1 tag to make it clear to Google what the title is.
2. Meta Description
This is the excerpt that shows up whenever Google displays your page in the SERPs.
You can easily see who did their SEO homework and who didn't by their meta description. An optimized meta description won't get cut off by Google with '…' or end mid-sentence.
Also, it often mentions the main keyword in the content up-front. You can use a plugin like Yoast SEO to help you craft the best meta descriptions for your posts.
This came about thanks to the collaboration among several search engines and it's basically a subset of particular HTML tags that improve the way that search engines display your content in the results pages.
Subheadings are among the main things that every great page needs.
They not only help to format and structure your content, but they also give your readers convenient reference points. Subheads affect your SEO in a significant way, although less so than H1 tags. Using H2, H3, and H4 tags is one of the easiest SEO wins you can get on your site.
Diagnosing HTML Improvements On Your Site
On your Google Search Console dashboard, you'll find a feature that reports 'HTML Improvements'. Use it to spot the areas of your HTML that need improvement.
The way in which it works is that Google takes the metadata on your site such as the meta description and title tags and figures out exactly how to categorize your website and then tell searchers about it.
This report gives a site-wide analysis and includes information to help you determine the following:
Whether or not you've duplicated them across other posts or pages on your site
If they're too long and if they get cut off before people can read them in full
If they're too short and not descriptive enough to be helpful
You can then click on each one of the results to go to the specific page issue and take care of it.
And now that you've got your content and HTML done right, it's time to move on to the third and final part of on-page SEO.
This section can get super-techy really fast, but it's important to know the few basic things that every blogger or online business owner needs to learn to improve their SEO rankings.
Good site architecture provides a great user experience when visitors navigate your page.
It's focused on things like:
A fast-loading website
A safe connection
And so on...
There are many different ways of making sure that your UX rocks, but you also need to ensure that your search engine experience is great, too.
This makes your site more accessible to Google and ultimately leads to better rankings.
You can do that by implementing the following:
1. Make Your Site Easy To Crawl
Spiders are programs that 'crawl' from one page to another through the links on your website. They are more likely to report back to the search engines that you're a good result if they can index the pages on your website well.
Google will better understand your site if there is a thick web of links between all your pages to make it easier for the spiders crawling your site to reach each and every one of them.
To make this job even easier for Google, you can create a sitemap using simple WordPress plugins or free online XML sitemap generators.
2. Avoid Duplicate Content
This does hurt your rankings, and you have to be careful to avoid duplicate content at all costs. But sometimes this happens without us even knowing it.
For instance, when you re-post content that you published on your site on another website that is a more authoritative domain soon after posting it on your site, Google indexes that site first, and this will hurt your rankings because the content on your site will now show up as duplicate content even though you posted there first.
This is referred to as 'canonicalization'.
In today's world, if your page is not mobile-friendly, then you've already lost.
Over half of all Facebook users access the platform on their mobile devices exclusively. This means that you have to keep mobile devices at the forefront if you want to compete these days.
Use Google's free tool to check how your mobile-friendliness is holding up right now and fix any issues that are present.
The good news is that most WordPress themes are mobile-friendly from the start, and even if you happen to have one that's not, you can simply install a plugin that easily takes care of that for you.
4. Page Speed
To get an idea of just how important this one is, try to remember the last time that you waited 10 seconds for a website to load.
I'm willing to bet you can't recall a single time that happened. That's because these days people value their time above everything else, which means that slow loading times will definitely kill your conversions.
That concludes our section on On-page SEO, and in the next article, we're going to take a look at what you can do to up your Off-Page SEO game.
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Updated: originally published December 9th 2018