The Difference Between On-Page and Off-Page SEO (and Why You Need Both) |

The Difference Between On-Page and Off-Page SEO (and Why You Need Both)

The Difference Between On-Page & Off-Page SEO (& Why You Need Both)

If you’re familiar with online marketing, you probably have at least a basic understanding of SEO: what it stands for and why it can get your business ahead of the curve by bringing more traffic to your website.

But are you familiar with the different types of SEO?

There are two major subsets, known as on-page and off-page SEO, that affect how your web pages perform. Let’s dive in to understand what they are and why both are integral to your site’s search visibility.

On-Page SEO vs. Off-Page SEO: What’s the Difference?

In simple terms, on-page SEO is everything on your site that you have control over – elements like your content, page structure and loading speed. 

Off-page SEO, on the other hand, has more to do with establishing a relationship with your visitors and building your website’s reputation. It encompasses social media mentions, backlinks and other elements that generate more exposure for your site.

Wondering which is more important? That’s a trick question because both are necessary for maximizing your site’s search visibility. 

A hypothetical website with stunning on-page SEO but nothing in the way of off-page SEO will pale in comparison to a fully optimized website that’s covered all its bases. Thus, to get your website to outshine your competitors, it’s crucial that you incorporate both on-page and off-page SEO into your content strategy. 

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO is the easier of the two to understand. As previously mentioned, this branch of search engine optimization includes everything on your web page that can affect its ranking in search engine results, like:

  • Page copy
  • Design and layout
  • Meta tags
  • Schema
  • Internal and external links

Generally speaking, you can tweak these elements to adjust for changes in search engine algorithms and user behavior. For example, you can add an outbound link to a relevant, high-quality source in your content, or include social share buttons to make a page more shareable.

Don’t be mistaken, though: There is no single hack to enhancing your website’s on-page SEO and making it rank above all your competitors. 

Rather, the best way to think of your on-page SEO efforts is in terms of value-add to your target audience. What kind of content is your target user looking for? What details make it a better resource? Instead of taking shortcuts, aim to create valuable content that satisfies some kind of user need. That might be, for instance, producing an in-depth guide that answers common questions about a product.

Beyond creating resourceful content, there are plenty of other techniques for enhancing your site’s on-page SEO – below are just a few.

1. Write Relevant and Enticing Metadata

Meta titles, also known as title tags, are the first things readers see on a search engine results page (SERP) after typing in their query, followed closely by meta descriptions. These two pieces of information, known as metadata or meta tags, communicate to users why they should click on your site (as opposed to the others listed) by describing what your page is about and how it can help them find what they’re looking for. 

Here’s an example:

SEOblog’s homepage ranks highly for the phrase “seo news blog”. Many reasons factor into this, of course – it’s not just metadata alone that determines a page’s rank – but the meta title and description play an important role. They clearly convey how SEOblog is relevant to the user’s query about SEO news by incorporating part of the target keyword (“SEO news”) and related words like “tips, resources and trends.”

You can optimize your page’s metadata by including your page’s target keywords and keeping them within the prescribed character length: 60 characters for titles and 160 for meta descriptions. Remember that these elements are competing with other websites’, so it’s in your best interest to be creative and avoid being generic. Consider taking a page out of SEOblog’s book and phrasing your meta description in an actionable way.

2. Break Up Your Content With Subheadings

Subheadings help to organize your content, making it more visually appealing but also providing information and context to search engine crawlers. These appear as H2s, H3s, and so on, although you often won’t delve past H4s unless you’re producing highly detailed content.

Subheadings help to organize your content, making it more visually appealing but also providing information and context to search engine crawlers. These appear as H2s, H3s, and so on, although you often won’t delve past H4s unless you’re producing highly detailed content.

To make the most of your subheadings, know that it’s not necessary to include your target keyword in every one – in fact, doing so may be overkill and look like keyword stuffing. Instead, include keywords naturally, where they make sense given the context of your topic.

3. Make Your Page URLs Descriptive but Concise

Your URLs should succinctly describe the subject of your page and include your target keyword. Use hyphens, not underscores, to separate words, and avoid superfluous words like “and” and “the.” 

Additionally, to help your page maintain relevance over time, avoid including any date information, like a year, in your URL. For example, if you were searching for content on rank tracking tools, which of the following URLs would you prefer to click on?


Chances are the first, and it makes sense. Even if it had recent updates, the latter URL gives off the impression of being outdated since it was originally published in 2003. Moreover, for the sake of optimization, it’s simply unnecessary to include extraneous words like “are” and “there” in the post’s URL.

4. Include Alt Text for Your Images

Though often overlooked, image alt text helps to enhance your pages’ SEO performance. Search engine crawlers use these descriptions to better understand the subject matter of your images. When well-optimized, these images may appear in organic search results like so:

google image search results

It’s worth noting that this screenshot is from Google’s web results, not its image search results. This has big implications for the potential of your website’s images to bring in regular traffic just like your blog posts and articles.

While there’s no guarantee of getting your images to show up in search results, you can increase their chances by optimizing their alt text. That means making your alt text-specific, accurate and coherent – in other words, not a repetitive jumble of keywords. 

To clarify, this doesn’t mean your alt text needs to be a complete sentence, but it should at least be a coherent and descriptive phrase. Avoid including text like “image of” or “picture of” – this text is redundant, as Google can deduce that itself.

5. Include Relevant Internal Links

Linking back to other pages on your site – known as internal linking – encourages users to explore your site in more depth. Conversely, if your website only has external, or outbound, links, it’ll be difficult for readers to find its other pages or posts. More than likely, their sessions will end after browsing a single page: the one they landed on in the first place. 

Besides inviting readers further into your site, internal links also help search engine crawlers to better understand your site architecture. A large number of internal links to one particular page, like a pillar page, will indicate to Google that it’s important; this may give it more weight when it comes to search results rankings. 

Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO refers to ranking signals that influence your site’s trustworthiness and authority. A large part of this revolves around building up your site’s backlink profile, though be warned: You don’t want just anyone linking to your site. 

As with keywords, quality and relevance are much more important than quantity. Crawlers look at the pages linking to your content to understand how your website fits into the larger internet ecosystem. As such, it’s best to have high-quality, relevant pages linking to your site.

While you don’t have the same amount of control over off-page SEO as you do with its on-page counterpart, that doesn’t make it any less important. Though far from an exhaustive list, below are several strategies for improving your off-page SEO.

1. Promote Your Content on Social Channels

On its own, social media does not directly impact your site’s search performance. However, that doesn’t mean you should exclude social media from your content strategy altogether.

Promoting your content on social media helps to engage potential customers. This will ultimately reel in more users to your site and get new eyes on your content. In SEO terms, that means increased visitors and page views. In this way, social shares matter because of how they can influence your site’s engagement metrics, which correlate with Google rankings.

2. Partner With Influencers in Your Subject Area

Sharing your own content on social media can be difficult if you don’t have much of a following to begin with. That’s where influencer marketing comes in handy: Partnering with an established influencer can help expand your social media following and enhance your brand awareness. 

How does this contribute to off-page SEO? It’s another means of content promotion, but by someone outside of your business. And by leveraging influencer partnerships, your site can reach a larger audience and increase its chances of earning backlinks.

Try connecting with influencers by:

  • Giving shoutouts in your content
  • Sponsoring contests and giveaways for their audience
  • Inviting influencers to do product reviews
  • Using discount codes and affiliate marketing

Influencers can ultimately help boost traffic to your site, meaning improved SEO and visibility – provided that your site is optimized for user engagement, of course.

3. Publish Guest Posts on Popular Blogs in Your Niche

Digital marketers have long been writing guest posts for the sake of enhancing their websites’ off-page SEO. This is because guest posting can build relevant backlinks to your website from within your niche, helping to establish your site’s reputation and authority along the way.

Of course, this strategy requires a tactful approach for long-term success. As many site owners and editors can attest to, spammy guest post requests are a dime a dozen. For this reason, guest blogging is controversial, with some SEO and marketing experts denouncing it. However, Google itself does not prohibit guest posts. In fact, its Search Central blog specifically states:

“We’ve seen an increase in spammy links contained in articles referred to as contributor posts, guest posts, partner posts or syndicated posts. These articles are generally written by or in the name of one website, and published on a different one.

Google does not discourage these types of articles in the cases when they inform users, educate another site’s audience or bring awareness to your cause or company.”

To find solid guest blogging opportunities:

  • Look for websites and blogs that relate to your own. Google your target niche and phrases like “guest blogging” or “write for us.”
  • Try Alexa’s Audience Overlap Tool to identify relevant sites that accept guest posts.
  • If you have the budget for it, use a backlink analysis tool to find out whether a site is spammy or reputable.

Once you’ve identified websites to write for, the real work begins. Do your research on these target websites by reading their blog posts and looking for topics you can meaningfully contribute content about. Write a compelling outreach email that showcases why you’re qualified to write on your proposed topic. The key is following Google’s guidelines and writing a thoughtful guest post that informs and educates rather than self-promotes.

4. Engage in Relevant Forum Discussions

You can also improve your site’s off-page SEO by participating in online communities like Quora and Reddit. By diving into discussions relevant to your niche, you can connect with other industry names, establish your brand’s expertise and share links to your site where appropriate. 

But just like with guest posting, it’s important that you link to your site tastefully, rather than in a spammy way. You’ll get a lot of flack if you take an overly promotional approach, so it’s best to focus on providing meaningful contributions.

Final Words

To recap, both on-page and off-page SEO are essential to improving your site’s search visibility.

While on-page SEO is most effective through natural keyword placement and user-friendly design, you can boost your site’s off-page SEO by engaging with other websites and promoting your content. 

Chances are that you’ll find one type of SEO easier than the other. Regardless of which it is, it’s important that you round out your digital marketing strategy by using both. You’ll see greater success with your content’s search visibility when you work on improving both your site’s on-page and off-page SEO. 

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