SEO (search engine optimization) has been around for a very long time. You can use it for a plethora of goals, like reaching new audiences, getting traffic to your website, spreading knowledge, and driving growth. Even though SEO has been around awhile, it has changed A LOT. Back in the day, it was only used as a way to stuff as many keywords as possible into content. Not to mention filling pages with tons of backlinks. It was definitely a black hat tactic.
Thankfully SEO has transformed into something a lot more sophisticated, which means there's some technical practice that comes into play. One that changes often, due to current web user behavior on both on-page and off-page techniques. This is really the only way to guarantee that high-quality websites make it to the top of search engine results pages. Today we'll discuss on page and off page SEO and talk a little bit about why SEO matters to Google.
The Ultimate Guide To On Page and Off Page SEO
Understanding On-Page SEO
On-page SEO includes on-site techniques that you can use to make sure that a website will rank on a SERP (search engine results page). It can also let you know how well a given page ranks. It does this by using both content and technical elements while improving the quality of a page. This means that the more on-page SEO you do, the more traffic you can get to a website and the more relevant the traffic.
There are a lot of technical aspects when it comes to optimizing a website with on-page SEO, they are:
- Title tags
- Site speed
- Internal links
- URL structure
- Meta descriptions
- Alt text for images
On-Page SEO Technical Best Practices
Title tags are the HTML elements that you can use to name a webpage and get on SERPS as the clickable result title. Each title needs to uniquely describe what the page is about, under 60 characters in length, and optimized with a keyword.
Headings are titles that you give your content. For the best results, they should be in H1 format. Headings need to focus on descriptive and relevant words. Luckily you can optimize them with keywords too - just don't stuff them. You can also use subheadings (H2 through H6) using the same best practices. Make sure you don't repeat keywords or phrases throughout the post.
URL structure is incredibly important because search engines determine how relevant a page is compared to a query. But you need to make sure that it's descriptive of the page's subject. Don't forget to optimize URLs with relevant keywords.
Alt text, also known as alternative text, is typically used to describe images to visitors who can't see them. They also give search engines more information about an image. With that being said alt text needs to be specific and descriptive of the image content in 125 characters or less. Don't forget to optimize it with a keyword or phrase - but only if it's necessary.
Page Load Speed
The speed of your page is ridiculously important because a slow-loading page gets higher bounce rates: 47% of people expect a site to load within two seconds, 40% will leave after three. Even search engines will penalize slow-loading pages, resulting in a lower ranking. So make sure that your page loads fast.
These types of links let your visitors easily navigate your site. It also makes it easier for search engines to index your page and better understand your site. Both of which give you a higher ranking. If you opt for the bare minimum, each page on your site needs to link back to its category or subcategory page and the homepage.
These particular descriptions might be brief but they greatly expand on title tags, summarize a page's content, and tell users why they should read your content over someone else's. The meta description is below the title and the URL - just keep it below 160 characters.
This type of design element makes sure that your page properly displays on any device. That includes mobile devices too. This is increasingly more important as more and more people around the world use mobile devices to search online.
Keywords are essential to your on-page SEO strategy because they can incorporate easily into technical elements that help you find the right visitors at just the right time. But you need to carefully research and select them. Then you need to work them into your content in a seamless way.
On-Page SEO's Impact On Content
Yes, technical aspects are important, but on-page SEO is most important because it's what actually brings traffic to your site. However, your basic run-of-the-mill content won't do. You need to make sure that your content is engaging, relevant, and informative. People should want to read the content your sharing. Luckily, this on-page content comes in a variety of formats:
- webpage copy
However, the most important element of your content is that no matter what you create can be easily shared by others.
Off-Page SEO and the Power of Quality Links
Just like keyword stuffing was acceptable in the past, so is the practice of buying or trading spam-filled backlinks in order to increase page rank. Seriously, don't even think about it. Search engines have known about this practice for a while, so filling your page with irrelevant backlinks will end up in penalization.
However, you need to remember that the quality and amount of your backlinks (and the number of referring domains) is a lot more important than quantity. So you need to remember that while backlinks are an important piece of off-page SEO, a single quality backlink from a credible site is even more important. Link building isn't always the simplest task, thankfully there are four stages that you can reference:
- Write guest blogs - it will help promote yourself as an expert in your niche
- Create content that mentions influencers in your niche - these are highly popular
- Don't forget to take advantage of the popularity of infographics and create them yourself
- Search blogs within your niche for broken links - you can suggest that they replace those broken links with your own content on the same subject
Off-Page SEO Best Practices
High-quality backlinks are the backbone of any off-page SEO strategy. But there are other tactics that you can use to increase your site's authority and encourage more links.
- You can add your business to local listings and internet directories. Things like Google My Business, Yellow Pages, Yelp, and other local listings. Once you add these, you need to make sure that ALL of your information is accurate. That includes your name, address, and phone number. Ensure that they are consistent across all platforms.
- Don't forget to engage in off-page SEO. This increases brand recognition and trust. You can do this by participating in discussions on sites like Quora and answering questions on other Q&A sites. This is especially beneficial if you have knowledge that you want to share with the community.
- Submit backlinked content to various sharing sites. Including images, audio, and video sharing sites like YouTube, SoundCloud, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Always remember that SEO best practices evolve all the time.
Right now the best approach is to have a solid SEO strategy in place. That way you can address both the on-page and off-page elements. With on-page, the main concern is quality control and securing any technical issues that might affect results. That includes speed, efficiency, and keywords. Off-page means that you need to spend time on encouraging quality backlinks from authoritative sites. This will guarantee that search engines see your site as relevant and important.
SEO Inquiry: What Does Google Actually Do?
Another aspect to consider looking into is what Google actually DOES with SEO. If you aren't new to SEO, I suggest skipping this. But for those who are new: taking a look at how Google works and what they do will give you some further insight. Which means you just might be able to create an SEO strategy that actually works!
Search engines like Google follow links.
Google follows links from one web page to another. It is constantly crawling and indexing and creating an algorithm. Google's crawler follows the links on the web 24/7 and saves the HTML-version of all the pages it finds in a massive database called "the index". This index is updated when the crawlers reach the same site again, but only if it finds new or revised pages. The new version of this page is then saved. So depending on the traffic on your site, and the number of changes you make, Google crawlers will come around more or less often.
In order for Google to even know that your site exists, there needs to be a link from another site. Preferably one that is already indexed to your site. If crawlers follow that link, it will lead to the first crawler-session (aka the first time your site is saved to the index). Afterward, your site can appear in Google's search results.
Once your site is indexed, Google will show it in its search results. Google also tries to match a certain search query with websites it has indexed. Google does this with their specific algorithm. It decides which pages are shown and in what order. If you're wondering how the algorithm works, it's a secret. No one really knows what factors decide the order of the search results.
The main thing to remember is that Google's algorithm is NOT static. That beast is always evolving. In fact, it changes regularly and a lot of it has to do with a plethora of factors that change quite often too. Even though the secret of the algorithm is hush-hush, Google does share what IS important to them. The only thing is that we don't really know HOW important it is and in what capacity. Testing and experimenting is honestly your best bet. See what happens when you change things and analyze your results.
SERP: Google's Results Page
The SERPs (Google's results page) shows around 7 or 10 links to sites that line up with your search the best. These are also known as organic search results. It's better to be on the first or second page, the further down the results, the less likely someone will find your site.
Most of the time, the links above the top ten on the page are ads that people have paid for. Google puts these links at the top only when people search for a specific term. Prices for these paid ads vary, depending on the competitiveness of the search term or keyword.
The Value of Links for Search Engines
This is where on-page SEO really comes into play. It's incredibly important to have a basic understanding of how Google uses links. The number of links that point to a page is used to figure out how important that page actually is. Therefore the more links a site has, the more important search engines think it it is. Internal and external links (from other reputable sites) can truly help when it comes to ranking a site in Google.
Just keep in mind that some links are more important than others. Like links from websites that have a lot of incoming links, it will definitely help a smaller website that has only a few incoming links. The idea behind links is what leads to active link building. As long as you collect links that are logical and useful, link building is an excellent SEO strategy. But if you collect (or buy) sketchy links, Google can punish you. If you have any questions, let us know in the comments below so we can discuss!