Sending your data to our servers, please wait...

illustration of a blog post: On-Page SEO vs. Off-Page SEO: A Complete Guide
white rounded rectangle masking image below

Resources 12 min read

On-Page SEO vs. Off-Page SEO: A Complete Guide

Ayesha Renyard photo

Written by Ayesha Renyard

Content Writer @ Galactic Fed

Dallin Porter photo

Expert reviewed by Dallin Porter

Marketing Director @ Galactic Fed

Published 15 Oct 2020

If you’re exploring the abyss of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you’ve probably floated by some alien terms, such as on-page SEO and off-page SEO, and wondered, “what’s the difference?”

A meme of a lady thinking

What are On-Page and Off-Page SEO?

On-page SEO focuses on optimizing controllable parts of a website—such as keyword placement and page speed—to demonstrate to web crawlers (also known as search engine bots) the value it offers users. 

On-page ranking factors include:

  1. Keywords used
  2. Quality of content (adherence to the E-A-T model)
  3. Optimized visuals (size, alt text)
  4. Title tags
  5. Metadata and meta description
  6. Optimized URLs

Off-page SEO focuses on increasing the overall authority of a domain through external factors—such as backlinks and social sharing—to improve its search ranking. 

Off-page ranking factors include:

  1. Number of referring domains
  2. Number of referring pages
  3. Rating of the referring domains
  4. Quality of links

Essentially, on-page SEO is like the launchpad for your rocket ship, providing a solid foundation for your website’s content to take off. Off-page SEO, on the other hand, is like the fuel that propels your ship forward, firing up on backlinks, referring domains, and other signals to boost your website’s visibility in the search.

Although there is a difference between on-page and off-page SEO, it’s important to note that they are not mutually exclusive. You see, how a webpage will rank depends on how authoritative, relevant, and valuable the content is, and that requires optimizing both on-page and off-page SEO. Like our favorite Sci-Fi duos (James T. Kirk and Spock and Han Solo and Chewbacca, am I right?), they perform best together. 

But to better understand what they are and the strategies they entail, this article offers detailed on-page and off-page checklists —so you can turn these alien terms into strategies that create galactic results. We’ll also look at some on-page and off-page SEO examples to give you a better idea of how to optimize your website.

Our SEO Series aims to keep you updated on the latest trends, strategies, and even search engine algorithm updates. At the end of this article, we discuss what’s to come in 2021 and how it may affect on-page and off-page SEO strategies. Don’t float past that section!

On-Page SEO Checklist

  • Strategic keyword placement: Keyword research is fundamental to SEO strategy. Why? Because it reveals content that’s in demand and target keywords that you should incorporate in your content. Once you conduct this research (try Moz or Ahrefs) and identify these target keywords, it’s time to place them in the title tag and main headers. 

We recommend including target keywords followed by your brand (separated by a pipe bar) for title tags. 

For example: Cheap Flights to the Moon Galactic Airlines

But beware of “keyword stuffing” or using keywords too often, which could actually kill your SEO ranking. Search engines will penalize pages that seem to overuse keywords—so keep it tasteful.

 For example: Want Cheap Flights to the Moon? Get Cheap Moon Flights Here

  • Optimized content: Ensure your content follows the best practices, including:

    • Clear structure with keywords in H2 subheaders and minimum 700 words
    • Content is unique and up to date, no grammar mistakes, all links working
    • Makes use of synonyms, LSI keywords, and mixing up keywords order
  • Intentional alt text for images: Within an HTML code, you can describe the appearance and function of an image on a page—we call this alt (alternative) text. First and foremost, it allows visually impaired users to understand the webpage’s content; however, it can also replace an image if the file cannot load. 

Alt text is also an opportunity to optimize on-page SEO by incorporating target keywords; it’s one more way to show web crawlers that your content is highly relevant to users. But again, don’t stuff this section with keywords. Place keywords in the alt text if it’s natural and makes sense. 

Good example: <img src=”rocketship.png” alt=“Rocket ship flying to the moon”>

Bad example: cheap flight cheap flights to the moon hot deals cheap deals

  • Succinct URLs: When it comes to URLs, it’s worth your while to rewrite them, so they are short, sweet, and easy to read. If they are miles long and filled with random letters and numbers, users are less likely to know what your webpage offers them—which could mean lower click-through rates.

Again, if you can tastefully drop your target keyword in there, we encourage you to do so. A subtle plug of the target keyword reinforces the relevancy of your content.

  • Fast-loading website: We all have come across websites with so much promise (What?! Moon travel on a budget?!), but are sadly let down by slow loading times. Because user experience is essential to Google’s algorithm (especially for 2021, hint hint), a fast-loading website is incredibly important for your on-page SEO. An easy place to start is compressing and optimizing large files, videos, and photos.
  • Easy webpage navigation: If your website consists of standalone pages that have one big block of copy, it’s hard for both users and web crawlers to navigate your site. We recommend breaking up the copy by using headers, subheaders, lists, and images. 
  • Internal links: To create a cohesive website, aim to include 1-3 internal links on each page or post. Internal links are hyperlinks that point to other pages on the same website and serve to build relationships between pages—helping algorithms understand your site’s topics and hierarchy. 

Bonus: Not only do internal links optimize your on-page SEO, but they also encourage users to check out more of your content, reducing bounce rates. Not a bad day at the office!

Off-Page SEO Checklist

  • Backlinks: When one website links to another website, they become referring or linking domains, and create a backlink. Quality backlinks are essential for your off-page SEO because they represent “votes of confidence” for your webpage, telling web crawlers that your content is the real deal.

Why do we say quality backlinks? Because search engines are aware that people buy backlinks and submit them to shady or unrelated link directories to manipulate their page ranking. Search engines penalize this behavior, so focus your energy on gaining backlinks from authoritative, trusted sources. Search engines will read this as a valid endorsement of your content and rank you favorably. 

Don’t forget to analyze your competitors’ backlink profiles to get a benchmark idea.

 There’s definitely an art to it. Here are some great tips for link-building!

  • Social shares: Like link building, social media marketing, influencer marketing, and guest blogging can also build credibility and authority. To optimize social shares, ask yourself these questions: is my content worth sharing, and is it easy to share? URLs and anchor text that are clear, accessible, and point to value, will lead to more shares—it’s science, really. For influencer marketing and guest blogging, seek out synergistic partnerships with like-minded individuals to support long-term link-building opportunities. 

 Remember, more shares = more visibility, backlinks, and traffic!

  • Directories and Listings: There are lots of platforms where your business may (and often, should!) be featured. Google Business Profile is the key one, but you may also want to have a look at reviews websites like Yelp or G2 (depending on your product/service), Apple Maps, professional directories for domain experts, and such.

Make sure to stay away from spammy and untrustworthy websites. For example, if there’s no vetting process, you probably don’t want to be featured there. Tools like Moz Local can help you choose trusted listings.

  • Domain authority: Relevancy, value, credibility—these all contribute to the overall authority of a website. Other contributing factors include the “age” of a site and its activity level. If you launched your site yesterday, not enough time has elapsed to assess the credibility of your site; if your site hasn’t published content in a while, web crawlers will also question its relevance to the user. 

Several SEO software platforms, such as Moz’s Link Explorer and Ahrefs Authority Checker, offer tools to assess your website authority—mainly, how it measures up against your competitors. Both tools run on a scale from 0-100. The higher the number, the more authoritative the website is. But take these scores with a grain of salt. It’s more valuable to check out your competitors’ scores, rather than those with the highest scores, such as Wikipedia.

If your competitors’ domains rank higher than yours, ask yourself these questions:

  • What keywords are they using (and where are they placed)?
  • What design layout are they using?
  • How does their loading speed compare to yours?
  • Is their site easy to navigate? Why?
  • Are their URLs static or dynamic?
  • How many backlinks do they have (and what are the referring domains)?

Through this comparative analysis, you can paint a pretty good picture of what web crawlers also see—so you know which buttons to push, and switches to flip, to steer the ship towards higher SERP rankings.

How to Optimize On-Page and Off-Page SEO in 2023

Not to spread rumors, but it sounds like Google will be updating its algorithm in 2023 to optimize the mobile experience. Nothing here is groundbreaking, but it’s important to be cognizant of what is on Google’s (and other search engines’) radar and how we, as marketers, can create an SEO strategy that will take us into 2023 and beyond. 

Google’s Page Experience Update

Keep your eyes peeled for Google’s new ranking signal designed to judge web pages based on the user experience. Now more than ever, it’s crucial to devise an SEO strategy that prioritizes the user. 

Here are a few places to start: 

  • Ensure your website is mobile-friendly: According to Statistica, by the end of 2019, organic mobile search traffic on Google reached 61%. Desktop use is dropping, yet only 13% of websites actually retain the same SERP across all devices. It’s time to ensure your mobile version performs just as well as your desktop one!
  • Use long-tail keywords: Google reports that 27% of the global online population uses voice search on mobile. With an expected increase in voice search use, identify conversational, long-tail target phrases, and incorporate them into your content.
  • Avoid interstitial marketing: We can all attest that interstitial marketing, such as the use of pop-ups, is disruptive and impacts the user experience. Now, Google will crack down on the use of interstitials by lowering these webpages’ rankings. 
  • Abide by Google’s safe browsing policies: Google Safe Browsing helps protect devices by showing users warnings when attempting to navigate dangerous sites or download harmful files. Suppose Google catches you repeatedly switching between compliant and policy-violating behavior to maintain a successful review and remove warnings. In that case, you will get a 30-day time-out before submitting a reconsideration request. Yep, as an adult, you will be subjected to a time-out. So don’t do it!

You now know the best practices (and poor practices) for on-page and off-page SEO optimization. Ready to launch your next SEO strategy? If you still have questions, get in touch. We know a thing or two about SEO and have success stories under our belt to prove it

white rounded rectangle masking image below
Ayesha Renyard photo

Ayesha Renyard

Content Writer @ Galactic Fed