It doesn’t matter how great your website is if no one can find it. This is why Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is so important to your website. Consistently focusing on your SEO strategy can help you climb to the top of the search engine results, and put your website right in front of potential new customers.
Increasing your organic search engine rankings isn’t easy, but with dedication to your on-page and off-page optimization, you can make a difference. The big question most people have when it comes to SEO, however, is which of these factors deserves more of their attention?
On-page vs Off-page SEO: Which is more Important?
There is a lot of debate over which is more important for your website ranking, off-page or on-page SEO. The truth is, you won’t get much traction unless you spend time and effort on both optimizing your page content, and earning relevant links from other websites. But if you are looking for someplace to start, your on-page optimization needs to be dialed in before you begin your link building efforts.
Optimize your pages first, then power up your SEO game with relevant links back to your site.
On-page SEO: The First Step to SEO Success
The best on-page SEO strategies will make your website more appealing to a human visitor first, and to search engines second. Afterall, it is the human visitors to your page that will convert to new leads and new customers. And the more time people spend on your site, the more of your content they share, the better your rankings will be. Trying to get backlinks before your site has been optimized is like jumping right into a race without the right training or equipment. Here’s where to focus your efforts:
Your audience has a short attention span and expects your website to load fast. If your site doesn’t load in under two seconds, you will start to lose them. Site speed is the #1 thing you can do to improve your page rankings.
Create great content for your audience. Solve specific problems for your target audience with thoughtful, compelling, and well-researched content. When it comes to your website content, more is more. Google prefers content-rich sites, with a minimum of 1,500 words per page, because it tends to get more links. The average top 10 ranking site has an average of 2,000 words per page for any keyword. Create content that your audience wants to read, and the search engines will reward you for it.
When someone searches for a keyword or phrase, Google tries to determine the intention behind that search. If you want to be included in the search results, you will need to use keywords in a way that define your niche and purpose, and show your relevant match to that intention. Instead of narrowly focusing on keywords, think of topics.
Each page on your site should focus on one particular topic. This will help search engines determine what your page is about and how it fits the intention behind a search query. Use keywords in a natural and casual way when you are writing about your topic.
TITLES AND HEADERS
The placement of your keywords on a page matter more than the quantity. Using a keyword once in a title tag and header is far more valuable than scattering it multiple times throughout your body content. Page titles and headers will tell your audience, and search engines, exactly what your page is about, so keyword placement in these areas is critical.
A sitemap is similar to a street map; it guides visitors to their ultimate destination. Search engines use sitemaps to crawl and index your site, which increases your chances of being included in a search engine result. When you update your web content, an XML sitemap will alert engines to the changes, and your content will be indexed faster. A sitemap can also establish you as the originator of your content, protecting you from algorithm updates that remove duplicate content from search results.
When you move a physical business to a new location, you take steps to ensure your existing customers can find you. A 301 redirect does this for your website when you make changes. Google recommends that you use server-side 301 permanent redirects anytime you:
- move a site to a new domain
- merge two websites
- have several different URLs to access your site
Using a permanent 301 redirect will allow you to keep the SEO and domain authority your website has worked so hard to accumulate, and will keep your customers from running into a “404 message” or “Page Not Found,” which is a surefire way to send them running to a competitor.
Off-page SEO: Earning Relevant Links
Once you have your pages optimized, you can focus on earning relevant backlinks. Backlinks will not only help improve your rankings with search engines, they will also put your content in front of a wider audience, as well.
Old link building tactics such as buying links, participating in link exchange networks, and spammy guest blogging efforts can actually do you more harm today than good. It’s time to stop thinking in terms of “building” links through manipulative practices.
Today, your focus should be on earning relevant, high quality links by creating content that deserves to be shared. You want to earn links that will bring relevant traffic to your site. You can do this by creating useful content such as well-written articles, useful tools, industry insights, and compelling infographics for your audience. There is one "old" off-page strategy that may still work for you, however... If you use it correctly. Guest blogging.
IS GUEST BLOGGING OVER?
Guest blogging can be a part of your off-page SEO strategy, as long as you go about it in the right way. Never engage in spammy guest blogging practices for the sole purpose of getting links back to your site. However, if you can offer valuable content to readers in your niche, and increase your reach to a new audience with your guest blog, then it is worth your time. Use the opportunity to reinforce your brand, and let your byline or author bio link curious new readers back to you. Guest blogging can help you earn links, as long as you do it thoughtfully, purposefully, and without a shred of "spam." When it comes to off-page SEO, building links is over and done with, but earning high-quality links is here to stay.
Both on-page and off-page SEO practices play an important role in getting your website to climb to the top of the search results. If your website is brand new, or hasn’t been updated in awhile, focus your efforts optimizing your pages first. Once your site has been optimized in a way that will make visitors, and search engines, happy you can start on your backlink strategy.
For most sites, the ratio between on-page and off-page SEO is an ever-changing one. Sometimes your efforts will be focused primarily on optimizing your new and existing pages. Then your focus will change as you reach out to share and promote your content, earning you valuable and relevant links. Optimize your pages first, and then earn your backlinks to get the win.