SEO 101: On-site vs. Off-site

James Rehwald
, Marketing Director

Google SEO

SEO, or search engine optimization, is a process that all website owners and designers should be consistently managing from the start of a domain’s launch if they want their website to be found efficiently by the target customer/user.

Effective SEO, which largely focuses on structure and content, helps a website appear more visibly in the results of an organic search engine, particularly the standard Google search engine. Google’s SEO algorithms have been changing/updating over the years to better ensure that undesired black hat SEO tactics/techniques are being used less often.

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While SEO is concurrently being revamped by Google, there are some fundamental elements that have had a mainstay.  We’ve gone over some valuable SEO tips in the past, but it’s good to know the categorical split of SEO into on-site and off-site (also referred to as on-page and off-page) when learning these elements, especially for beginning digital marketers.  Let’s break it down into an easy-to-digest fashion, shall we?


On-site SEO

Choosing Target Keywords

Although we’ve discussed choosing optimal keywords/phrases for SEO before, this is a crucial point that bears repeating and is the first step to take before designing your webpages accordingly.

The main goal in on-site SEO is to achieve a high ranking on a search engine result’s page, as the more clicks and page scrolls away your website link is, the less likely it is to be found.  To reach this goal, you must craft a particular keyword search with the target customer/user’s thinking process kept in mind.

Three factors contribute to choosing effective target keywords: relevance, traffic, and competition.

Relevance is obvious but essential.  You want to make sure that your website’s commercial purpose expressed through web design aligns with your target user’s intended search phrase.  In other words, you want the phrase your audience searches for to match with your website’s service.

Traffic matters because if you want good ROI, you will need high traffic to your website.  If you rank well for a relevant search term, it won’t be valuable to you if it receives small amounts of traffic.

Competition is important to consider because the reality is that unless you are a highly nuanced business, you will have competitors that may have high-quality SEO in place.  The science here in overcoming the competition often relies on creating long tail keyword terms, or keyword phrases that are just long enough that they become more specific and differentiated from the most searched-for phrases which return high-ranking competitor websites over yours.

Most importantly, when considering these three factors, remember that individual keyword phrases should be matched with individual webpages.  This is due to the fact search engines calculate the relevance of a particular keyword phrase to a specific webpage and not to a whole website—search engines do this because they display webpages, not websites, in the search results.

This just means you want to have a general keyword phrase associated with your website and have more specific keyword phrases associated with the webpages it contains but still remain relevant to the website’s general keyword search.

For example, a website for a gym facility may use the keyword phrase “physical fitness gym” while its webpages about its services and appliances may have individual keyword phrases such as “cardiovascular fitness gym,” “yoga class fitness gym,” and “heavy lifting fitness gym.”  That way, when users search for a desired gym attribute that your gym possesses, search results will more likely display a link straight to the desired webpage, providing a better optimized experience for your target users.  This process of creating a good infrastructure of keyword phrases across your website’s webpages is often referred to as keyword mapping.


Implementing Your Keywords in Design

Alright, so now that we’ve talked over the conceptual stuff in choosing and mapping your keywords, the following step is the actual hands-on part: designing your webpages with use of keywords.  A search algorithm picks up on the adequate quantity and proper location of keyword phrases.  Here are some important webpage element locations to insert your specialized keyword phrases:

- URL (choose your domain name carefully, if you can!)

- Title Tag

- Header Tags

- Main Page Content (do not insert the keyword phrase excessively, this is a black hat SEO tactic known as “keyword stuffing”).

- Image Alt Text and File Name

- Anchor Text


Quality is Key

Apart from the keyword phrase-related designing of webpages, there are many other attributes of a website that determine its quality and consequently, its on-site SEO.  Here a few important ones worth the mention:

- Content: In addition to making sure you have a high quantity of accurate content, is important that your written content is fresh, original, and free of error if you want a good ranking.  Fresh content elicits important, pressing news that your target users will find valuable.  Original content entails unique content that isn’t duplicated from other sources.  Content that is free of error means that your content is of good grammar and spelling.

- High Click-Through Rate from SERP: Google tracks the amount of clicks a webpage receives on a Search Engine Results Page, or SERP, and account for it.  If a given webpage on an SERP receives a much greater amount of clicks than, say, a competing website’s webpage that ranks above it on the SERP, the given webpage may be bumped up to a higher rank above the competing website’s webpage.

- Low Bounce from Landing Page: If a user clicks on a webpage link but then quickly clicks “back” once the webpage loads, that event is considered a “bounce.” If a large enough number of users bounce back from a particular webpage to the SERP, then Google is more likely to give it a lower ranking since users likely find the content less valuable if they are quickly leaving the website after landing.

- Short Load Times: This is pretty self-explanatory.  If your page’s content loads slowly, it may receive a lower SERP ranking.  Users (and Google) want to see your webpage’s content load quickly.

- Poor Mobile Optimization:  This algorithm update is a more recent one that should not be ignored.  Google checks now for how well your webpages are optimized for mobile navigation so make sure you design your website to be mobile-friendly.  Google even has a webmaster tool to test how mobile-friendly a given URL is.  A responsive website is the besy way to appeal to both Google's SEO algorithm and your mobile audience.  Learn why responsive websites work best from our other blog post.

Google Mobile SEO


Off-site SEO

Links & Popularity Metrics

As we have discussed before, SEO is determined by complex set of factors that aren’t entirely known to with the general public.  We do know, however, enough details from search engine guidelines, Google’s blog, various SEO professionals, and’s survey of SEO experts on search engine rankings to be able to incorporate all this knowledge with how we manage and optimize our websites, including off-site SEO.

Off-site SEO can be tricky because the main goal in off-site SEO is to maximize the number of reputable websites that link to your website in a natural, organic, endorsing manner.  With this, off-site SEO is considered often both an art and science.

While having backlinks, or incoming hyperlinks from one webpage to another website, is important for boosting your website's popularity, there are many popularity metrics worth noting:

- Total number of backlinks: The more (reputable) people who link to your site, the more popular Google and other search engines consider that webpage to be.

- Backlinks from related/relevant websites: Not all backlinks’ websites hold the same value—expertise and relevance matter.  An expert endorsement in the same industry/business/related field as your website holds great value.

- Anchor text: The anchor text is the text that is created into a hyperlink, such as the ones underlined in blue throughout this blog post.  Backlinks that use relevant keywords carry value.

- Link neighborhood: Dissociate with spam sites.  By linking to only reputable websites and receiving backlinks from reputable websites, you can avoid being associated with spam sites and being classified as spam.

- Link freshness: Quality websites continually receive new backlinks.  Receiving new backlinks indicates your content is relevant and valuable which in turn, helps SEO.

- Link diversity: Receiving unique backlinks from relevant but eclectic sources help boost SEO as well.

- Social sharing: Users who post links to your website on social media outlets can positively affect your website’s ranking in addition to possible buzz generated which may entail more backlinks if your content is social share-worthy.


Link Building

Backlinks can be split into three categories, from best to worst: editorial, manual, and manufactured.  All carry their own type of value.

- Editorial: These type of backlinks are the best to have.  They are pure, genuine endorsements that serve as evidence that your webpage is reputable.  An example would be if posted an article with a link to a small business's webpage in the context of positively reviewing and dissecting the business’ marketing/advertising strategy.

- Manual: These backlinks are earned through a direct effort which means a third part approves it.  For example, if a restaurant wanted to be added to an online directory that identifies with its business such as or (previously, it can advance through that process and ultimately receive a manual backlink as a result.

- Manufactured: Finally, these backlinks are manufactured by the webmaster without any actual third party approval.  An example of this would be if a webpage on a website has a comments section to which a user posts a link to another website.


As a general rule of thumb, the easier a backlink is to receive or create, the less value it often carries towards website ranking.  Conversely, the more difficult a backlink is to receive or create, the greater value it often carries.  Hard work pays off.

SEO Magnify Glass

Yes, this is a lot of information we have here but the truth of the matter is that SEO is always updating and changing, so it is good to always research and renovate your SEO strategy accordingly.

Nonetheless we cannot forget, as we have mentioned previously, content is king.  Having high-quality content is an essential core value in effective SEO.  Analyze your business and examine what your website/webpages advance and lack in.  Written content, visuals, videos, relevant news pieces, website design/achritecture, and providing social media share/embed codes can all play a role in implementing the right tactics at the right times when optimizing your webpages and website effectively.


Using on-site and off-site SEO is crucial towards having your website become more easily discovered by your target user.  Want to see how else we can help you? Contact us today!




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