What is On-page SEO?
On-page SEO (or on-site SEO) is any work done on your website, aka the content of your pages. A common mantra in SEO is “content is king”. This is outrageously wrong. Content is what Google delivers to the user. User intent is the real king, and should be the starting point of every modern SEO campaign.
This doesn’t mean you don’t need to create content, quite the opposite. If user intent is the king, that would make your content the court jester. The idea is to present the king with the right content that will entertain, educate or inform him better than all the rest.
But I digress, content quality and user intent is for another article. How you organize your website for people as well as search engines is the most common interpretation of on-page SEO. How easy your website is to navigate, how effective your internal links, url structure, and header tags are, and what your code tells search engines are all pieces of the on-site puzzle.
The ultimate goal of on-page seo is to give people a better experience with the least amount of friction as possible. It lets both search engines and visitors clearly understand what a web page is about, helps them determine how useful and trustworthy the page is, and most importantly how it is related to the user’s search intent.
What is Off-page SEO?
Off-page SEO (or off-site SEO) is anything done outside of your website that digitally points to your website. Social media marketing, content marketing, guest posts, videos, and especially backlinks are just a few pieces of the off-page puzzle.
Off-page SEO helps search engines understand how trustworthy your website is, and establishes the part your business plays in relation to other pages on the internet. Even though social media marketing won’t directly affect your ranking, driving traffic is still a high-priority off-page activity you should be doing. For the others, you’ll be able to secure the real treasure of your labors by link building.
Look at it this way. When other sources on the internet mention your site, it signals to Google that you’re trustworthy. Consider it a vote of confidence. The more votes, the more authority you have on a given topic.
These votes take the form of backlinks. Google estimates the quality and relevance of those backlinks to determine how important the website is. Here’s the crucial detail that has changed recently: not all backlinks are created equal. One link from the Wall Street Journal is worth 100x more than ten links from a small blog.
You can get backlinks from articles or blogs you write, videos you create, guest posts on other related sites, even podcasts. While the most time consuming (and expensive) part of SEO, it is arguably the most important.
A search engine does three things: it crawls your pages, indexes them, then ranks them against the rest. Technical SEO refers to improvements made on your website or server that help search engines crawl, index, and understand your web pages. Your site will never rank without being crawled and indexed properly. Technical SEO is a broad topic, and tactics vary depending on your CMS, server, hosting environment, and more.
Three elements of good technical SEO are crawlability, indexation, and performance. Here is a list of what each element generally entails, in order of greatest impact:
Core web vitals
Notice how site speed is at the very bottom? Despite being at the top of seemingly every SEO “must-do”, from my experience it is a last-mile tactic to try and improve. Why does every seo audit scream about your site speed? Because it’s easy to automate and point out. It just doesn’t make a huge difference in the end.