Choosing Between On-Page and Off-Page SEO is WRONG!

Regardless of your industry, target market, product, or where you sell your products, search engine optimization, SEO, is a non-negotiable strategy you need to master to have any hope of success. In a nutshell, SEO (sometimes divided into on-page and off-page SEO) involves a series of tactics that help you rank higher when users search for related products. After all, less than 1% of users reach Google’s second search page and 87% of new product purchases begin online, even if the user ultimately buys the product from a physical store.  Beyond these stats, if you run an online business, you must consider SEO as a major part of your success because more than half of all the traffic to your site comes through organic search (clicks from search engines) and no business can survive with this opportunity cost. Ignoring SEO because you don’t understand how it works or because you don’t think it matters for your small local business is simply shortsighted. The fact is that SEO isn’t rocket science and your small local business disappears as if it were buried deep within a shopping center with no traffic without SEO.

on-page and off-page SEOAs you can see in the graphic above, SEO tactics include tactics that take advantage of the algorithm used by search engines to rank content. These tactics include backlinks, website optimization, and positive reviews, ensuring your business isn’t stuck behind your competition on search engine results pages (SERPs). Most companies commonly accept SEO, but fewer companies realize that SEO typically consists of two key areas of focus – on-page and off-page SEO. If businesses fail to take both crucial elements into consideration as they build their SEO strategy, no amount of content creation or website optimization will be enough to rank near the top of SERPs.

The good news is that if you work with an SEO consultant, they can take care of some of the more technical aspects of SEO while providing direction for your businesses to handle the less technical aspects, such as content marketing. But, if you’re handling SEO in-house or simply want to know more about what you can do to get on top of search listings, then understanding both on-page and off-page SEO and how they work together is key. And that’s precisely what we’ll discuss in this article.

SEO for dummies

The Google search algorithm contains around 200 factors. Each factor is weighted, so some factors count for more in your rank than others. Google (and we mostly consider that search engine in our discussion since it accounts for 90+% of all search queries) doesn’t publish the algorithm, but we can make logical assumptions based on tests run by experts. These experts divide up the factors as on-page versus off-page as a matter of practicality, although the two work together.

Beyond bringing traffic to your website and helping users find your physical store, the discoverability of your website online implies a certain trustworthiness that matters to users. And, while social media might help to build awareness of your brand (although with the drastic drop in organic social media traffic, that’s debatable), search engine traffic is in the buying mode. Users connect to search engines to discover options when making a purchase decision rather than as a way to kill time or connect with friends the way they use social media. Instead, they want to know which brands can solve their problem, discover the features/ benefits and costs of various options, learn where they can make a purchase, and get reviews to help them make a purchase decision. For this reason, search engine traffic produces a higher conversion rate when compared with social media (when you consider that many purchases involve a multichannel search, you realize that much of the conversion attributed to social is actually based on last-click metrics). This is especially true for B2B firms.

increase organic traffic
Image courtesy of First Page

On-page vs off-page SEO

In all honesty, you can’t pit on-page and off-page SEO against each other. If anything, these two sides of the SEO coin should work harmoniously to achieve one vital goal – increasing your web traffic and conversions. That said, you can’t achieve this harmony until you realize how these two SEO elements differ and ultimately consider the best ways to bring them together to create a complete SEO strategy. So, let’s begin by considering the differences between the two types of SEO –

  • On-page SEO: As the name suggests, on-page SEO effectively considers anything happening ‘on’ your website. Most commonly, this includes elements like planning for the technical SEO issues, including your SSL certificate, page optimization, and general website layout. Content marketing efforts fit into this subelement of SEO and, thus, may have more familiarity with my readers. To succeed with on-page SEO, you must produce valuable content on a consistent basis, match keywords to those used in queries by your target market, optimize your images for fast viewing and include alt tags (that match your keywords) for those with low vision, include internal links, and ensure your website is mobile-friendly.
  • Off-page SEO: By comparison, off-page SEO deals with things that happen outside of your website, as the name implies. These elements go a long way toward supporting the quality of your content to search engines, including external link-building, social media engagement, and third-party reviews or mentions. These elements reflect social proof of the quality of your content.
create content for social media
Image courtesy of SEM Rush

How on-page and off-page SEO work together

As discussed earlier, you should never prioritize on-page or off-page SEO. In fact, doing so would be a lot like choosing a favorite child – ill-advised and fated to end badly. Instead, getting SEO right is all about not only factoring for each of these essential elements of SEO but ensuring that they boost each other in a variety of ways, the most apparent of which should include –

  • Align your content: In many ways, content is the crucial bridge between what you’re doing on-page and what’s happening off-page. After all, a great blog post on your website is ultimately an on-page focus. But, when you share that post across social media, the engagement it creates becomes an off-page benefit. As such, content should form a key part of your holistic approach to SEO, and you should ensure that it aligns with everything from off-page promotional campaigns to website aesthetics and beyond.
  • Get links right: Link building plays a key role in proving your brand’s trustworthiness, making Google significantly more likely to increase your ranking. This is true with what you’re doing on-page, with high-quality outbound links in on-page content boosting your reputation. But links can also help to combine on-page and off-page efforts by making sure that your off-page audience (e.g., your social media community, etc.) can easily move between channels to increase conversions and general user ease.
  • Perfect both areas: Ultimately, off-page SEO is important because it helps you to reach out and appeal to the right audience. But, the value of off-page efforts is limited if you don’t also perfect what’s happening on-page. As such, arguably, the best way to pair these efforts is to simply dedicate an equal amount of time to both. That way, as well as increasing your online visibility, you ensure that any new interest from your off-page activity is more likely to result in conversions thanks to high-quality on-page results.

A complete SEO picture

SEO is most definitely not about choosing favorites. Instead, getting this all-important marketing focus right is all about finding harmony and understanding how exactly your best SEO efforts can work together to increase your reputation, leads, and ultimate conversions.

Both on-page and off-page SEO play a major part in that, and they’re uniquely poised to champion each other’s best qualities. From wider content coverage to a more specific audience reach, your SEO strategy certainly won’t ever look better than it does with this holistic approach. Just remember –

  • Stretch your SEO efforts equally for on-page and off-page improvements
  • Always align your on-page and off-page SEO focuses
  • Never forget the value of external and internal links
  • Have fun, and think about your audience!


As you should see by now, on-page and off-page SEO are two aspects of the same strategy. By combining both aspects of SEO effectively, you optimize your rank across search engines, bringing more traffic to your site and converting that traffic.

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