There is a large range of factors, techniques, and approaches to optimizing a site to be the best it can be in terms of SEO. However, there are two loose categories in which these approaches can be organized: on and off-site SEO. Both on and off-site SEO techniques work to make a site reach its full potential, but in diverse ways. A combination of on and off-site SEO efforts is the best way to improve in all areas of SEO.
On-site SEO is usually the first place to start in terms of creating a comprehensive audit of a website, creating a solid foundation for other techniques to build upon. On-site SEO is very straightforward and mostly centers on keyword targeting and content building, however it can create drastic changes in a site’s rankings and traffic.
On-site SEO begins with determining what keywords are appropriate for a site, researching each word’s search volume, and then deciding what keywords will be targeting on each page of the site. Implementing focused keywords is one of the easiest and most effective SEO tactics when it comes to rankings and traffic. Content creation can be an amazing tool in terms of improving a site’s on-site SEO and is an easy way to seamlessly implement more high volume keywords into pages. Adding a blog to a site can also be a very beneficial content creation strategy, as it creates a new platform to incorporate more keywords and cover more information. Other factors to optimize while doing on-site work are page titles, meta descriptions, image tags, and URLs for each page.
All of these edits are simple and easy to execute, but are very essential to the initial SEO of a site. There isn’t much else to be done on-site after all of these tasks have been completed. However, it is always a good idea to revisit your on-site SEO work later on down the road and reevaluate keyword choices, add more body copy or pages, etc. to help keep a site fresh or as an effort to help a struggling site.
Off-site SEO is a little more complex and is an ongoing job. The main tasks of off-site SEO are link and citation building. Search engines base the credibility of a site on how many other sites link to it, under the assumption that if a lot of other sites want to link to a specific site it must have good quality content. This is where off-site SEO comes into play and creates the task of finding high quality backlinks for a site.
One major way to make a site appear more credible and to help in rankings is to find local links. For example, a bed and breakfast in Denver, Colorado would benefit greatly from local businesses, like restaurants, in Denver, Colorado linking to them. Local link building is a tactic that works to show search engines exactly where a business is located and helps to increase local search rankings. One way to go about finding local links is to take a peek at local competitors’ backlinks, then using this information to submit to quality local sites. This not only aids in gaining links, but also helps level out the playing field between the site and its competitors.
Citation building is very similar to local link building; however the target is gaining a link on a credible directory. Directories provide information on a wider scale, meaning they are not a localized resource. There are a number of high quality directories that are free and easy to submit to that can easily bump up a site’s visibility. Finding these directories can be a little tricky, but again looking at competitors’ backlinks is a great place to start.
Another link related technique that should be considered while working on a site’s off-site SEO is cleaning up bad links and citations. Search engines have the ability to determine the quality of backlinks, meaning if a site is linked to a large number of very spammy or low quality sites it can actually hurt that site rather than help. Similarly, if a site has a number of citations already but their information isn’t correct, this can also hinder its improvement. One way to help clean up existing backlinks is disavowing bad links either manually or with Google Webmaster Tools. Google Webmaster Tools offers the opportunity to download a site’s complete list of backlinks, allowing users to go through manually and determine if there are any super low quality links in the mix. The user can then take these domains and submit them to the site’s Webmaster Tools to have them disavowed or contact the sites directly requesting the link be taken down. This can help to create a cleaner backlink history and help a site look more credible. Similarly with citations, going through a site’s citations and making sure the information is completely correct can help to create a more consistent NAP (name, address, phone number) allowing search engines to better identify the site and help with its credibility.
While on-site SEO is more simple and shows results more quickly, off-site SEO plays a major role in a site’s overall improvement as well. Both categories of strategies are essential to a site and a good mixture of both is the best way approach to SEO.