If you want to really increase your site’s traffic and make that traffic stick, then you’re looking at Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Why? Because prioritizing SEO increases the chances of customers finding your website whenever they research for keywords related to your products or services. According to databox, 70% of marketers find SEO more effective at driving sales. And if that wasn’t enough, compared to other tactics like Pay Per Click (PPC), SEO is cheaper.
So how come every growing business isn’t investing in SEO? Well, like so many twenty-something relationship statuses—it’s complicated.
At Tuff, we analyze our clients’ websites from home page to blog and from site speed tags to 404 redirects to discover what SEO tactics will positively impact their growth. But did only some of that make sense? Well, probably because we threw some technical SEO jargon in there. That’s right! There are different types of SEO, and they all help optimize a site for search, but they do it differently.
So, to help clear up any confusion, we’ll walk you through the difference between on-page, off-page, and technical SEO and how each helps your growth marketing strategies.
What is on-page SEO?
On-page or on-site SEO involves optimizing specific elements of your website’s pages, such as content and HTML source codes. On-page optimizations help search engines, like Google and Bing (if you’re into that, we do not judge), interpret page content to understand what it’s about. When the search engines understand the purpose of your page, they can turn around and help visitors searching for the goods or services you sell to find you.
But for on-page SEO to be effective, it’s now what you tell search engines but how you tell them. And of those ways is through HTML tags. So to understand how on-page SEO works, you need to know a bit about HTML—the basic coding language that websites use.
The source code of most web pages filled with tags that look like this:
<title> What is HTML?</title>
So, if I had that bit of code on the Tuff site, you would see “What is HTML?” in the title bar of your browser. If you were to find this page on a search engine (hopefully in the first position), “What is HTML?” would be the name of the link you’d click.
Search engines use these tags to understand what a web page is about. One method of increasing on-page SEO is to optimize these tags (like using keywords—more on that in a sec) to make the search engines display your page for relevant search queries. If you do it correctly and don’t abuse it by stuffing keywords, you should see some positive organic results. However, nothing in SEO is that easy.
In the good ol’days of SEO, you could have articles filled with search terms for your industry. So if you were a dog food company, most of your pages would be jam-packed with search terms like “best dog food,” “top-rated dog food,” “number one dog food,” etc. This was great for search engines but terrible for people that had to read sentences like “Have you asked yourself, ‘Is there dog food near me?” Now, spamming keywords into your content will not get you rewarded by Google but penalized because you aren’t providing users valuable information but devaluing your site’s expertise, authority, and trust (E.A.T.).
On-page SEO is about utilizing these targeted keywords to help your site rank higher. But it’s not just going into SEMRush picking the top-ranking keywords. There is a technique to it. First, you want to perform a SEO competitive analysis where you determine the top keywords for your industry and how your competitors rank for these as well. Plus, you want to look for relevant keywords but have low competition. This will help your site build out its expertise and authority, which should have Google start ranking your content higher in the SERPs if your content is deemed valuable to the end-user. So tl;dr:
- Identify your competitors and compare your keywords
- Determine how the customers you want search for your goods or services.
- Research successful pieces of content in your space and determine how they utilized keyword phrases
- Use online SEO tools like SEMRush to look for keyword opportunities
So that’s it for on-page SEO, right? Well, actually, there’s more!
If you recall, way up there, we mentioned how essential tags were, especially title tags? Well, there is a bit more to it. Every piece of content you produce should have a compelling title that informs what the article should be about and contain the primary keyword you want to rank for. Search engines and users don’t have a lot of time, so if you can tell them what they can expect from the web page in the most concise way possible, you’ll be rewarded.
Title and header tags are also a great way to add your primary and secondary keywords. So if you were writing a piece on say, different types of SEO, your structure would look like this:
H1: The Difference Between On-Page, Off-Page, and Technical SEO
H2: What is On-Page SEO?
H2: What is Off-Page SEO?
H2: What is Technical SEO?
Well, you get the point. Search engines can crawl the page title and headings to help them determine what the content is about, and for a user, it is an excellent way for them to skim the content and get to the answer they want. All that engagement will go a long way into boosting your visitor site time and click-through rate, which will, in turn, increase your organic growth.
You want to make sure you use those keywords in your content you worked so hard to discover and ensure that your content talks about the subject you’re telling search engines what the content is about. It’s not enough to just sprinkle keywords throughout the content. On-page SEO will add depth and breadth on a subject for both search engines and your visitors. Plus, you want to use those keywords as naturally as possible.
Remember our “dog food near me” example? Yeah, that type of content will be penalized because you’re not telling the search engines or your visitors how to find dog food closest to the user’s location. However, search engines, like Google, are getting better at determining user intent, which means content that answers a user’s question with a wealth of information will be rewarded by ranking higher in the SERPs.
This one often gets overlooked, but the title should be a simplified summary of what your page is about. It may be tempting to just go with an auto-generated URL, like the ones Shopify and WordPress suggest based on your content, but take a minute to think about it. If you can remove any filler words and ensure that your title contains your primary keywords, you’ll have a greater opportunity to rank higher in the SERPs. So in short, make sure you:
- Exclude words that don’t add significance to the URL
- Add relevant keywords
- Make it easily readable
- Use hyphens and underscores
- Needs to contain your single domain and subdomain
- Match URLs with your content’s titles as closely as possible
In the end, your URL will look something like this:
Optimized Meta Elements
Unfortunately, it just doesn’t end with a good title tag. In fact, the meta elements can have a more significant impact on your organic growth than the URL. So, again, don’t just go with the auto-generated meta elements from a CMS platform. As Google likes to tell us, you know your content best. So you take a moment to craft a meta title and meta description that stands out from your competitors and utilizes those valuable keywords.
Google typically displays the first 50-60 characters of your title and 155 characters of your meta description. This includes spaces, so you don’t have a lot of room to work with. Let’s drag out our dog food example again. For a page on our made-up Pawsome Dog Food company, we want to tell both the search engines and the reader what it’s about while also encouraging them to click. So it should look something like this:
Are images important for on-page SEO? They sure seem to be. According to an article in HubSpot, articles with images get 94% more total views than articles without images. But just like the keywords, the images have to be relevant to the content, and you have to do some on-page optimization to make the images work a little harder for you. This means titling the images using your keywords if possible and adding Alt-text that uses your keywords so the search engines can better categorize the content.
That was a lot, and there are tons of tweaks and on-page SEO strategies you can implement to make your growth strategy successful. But now we need to discuss off-page and technical SEO, and how they can also be an important part of your company’s organic growth.
What is off-page SEO?
So you know what on-page SEO is, but what about everything that happens outside your site? Enter off-page SEO. Typically, Off-page SEO also includes anything that refers back to your site, such as social media, podcast, leaving comments on a guest blog, or anything that happens off your site that influences your site’s authority. Off-page SEO tactics generally fall under the Social Communications Manager or Social Ads Strategist role at your company.
The most common off-page SEO tactic is link building. In the earlier days of search engines, SEO strategies determined if a page outside of your website linked back to your site, creating a backlink, that it was a signal of the popularity of your content. The more backlinks you had, the higher you would rank. In addition, you got bonus points if the sites linking back to you were also popular. So there was a mad dash of websites linking to each other as much as possible.
But like that judgemental principle in your middle school, Google judges your site by the company you keep. So if you have too many backlinks that are considered “toxic,” meaning they have a low domain authority or are from just terribly spammy sites, a backlink from these types of sites could actually hurt your on-page SEO. This means you have to be careful who you request a backlink from.
A big part of off-page SEO is curating your backlinks. Often, you can’t control who links back to your site. In this instance you have to disavow these toxic backlinks. Plus, you could have sites linking to pages that no longer exist on your site. This would require a link reclamation campaign. Off-page SEO is labor intensive, so a lot of companies choose not to do it, and focus on SEO tactics, like on-page and technical, that are more in their control. However, when done right, off-page SEO can have a huge impact on your rankings.
What is Technical SEO?
Finally! The unsung hero of search optimization. Talk to a technical SEO for a few minutes, and you will most likely not understand a word they said, but we guarantee what they were telling you goes a long way to the health of your site.
Technical SEO is a catch-all term for optimization improvements that are not on-or off-page. An SEO skilled in this will perform technical SEO optimizations on your site to make sure that you have a solid foundation for all your on-page and off-page SEO tactics. Their behind-the-scenes work can do wonders on your site’s performance and your organic growth. This is because Google not only rewards good content but it also regards a good user experience. If your site is too slow, too hard to crawl, or you have too many dead links, all the great content in the world won’t get you to rank high in the SERPs.
At Tuff, we look into a client’s site health before we make any changes. We know that if the site’s foundation is bad, then all our work for the client won’t help them grow an inch. So technical SEO is just as important as any other SEO tactics, if not more important. So what does technical SEO include? This isn’t the definitive list, but it’s some of the heavy-hitting a technical SEO will perform on a site.
We mentioned how vital a good foundation was, and a technical SEO can inspect your site and ensure everything is working and linking as it is supposed to be.
Your site’s architecture makes it easy for search engines and users to find you. With over a trillion pages on the internet, you can see what is important. The search engines’ crawlers need to be able to thoroughly and easily navigate your entire site. A website with an ideal architecture helps crawlers locate anything they’re looking for across all of your pages.
Another reason technical SEO can be so effective is that it flushes out any internal linking issues you may have. Internal linking to high-priority pages gives them greater authority (Remember that whole E.A.T. thing?) These high-priority pages are recognized by Google and receive a higher ranking, which is key for sites like your homepage.
It’s not just for search engines. A good site architecture also helps people find what they need more quickly and keeps them from bouncing too soon. Keeping customers happy lowers your bounce-back rate, which helps your organic rankings.
Your site map or XML sitemap is really just what it sounds like. It’s a roadmap for search engines to explore your site. Just like any good map, an XML sitemap will highlight the most critical areas of your sites, like landmarks, so the crawlers know what to check out first.
This is key for extensive sites where the crawlers may not know where to begin; you want to make sure that the search engines prioritize your most important pages, such as landing pages before your crawl budget is used up.
With Google prioritizing mobile search over desktop, your site must be mobile-friendly. Technical SEO ensures your site not only looks great but functions as it should when someone accesses it from their phone or tablet.
If that doesn’t seem too important, consider that mobile search accounted for 52.1% compared to desktop searches of 44.2%. So yeah, how your site functions on mobile is pretty essential.
Some things are so important you feel the need to say them multiple times, but too much and Google will ding your rankings. Technical SEO will look into what content or pages have the same message or even the exact same content and devise a plan on what to keep and what to throw out.
A technical SEO will also look into thin content or what pages are not providing much value from a search standpoint. Remember, Google will penalize you if you throw up a page that offers no value. Google doesn’t like it when you waste its or a user’s time. For large enterprise sites, chances are there are a lot of duplicate or thin pages, and a technical SEO can ferret these issues out to ensure your site is healthy.
Do you hate sitting in traffic? So does Google, and if your site loads too slow, more than two seconds, then Google is going to have something to say about it. But it’s not just search engines that have a problem with slow site speeds.
Schema markup or structured data is a type of code that communicates to search engines how to follow your website and what the data on your site means. Rember, Google isn’t patient, it has a lot to do, so good communication with search engines is key to getting you to rank higher.
Technical SEO also looks at how your site performs internationally, hreflang tags, and a host of their back-end issues such as canonicals robot text, core web vitals, and assesses how any Google update may affect your site’s overall health.
What kind of SEO is best for your site?
Easy and lazy answer. All of them, and this is true. A holistic SEO strategy will utilize all the strategies that affect your organic growth channels. However, sometimes it’s not realistic to focus on all three. You may not have the expertise or the people to make a serious SEO- impact to grow your site’s organic channels.
This is where a growth marketing agency like Tuff comes in. We’ll do a deep dive on your site and determine which SEO tactics will have the biggest impact on your business. We’ll determine if on-page, off-page, or technical SEO is going to improve your conversions and website rankings and then come up with a plan and help you execute. Each business model is different, so there is not a one-size fits all approach. If there was, SEO would be easy. However, with a partner like Tuff on your team, on-page, off-page, and technical SEO are a whole lot easier.
If you want to know more about how on-page, off-page, and technical SEO can be a part of your growth marketing strategies, hit us up. We’d be happy to walk you through our game plan on how we can attract the right traffic to help make your business successful.
Ellen is the founder at Tuff and one of the team’s core growth marketers. She is a versatile marketer with expertise in multiple channels – from ppc to seo to email to others – responsible for the experiments and testing. She is happiest when she’s on the ski hill or outside pointing her mountain bike downhill.