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Search engine optimization (SEO) involves a wide range of services and is affected by myriad factors. You can’t just focus on a single element and expect success. This is perhaps why the on-page vs. off-page SEO debate, which has been going on since Google was launched, has never come to an end. It isn’t likely to come to an end because the truth is that on-page and off-page SEO are both essential to the success of your online marketing campaign. Instead of constantly trying to decide whether you should concentrate on one or the other, you should work on getting the best from both.
On-page optimization is all about presenting your website’s content well enough to be deemed worthy of high rankings by major search engines like Google. It also requires making sure that each of your web pages is structured such that search engines can easily find it for particular keywords and phrases. Effective on-page optimization not only results in high search rankings, but also improves your website’s readability in general. The good news for you is that it is relatively easy to improve on-page SEO; you can simply tweak incorrect elements to improve your site’s performance.
The first step you need to take is to identify the components of your website that might be preventing it from providing visitors with a positive user experience as well as the components that could be preventing search engines from properly crawling the site. If you aren’t well-versed in this area, it is advisable for you to hire the services of an SEO professional or at least get an SEO consultant. There are generally seven factors you should check closely for this purpose.
1. Your content
When we talk about content, we aren’t just talking about the articles and images you place on the site to provide information to your audience. We are referring to everything that is found on the website: web copy, images, videos, even the texts in the sidebars. It is essential to have the right type of content and ensure quality if you want to encourage visitors to spend more time on your site (thereby earning the nod of Google) and to establish yourself as an authority in your field.
2. Elements such as titles and meta data
Search engines and people alike appreciate a clean and organized look in anything they see online. Keep things simple by limiting your titles to a maximum of 65 characters. Be creative, but be sure to keep your titles relevant to the content, and incorporate keywords into the titles, if possible. As for meta descriptions, it’s best to keep them at around 156 characters (including punctuation and spaces). You should also make sure your page URLs match the content and that proper headings (h1, h2, etc.) are in place.
Images are among the things that keep users interested in a website. You aren’t likely to find a purely text-based website anywhere, and if you do, it isn’t likely to be doing well in terms of search rankings and popularity with users. Remember, though, that pictures can take up a lot of space and negatively affect your page load speed unless they’re properly optimized. Reduce the size of your photos while keeping their quality intact with the use of WordPress photo plug-ins.
4. On-site blog
The value of a blog lies in the fact that it gives your website and your brand a personality. You can use the blog to offer information, launch contests and promotions, make important announcements, invite readers to your events, and post company updates. A good rule of thumb for creating blog posts is to create them for your target readers, not for the search engines. You’ll be glad to know that Google actually appreciates content created for readers more than those created for them.
5. Page load speed
Time is indeed money where websites are concerned. If your pages take a long time to load, a potential visitor will likely click on the “Back” button and then click on another link from the search results. Can you imagine how much site traffic you’re bound to lose simply because of slow page loading? All your efforts to land at the top of search results will be in vain if you can’t capitalize on your high rankings. Make sure your web pages load completely within three seconds or less.
6. Internal links
This old strategy continues to be very effective for building on-page authority. When you link relevant pages together, you not only make it easier and faster to navigate from one page to another, but you also provide context to readers and search engines alike. Be sure to use keyword-rich anchor text in your links and avoid non-descriptive anchor text (click here, read more, etc.). It is also advisable to monitor your links regularly, as you could experience broken link errors from time to time. Such errors are annoying to users and reduce the quality of your website; they need to be fixed without delay.
Many people do things on-the-go these days, and more and more individuals are accessing the Internet on mobile devices. It is therefore imperative for you to make sure your website is easily accessible on any type of device. And if it’s important to ensure fast page load for desktop viewing, more so for mobile. A person who prefers mobile Internet browsing is generally one for whom time is of the essence, so he isn’t likely to appreciate “wasting” five seconds just waiting for a page to load.
Off-page optimization involves working to build your website’s online authority. It is a long-term process that requires patience, as it can take a while to see significant results. In this case, your optimization efforts and their results aren’t visible on your web pages; rather, they do the background work that gives you better search rankings. Significant changes occurred in the off-page SEO landscape after Google launched the Panda and Penguin updates. Here are some tips on how to effectively conduct off-page SEO today:
1. Earning Links
When the abovementioned changes occurred, there was a lot of debate about whether it is still advisable to engage in link-building or not. The truth is that links continue to be very important for SEO, but you now need to be extra careful. If you get a lot of links from authority sites, then Google is likely to reward you with high rankings. However, if you get a lot of links, but the sources of those links are questionable, you’ll likely get penalized by Google.
What you need to strive for is to acquire a trail of high-quality links. Make sure the sites where the links come from are relevant to your niche; otherwise, you could get flagged. The best way to earn quality links these days is to regularly publish high-quality content. The more industry influencers you impress with your content, the more quality links you are likely to get.
2. Leveraging Social Media
At a time when practically everyone is on some social platform or another, one cannot deny the power of social media. You can use it to build awareness for your brand, establish your authority on a certain topic, drive traffic to your website, and even improve your search rankings. Google now gives due importance to social signals such as the number of Likes, Shares, +1s, and Retweets your content receives. So if you still don’t have social accounts/pages set up, now would be a good time to set them up.
Remember that there’s a different way to make the most of each social platform. You need to learn the guidelines of each platform you choose before you start promoting your brand on it. Remember as well that instead of using a promotional tone, you need to interact in a sincere and personalized manner with your social media followers. Reply to their comments, answer their questions, tell jokes, share interesting links, post quotes. Treat your social media interactions as real life discussions.
3. Reviews and Mentions
Whatever industry you’re in, reviews matter, and in many cases, they matter A LOT. People now have a tendency to check what other people have to say about a particular business or brand before deciding whether to make a purchase or not. This is why you need to make reviews and online mentions count in your SEO campaign. Social platforms like Facebook and Google+ can be great places for customer testimonials. Directories like Yelp and Yellow Pages can be very useful as well.
You can only make the most of your SEO efforts (both on-page and off-page) if you keep track of the results. Set up a Google Analytics account so you’ll see how your website is faring. Check to see if you’ve accomplished the goals you’ve set before you launched the campaign. If any of your goals weren’t accomplished, determine what kept you from accomplishing them and make the necessary adjustments. There’s no question that on-page and off-page SEO require a lot of time and effort. But if you do it right, the results will be well worth the time and effort.