SEO comes in two main types:
- On-Site SEO: Also called on-page SEO, this type focuses on optimizing elements within a website to attract more visitors.
- Off-Site SEO: Also called off-page SEO, this type focuses on building external links between websites to increase traffic.
While both types of SEO can help boost a website’s search engine rankings in the long run, businesses should tackle on-site SEO first. After adopting on-site SEO best practices, they can complement them with some off-site SEO strategies.
Whether you’re a novice or seasoned website owner, this guide will help you learn how to improve your site’s SEO with both on-site and off-site SEO techniques.
To gain greater control over your website’s search engine ranking, consider customizing these fundamental elements of on-site SEO.
Content and Keywords
Earning a higher ranking on search engines like Google requires websites to offer content tailored specifically to their target audience or market. That content also must remain relevant and recent.
Creating high-quality content — as well as keyword phrases applicable to that content’s main ideas — is essential to helping users find what they seek.
Business websites and blogs, in particular, should conduct keyword research before publishing new content because it’ll help them identify the topics people search for online. Keywords with higher search volumes have a more prominent position in search engine results so businesses and bloggers can infuse their content with relevant keywords to attract their desired audience.
The first step in the keyword research process involves creating a list of desired topics or terms and then typing them into a search engine’s search bar. The terms people search for most will appear in the search bar as well as at the bottom of the search results page in a section that displays “searches related to” your search term.
The next step involves choosing the keywords that’ll give your site’s content the highest search engine ranking. Various online tools, such as the Google Ads Keyword Planner, provide statistics on keyword search volumes (some have higher volumes than others) and difficulty (choose terms with the lowest competition first to ensure faster growth in your site’s ranking).
Low-competition keywords are terms with the ability to earn a high ranking with very little link-building and almost no domain authority. If you choose high-competition keywords, you might face a disadvantage when it comes to rank. No matter how amazing your content is, you might struggle to drive organic traffic to your site if it doesn't rank well.
Google Trends, which tracks the keywords trending more than others online, is another tool you can use to help customize your site’s content strategically.
Blog post length also can impact search engine rankings. According to Yoast SEO, high-quality blog posts of more than 1,000 words stand a much better chance of ranking well. When creating blog posts, keep word count in mind as well as the primary goal of providing high-quality content tailored to readers’ needs.
Because headings usually represent the largest visible elements of content on a web page, search engines tend to pick them up more readily. You can optimize your site’s headings by inserting relevant keywords and dividing them into “H1,” “H2,” and “H3” heading levels. As a best practice, use just one “H1” heading per page — typically for the page or blog post title — and then “H2” and “H3” headings to organize the remaining content.
When crafting headings with keywords, write for your target audience first and not solely for the search engine. Ultimately, high-quality content that’s organic and easy-to-understand will attract more visitors.
Metadata (Title Tags and Meta Descriptions)
Metadata are attributes of HTML — the markup language used to create web pages. This includes elements that determine how content will look on web browsers as well as elements that provide more information about the content that exists on a specific web page.
Optimizing online content’s metadata will improve a website’s overall SEO. This includes a web page’s title tags and meta descriptions, which usually appear in the results of search engines like Google.
Title tags, also called title metadata, are the clickable titles that appear in search engine results. You can optimize them by adding keywords relevant to the page content. The most effective title tags feature keywords at the start of the title and don’t exceed 60 characters.
Meta descriptions provide a short summary of a page’s content that users see before clicking on the link. To entice people to click to a site, meta descriptions should be easy to understand and no more than two sentences.
A URL is the address that directs users to a specific resource online, and it often includes a very long sequence of words and numbers. Various URL customizations can improve a web page’s SEO and user engagement. These include shortening the URL to make it easier to read, adding relevant information about a page’s content, and inserting primary keywords.
Alt Text for Images and Videos
“Alt text” stands for alternative text, but other common names for it include “alt descriptions,” “alt attributes,” and “alt tags.” All of these terms refer to the text used to describe visual media, such as images and videos, on a web page.
The use of alt text can improve an image’s SEO, for example, by making it easier for search engines to understand its subject matter. In addition, alt text that includes keywords relevant to that image will increase the chances of it ranking higher on search engine results.
While using visual media enhances a website’s content, it’s a best practice to pair those images and videos with text in order to tailor that content to different site visitors.
Web pages that load too slowly can increase abandonment rates — a measure of how long users stay on a web page. This is especially true for pages related to online shopping carts. Slow web pages also can decrease overall website traffic, which directly impacts search engine rankings.
Several tools can help you optimize your website’s speed by first determining how long it takes your web server to respond to users’ page requests. Free services like Pingdom or Google’s PageSpeed Insights will analyze a web page’s content and, if needed, recommend ways to increase its speed.
Other ways to optimize your website’s speed involve regularly updating any plug-ins and themes as well as ensuring your content management system (CMS) software uses the latest version. Caching plug-ins like WP Rocket or W3 Total Cache assist with speed optimization by temporarily saving a website’s most-used data so it’ll load more quickly.
Optimizing images also can improve search engine rankings because visual media often represent the largest files on a web page. You can do this by compressing or resizing images to suit optimal page-loading speeds.
A mobile-responsive site design is essential because, according to Oberlo, 63 percent of Google’s US organic traffic now comes from mobile devices. Search engines like Google review the mobile versions of websites when ranking them and will lower a site’s ranking if it doesn’t load fast enough.
Responsive designs tailored to mobile users make the best options when choosing a website theme because they ensure greater accessibility. Google’s Mobile Usability report allows website owners to verify if their site has a mobile-responsive design and indicates if any web pages have usability issues on mobile devices.
Schema Markup/Rich Snippets and Featured Snippets
Schema.org — founded by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Yandex — provides schemas for structured online data (i.e., code used in a specific format). This online data, referred to as schema markup or rich snippets, includes informative descriptions of web pages in search engine results to make the content easier to understand and access.
Using schema markup can increase a website’s visibility in search engine results. It also can improve a site’s click-through rate — the ratio of online users who click on a link compared to users who just view a page link and don’t take action.
In addition, the use of schema markup will improve a website’s SEO because it gives online users more detailed information about that site vs. sites with just short meta descriptions in the search engine results.
While rich snippets improve information within search engine results, featured snippets improve information users see above those results. Specifically, they appear in a section called “position zero” at the top of the search engine results page.
Off-site SEO improves a website’s search engine ranking by establishing external backlinks — shared links that redirect visitors from one website to another. A variety of techniques can help you build backlinks, but remember that quality matters more than quantity in terms of your site’s search engine ranking
Create Valuable Content and Guest Blog Posts
Creating value is a key goal of sharing content online — especially through blogging. Approaching other bloggers or influencers in your market about contributing to their blogs can help you boost your business’ online visibility. Why? Valuable content posted on one website that includes a link back to the originating website will drive more traffic to that originating site.
As previously noted, it’s also better to focus on quality vs. quantity when building external backlinks. Factors impacting a link’s quality include if it comes from a high-authority and/or relevant website, if it includes anchor text with keywords that provide more context for the linked content, and if it’s a “dofollow” link. Dofollow links help boost a site’s search engine ranking because they give authority to a web page and show it has legitimacy.
Use Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing represents another effective technique for sharing your website’s content more broadly. It can use personal or business profiles to share relevant content, such as blog posts or new product information, along with a link that directs readers back to your site for more information or to read the full blog post.
Get a Google My Business Account
Brick-and-mortar businesses also can leverage online marketing tools to drive traffic to their stores — even if they don’t have a website.
With a Google My Business account, a local business can create a business profile that includes all of its key information from contact details, addresses, and hours of operation to reviews, images, GPS coordinates, and website or blog links.
Effective SEO requires not only a strategic approach for driving more website traffic, but also a keen understanding of the tools needed to maintain that momentum over time.
You can use a variety of techniques to improve your website’s SEO. But, determining the goal of your site’s content and the right keywords to use within that content is the best place to start.
On-site SEO provides a strong foundation for boosting a site’s search engine ranking. When you pair those best practices with off-site SEO techniques, you can continue to optimize and update your website as it evolves.