When working on search engine optimization (SEO) for your website, it's important to consider not only your on-page content. Search engines don't only look at the content on your pages. They also consider off-page backlinks and mentions. The difference between these search ranking factors are grouped into on-page SEO and off-page SEO.
Content and metadata - such as keyword phrases in page text, title tags, and meta descriptions - on your website are what are known as "on-page SEO." Also included in on-page SEO are any links to internal pages and the anchor text used on them.
Links coming to your website from other places, as well as mentions of your website, are part of what is known as "off-page SEO." In fact, off-page SEO counts far more towards your search engine ranking than what is actually on your own pages.
There are many examples of sites that don't necessarily have the best search optimized content. Yet, some websites rank well in search results due to excellent off-page SEO. These rankings become based on lots of well-optimized back-links on other higher-ranked websites.
Many people think that off-page SEO is out of their control and that on-page SEO is all you can really do. However, there are cases where you can easily do something about it. Off-page optimization is quite a broad topic that can span dozens of articles. So, for now, let’s get you started with some quick and easy ways to optimize both your on-page SEO and off-page SEO.
On-Page SEO Needs Search Optimized Page Titles
First and foremost, your website's page titles should be concise as possible. Keyword stuffing is a big no-no, yet people still do it. It's harder today to get away with it and rank well in search. That's because Google and Bing in particular are constantly working on fighting keyword stuffing. Other search engines are adjusting their own algorithms, as well.
In any case, you want the keywords most relevant to the page's content in the first two or three words of the page's title. Oftentimes, you don't even really need your own organization's name upfront. You'll likely rank highly for your site’s name anyhow on account of your domain name, plus the fact that your name should certainly be included on every page of your site.
What's the Best Home Page Title for SEO?
Of course, the most important page title on your website is that of your home page. Firstly, the worst possible thing for any website – and it happens far too often - is to have “Home” or “Home Page” then your site name as your page titles. That doesn't help the search engines at all, so that’s the first thing you want to avoid.
So, your home page title needs to say what you do and what you need to be found for by searchers. These terms need to beright up front for search engines to work for you. It’s a simple change that can work wonders, especially if no one has optimized well for certain keyword phrases related to your blog or business.
Say you’re a Used Car Dealer in Walla Walla, Washington. You’d want your home page title to be something like "Used Car Dealer in Walla Walla, Washington, Bob's Autos" or something to that effect. Especially with local search, using a location if you happen to be dealing with a particular geographical area is huge for showing up in the top few results of a given search.
But, if you aren't a local business, it becomes very important to identify the niche you can most easily reach online. You can do some simple keyword research with a free tool such as Ubersuggest, which will give you some ideas for terms you may want to use.
The highest volume search terms are typically the hardest to compete for, so if you can, find keyword phrases that most other similar sites to your haven't used. Just make sure that it's still super relevant and that you actually then include the terms from your home page title in the page's content.
How Often Should I Use My Keywords in My Home Page Copy?
Once you've decided on one or two keyword phrases to focus on with your home page title, mention them at least a couple of times on your home page. However, you do not want them so blatantly featured that it's downright obvious that you're just trying to rank for it.
There doesn't seem to be a "magic number" of times that you need to mention your keywords. But, mentioning your most important keyword phrases in at least a few instances on your home page is a good idea. While there isn't a magic number, SEO experts suggest you shouldn't use any one keyword phrase in more than one to three percent of your page copy.
In your home page copy, you want to have a couple of paragraphs to introduce the site to both visitors and search engines, but nothing too lengthy. Remember, you always need to write for your visitors first and the search engines second. Your website copy needs to read naturally, and search engine algorithms are continuously getting better at understanding when keywords are being unnaturally used.
Internal Links Are Vital For Good On-Page SEO
One very important SEO tip to keep in mind is to make sure to not use "Click Here" when linking to an internal page. Years ago, people felt it was necessary to say Click Here as a call to action. Today, you will see Call to Action images using this phrase, but the actual link will not include those words.
Here's why it's important to focus your link's text. Say that you have a lot of used Dodge mini-vans. You want that link to say "Find great deals on Dodge Mini-Vans here!” That way, you let search engine spiders that crawl your website to know that the page is relevant for "Dodge" and "mini-vans." But, it also includes the word "deals" which is often used when people are searching for great deals.
Ideally, you'd only want the text link to say "Dodge Mini-Van Deals" but having a call-to-action on the link makes visitors far more likely to actually follow it. You could just put the link on the "deals on Dodge Mini-Vans" and bold that part, but in either case, it still includes the keywords.
Also, it's important to limit the number of internal links you use on any given page outside of your navigation. Only link to the most relevant pages, and make sure you let the search engines know what those links are about.
Now that we've covered some off-page SEO basics, let's look into ways you can identify good off-page SEO.
Off-Page SEO Needs Good and Relevant Backlink Anchor Text
Having hyperlink text tell search engines what the page it's linking to is about, is even more important in off-page SEO. If you use a tool like Google Webmaster Tools or other free tools out there that tell you about the domains that link to your site, take a look at a few of your off-site links. See how they link to your website and what text they use on the hyperlink itself.
It may be that many of those backlinks will either just have your homepage URL or say "Website". Yes, the link is nice to have, but for search engine optimization purposes it's more useless than it first appears. Technically, these are good links to have if you're getting a lot of click-throughs from them. But, those links are not doing as much work as they could be. After all, you want the search engines to give your site credit for certain keywords, not just your own name, your URL, or "website."
Say you're have a lumber company – we’ll call it "Dad's Building Supply." Many current links to Dad’s website probably use the text of the company name, instead of simply the site URL. At least search engines will recognize that this site is relevant for the words "building" and "supply," which are perfectly good keywords people will use in search.
Unfortunately, many of those links could well simply say "WEBSITE" or "CLICK HERE." These links won’t help you one bit as far as keyword strategies are concerned. In many cases, it can be difficult to get websites to change how they link to things. However, there are plenty of ways to gain new link “juice” with minimal effort.
Say that “Dad’s Building Supply” has some key customers that link to your website from their website. Make sure that they at least put your company name in any hyperlink text, at the very least. You want to make sure they don’t only use your logo to link to you – as many have tended to do in the past when mentioning partners. If they do use images, be sure that the image's anchor text has the desired keywords - which works much the same way as the hyperlink text.
Better yet, it can't hurt to ask if you could have them say something like "Building materials supplied by Dad's Building Supply in Somewhere, USA" on their Suppliers page. That helps you most for "building materials" while also having "Somewhere, USA" in there, which is fantastic for local search optimization. It's very possible to take links you already have and make them actually work better for you. Also, believe it or not, even if no one ever clicks on that link, the search engines will still find it relevant and give you credit for it.
Make Sure Off-Page Links Are Relevant to Your Website
The most important thing to consider, however, is to not just stick hyperlinks wherever you can put them. You want to make sure that you seek out links on sites similar to yours or in related industries. It's OK if someone outside of your industry is offering to link to you on occasion, especially if it's some partnership or sponsorship opportunity. But, be sure about the quality of those organization's websites before you bother accepting those links. You want to build links naturally.
Sometimes, some SEO specialists will ask you to hunt down every possible link you can get, and this is not always the soundest strategy. Most search engines, especially Google, frown on building lots of irrelevant links and can penalize your site quite harshly depending on the severity of the offense. This is why many off-page links have become tagged with the "nofollow" term. This means that search engines will still follow the links, but not pass on "link juice" to your site.
Keeping such penalties in mind, it’s extremely important to find out who links to you without the "nofollow" tags. If there is someone to contact at those websites, it can't hurt to politely ask them to alter the hyperlink text slightly. Or, if they're highly irrelevant, ask for the link to be removed.
What some SEO experts may call "link pruning" is a relatively simple way to increase your SEO without much work on your part. It's essentially addition by subtraction. You won’t always get responses, but even if just a few make the changes, those newly optimized links (or even removed links on poor quality websites) can go a long way toward helping your own search rankings.
While SEO is not always quality over quantity when it comes to links, having 1,000 links with "Website" and 100 links with "your keywords here" is quite different. You most certainly want to have more of the latter.
“No-Follow” Tagged Links VS "Dofollow" Links
Now that we know about the "nofollow" links, we know where to focus our link building efforts. Does this mean that it’s not worth seeking out links in directories that use "nofollow" tags? Believe it or not, it's perfectly fine to use directories. That's even true if the hyperlinks that point to you are direct links without "nofollow" tags. However, your only real benefit is potentially getting new visitors from the directory's own audience. There isn't a direct SEO benefit, even if they do help you get found on occasion.
So, while links with "nofollow" tags still count as links to your site, they don’t give you the SEO boost outside of new potential visitors from the linking website. That being said, if the hyperlinks can give you the ability to gain keyword traction, the relevancy still helps your efforts on a strategic level. Just having your business name mentioned, and not a generic “Website” or URL link, can help the reach of your name. While mentions aren't nearly as quantifiable from a technical SEO standpoint, they do seem to help over time organically as people stumble across these mentions.
There's a great free tool to check if a page has nofollow tags on their links: No-Follow Finder from Get Rank. This can help you determine whether it's worth pursuing somewhere you don't already have a link. If they do, and they categorize their listings well enough, a free listing, even with less than perfect hyperlink text, is OK to get. But ideally, you want websites that let you use hyperlink text in your company description without "nofollow" tags being attached.
In 2020, those sites who offer 'dofollow' backlinks have become few and far between, but they do still exist. Your best bet are working with the websites of vendors and clients you already deal with and trust. They will likely be more relevant to your business anyway and are easier to find. While it's important to not simply reciprocate links on a regular basis - as this is against Google's Terms of Service - it's not explicitly forbidden to do so if the links make sense and are done naturally over time.
Are Online Directories That Charge for "DoFollow" Links Worth the Investment for Off-Page SEO?
There are some online directories charge you to have their links changed to “dofollow” links. Some even will allow you to put your own optimized hyperlinks in your profile. It's up to you whether you decide to pay them or not.
My personal advice is to go just with what's free first. However, if you're also convinced that said listing will get you a lot of click-through traffic that sticks around and converts, and it does so, a tiny investment may be worth it in the long term. However, do some research about these sites first. Find out if these directories are just taking people's money with the promise of new traffic, but not really delivering on that promise.
On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO Are Equally Important
In any case, on-page SEO is important. But, unless you have the outside links that tell the search engines to give you authority on given keywords, it’s likely you won't get found enough for search to work for you. Your off-page and on-page content optimization efforts must be in sync.
Just focusing on a strategy to rank for high traffic keywords with on-page content alone is rarely going to be enough. Even if you could rank with on-page SEO alone, having the links helps authority with the search engines and makes you more trusted.
The more good and valuable links that you have out on the web, the more likely it is you’ll get far more quality traffic. While on-page SEO can work well for your search rankings in some niches, the former plan is a smarter route and long-term should be the way to go.
If you need copywriting for SEO and/or SEO editing for your blog or website, see what the Denver branding agency Brand Shamans and their SEO Consultants can do for you today!