The Difference Between On-Page and Off-Page SEO

On-Page and Off-Page SEO Techniques

On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO

Graphic by Rachel Ann Custodio

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of getting your website to rank for your keywords through various techniques. Many of the SEO techniques can be split into two categories: on-page SEO and off-page SEO. On-page SEO involves making your website search engine-friendly whereas off-page SEO involves increasing your company’s domain authority.

What’s the difference between on-page SEO and off-page SEO?

The main difference between on-page SEO and off-page SEO is you have most control with on-page SEO factors because you own your website. With off-page SEO, you’re relying on individuals or companies to mention your brand or link to your website.

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO, or on-site SEO, focuses on making changes to your website in order for it to rank for your keywords. These on-page changes should also provide a great user experience. There are dozens of on-page SEO factors, but most of them fall under three categories: content, structure, and HTML.


High quality content is one of the top three ranking factors as of January 2015. What makes content high quality? Content that follows Google’s E-A-T search quality guideline: expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Aim to provide value for users and they’ll end up sharing your content, and thus provide you free exposure to greater audiences.

Site Structure

Websites should have a clear structure that both users and search engine bots can understand regardless of context. Your webpages should be organized and prioritized in a way that makes it easy to browse and find information. Site structure goes beyond the navigation menu on your website; it also deals with internal linking and information architecture.


Behind your pages is HTML code that can be search engine optimized. Technical SEO refers to optimizing the HTML and performance of your website. Title tags, meta descriptions, and alt text are all areas in your code where you should place your keywords.

To optimize for performance, you should convert your website to be mobile responsive and have fast-loading pages. If you’ve installed Google Search Console on your website, you can identify and send any technical issues to your web developer to have them ironed out.

Optimizing for on-page SEO is just one part of the equation. You can implement all on-page SEO strategies, but you still need those off-page SEO signals to help you rank. Let’s take a look at off-page SEO.

RELATED: SEO for Beginners: A Guide to Get You Started

Off-Page SEO

Outside of your website are off-page SEO factors and, hence, the term “off-page.” While Google definitely factors in your on-page SEO efforts, it also looks at external factors to decide how relevant you are for your keyword. These external factors help determine your website’s domain authority, which is a metric that measures the authoritativeness of a website on a scale of 1-100. Google, Facebook, and Twitter all share a DA of 100.

The main off-page SEO factors that increase the DA of your website and help it rank are social media, brand awareness, and backlinks.

Social Media

Google factors in how users interact with your social media posts. For example, let’s say you have a business Facebook page where you share your company blog posts. Are users “Liking” the post? Are they sharing and posting it on their timelines? A highly engaged audience tells Google your brand is valuable to users.

Brand Awareness

This piggybacks on social media. Brand awareness is the extent to which your users are familiar with your products, services, or organization. While “Likes” and tweets signal to Google that users are engaging with your content, branded search queries and online reviews give Google another signal that people are highly aware of your company.


Links to your website from other websites are called backlinks. I mentioned earlier that content is one of the top three Google ranking factors. Well, backlinks are the other top three SEO ranking factors. (The last one is RankBrain.) Backlinks from well-respected and relevant sites improve your ranking because they pass PageRank to your website.

Getting high quality backlinks is the ideal, but it can be a major undertaking, especially if you’re a small business owner. This is why some people resort to amassing backlinks in ways Google deem spammy. While those low quality backlinks are easier to obtain, they’re also the most prone to a Penguin 4.0 penalty.

Doing both on-page SEO and off-page SEO helps Google determine where you should rank in respect to other websites in its index. Now that you know the difference between on-page SEO and off-page SEO and how to optimize for both, you should have a better idea of how to approach your next SEO campaign.