Finding The Right SEO Balance

One of the most frequently asked SEO questions we hear is: “What is the right mix of on-site and off-site activities?” Like most marketing related questions, the answer is: “It depends.” That being the case, this article will discuss the most important things the on-site/off-site SEO mix depends on. Understanding these variables will help you find the right combination and thus maximize the value of your monthly SEO activities.

The payoff? When you optimize your optimization efforts, you get more organic visibility on Google , more qualified website traffic, more qualified sales leads, and more e-commerce orders — outcomes to make your SEO investment pay handsomely.

Conduct A Thorough On-Site/Off-Site Audit

Determining the blend of on-site and off-site activities in an SEO campaign starts with a thorough audit. Depending on the SEO readiness of your website and certain off-site factors, you will need to invest more time in one area or the other to strike the proper balance.

If your website has major SEO issues, they must be addressed quickly; otherwise, off-site activities, such as article publishing, will be far less effective. Fortunately, Google Webmaster Tools generates reports that tell you exactly what SEO issues exist on your website, enabling you to identify and then repair problems that are making it difficult for Google to crawl and properly rank your website’s content.

There are many types of on-site SEO issues, with some being quick fixes and others having the potential to take months to repair. Since every website is different, you cannot rely on generalities to approach your on-site SEO campaign ; instead, it must be customized to the specific issues within your website.

Common On-Site SEO Issues

One of the biggest issues as of this writing is a website lacking mobile-friendliness. Want to find out how your website stands? This one-click Mobile-Friendly Test from Google will tell the tale. Google is ramping up its algorithm to reward mobile-friendly Web pages. Even if a website is thought to have predominantly desktop traffic (an assumption well worth investigating), mobile-friendliness is a key ingredient for SEO.

Converting to a mobile-friendly website could be relatively simple, such as converting to a responsive design template. However, the conversion is sometimes far more complex, involving the development of a separate mobile website or app. In the former case, there may not be much affect on the SEO campaign’s on-site/off-site mix; in the latter case, the short-term attention to going mobile could be all consuming. It depends.

Other common on-site issues involve improper title tags, poor internal page linking structure, a lack of website pages dedicated to strategically important keywords, broken links, duplicate content, poorly optimized content, and slow page-loading speed.

As with the mobile-friendly issue, the fixes for these and other on-site problems vary in complexity depending on specifics. For example, many duplicate content issues can be addressed globally and more or less permanently by creating canonical URLs. On the other hand, if website content doesn’t exist for strategically important keywords, creating fresh content and reworking the website’s navigational structure could represent many hours of work for several months. Page loading speed issues? It could be as simple as a change in hosting services, or a complete design overhaul. It depends.

Off-Site SEO Issues: Focus On Your Link Profile

One of the most important factors in Google’s algorithm is links. When a website has high-quality links pointed back to it, Google regards this as a signal of authority, and thus makes its content more visible in organic searches.

For the vast majority of companies, a poor link profile – the total quality of inbound links – is a weakness. Large, global consumer businesses with an engaged brand following have no trouble generating thousands of inbound links; however, for most small and midsized firms, and even many large ones, obtaining high-quality links is like pulling teeth. If more high-quality links are needed, a great deal of time will be required to create and market off-site content. Off-site article publishing is effective for SEO, but only if it is done correctly. To a great degree, correctly means creating content that is informative, useful, authoritative and shareable. This type of off-site work can easily consume an entire campaign budget unless it is approached in a slow and systematic way.

To make matters worse, obtaining high-quality links is only part of the link profile problem. Existing links are quite often less than desirable, because they come from “bad Internet players” or because they use anchor text that used to be favorably regarded by Google but is now negatively regarded. Link reclamation efforts are needed to fix these problems. As always, the scope of these activities depends on a careful analysis of a website’s specific link profile.

What’s The Right On-Site/Off-Site Combination?

I’ll try to roll this all up into a three-point framework. It’s not perfect by any means, but it should lead you to a review and strategic process that leads results in the right mix for your website.

  1. Fix on-site issues first. Determine how much time is involved, and based on your budget, how long it will take. Generally, achieving mobile-friendliness and creating pages dedicated to your most important keywords are the first items to knock off the list.
  2. As you resolve on-site SEO issues, you will have more time available each month to focus on off-site activities. Strategically, figure on a ramp-up. If you start with one piece of off-site content per month, know that you should be able to handle four or five in a year’s time or less.
  3. On-site activities should not stop when you fix all the initial problems. Google rewards websites that add valuable fresh content, and in addition, adding website pages enables you to build traffic for a greater number of keywords, expanding your organic reach.

As a parting thought, remember that Google is notorious for changing the SEO rules of the game , sometimes, as in the case of its recent mobile-friendly initiatives, fairly quickly and aggressively. In addition, your competitors may change SEO strategy, and market conditions themselves may change in ways that affect keywords and content. Review your SEO campaign at least quarterly, and make on-site/off-site mix adjustments based on tomorrow’s needs, rather than yesterdays.