If you’ve hired a mechanic to work on your car, you first give the technician your keys. If you’ve hired an SEO agency to increase your online presence, you should first give your new SEO professional the login to make edits to your website. Why? Google’s algorithm and its continual changes indicate that the on-page content and structure of your website is essential for gaining a share in the online marketplace.
SEO boils down to on-site and off-site strategies. Surveys show that SEO experts find on-page strategies are the most effective strategies for SEO. These on-page strategies include, but are not limited to:
- New content development
- Content optimizations (ensuring the proper keywords are in your content)
- Title tag optimizations (the tag that tells Google the primary purpose of your page)
- XML sitemap and meta data optimization
The most effective off-site strategy – link building – still requires an SEO-minded on-site strategy to work. Here are a few reasons why all of SEO can be seen as circling back to on-page and on-site optimizations:
A Platform to Speak to Google
Remember that content is king. Google needs to know what you stand for, what you’re about. That’s why all of your best content should go on your site first, then be distributed or marketed through social media, social bookmarks, content syndication services and other content channels. This sends a clear message that you own the content and associates it to your brand. To avoid duplicate content issues, try setting up a cross-domain rel=canonical tag to let Google know the version on your site is the original.
Google wants to be able to easily crawl and understand what’s on your site. That’s why your site’s structure should map to the potential keyword categories and sub-categories that are important to your business. Make sure to use the right keywords in a way that Google can understand what your pages are about. Messy or overbearing HTML code can be a stumbling block for otherwise SEO-friendly websites.
A Foundation for Links
There’s no link building without the right content. And the more diverse and better your content, the more natural links you’ll earn. If you’re trying to build links that are white-hat, it will be difficult to do so without the right information architecture that addresses all of the possible questions your customers could have at different stages in the conversion funnel. It’s essential that linking is done with a strategy that makes sense. Building links to your homepage isn’t natural if you’re bringing the user to a page that doesn’t answer the question they were expecting to have answered. So, if you’re trying to rank for “link earning,” make sure to have a main page about link earning and then sub-pages that address long tail queries or keywords around the head term.
Off-Page Keywords Are Just That – Keywords Not on Your Site
The most recent Google algorithm update, Penguin 2.0, devalued the importance of exact match anchor text (hyperlink text with exact keyword phrases that point to your site). In fact, websites received a penalty if they had too many exact match links. What does this tell us? Google cares more about the keywords that are on your site versus the keywords that are on others’ sites pointing to yours. Linking should be primarily about usefulness. Does the link point the user to a relevant destination URL based on the context of the article and the hyperlink text?
With the unpredictability of Google’s linking algorithm updates, relevant on-page content is the most sustainable strategy for SEO. Off-site strategies put the power of those changes in others’ hands. Of course, off-site strategies are essential for community and interactive algorithm signals, which are important to Google. But those interactions in the community are likely to be more positive and more frequent if you’ve got the on-page content that prompts discussion – content that shows you’re a real leader in your industry. After all, to the online customer, your website is your resume.