Some people call me "old hat" or "white hat." That's OK with me. Don't get me wrong, I totally understand and believe in the importance of off page SEO (define) factors. Good, old-fashioned, clean and meaningful, on page factors are also vital for every single SEO project. If you don't do it, you won't realize the full potential of SEO.
When we in the industry refer to "off page," we're talking about items external to your site: link generation programs, social media efforts, and buying links. "On page" refers to things like copy on your Web site, SEO-friendly Web site design, SEO-friendly code, title tags, meta descriptions, meta keywords and internal linking.
How do you know what tactic may be most necessary for you?
Again, on page optimization will be necessary for every Web site to realize its full potential.
If you have a Web site that's been live for a number of years and has a very deep information architecture (several pages of well-structured, quality content), then the right on page optimization may be enough to help you to realize your goals.
If your Web site is relatively new to the Internet world (less than two years), then you're most likely going to need to concern yourself more with off page factors to help you position your Web site as an "authority" site.
So, what to do?
New Site Challenge
If you've recently launched a new Web site, there's a good chance you've launched a Web site that may lack for content and, of course, lack for links to your Web site.
What to do?
First, focus on developing your Web site to be informational -- present content that's good for your visitors, not marketing fluff that pounds your marketing message throughout.
This is why, in recent years, blogs have become so pervasive within most industry Web sites. Blogs are a great way of creating quick, meaningful content for your visitors. Really good blogs will gain popularity and get people subscribing to RSS feeds, which assist in getting traffic to your Web site.
Other ways of creating meaningful content might be a glossary of terms, forums (highly moderated, so not so good if you don't have the staff to manage this), and FAQ pages.
The greater amount of quality content on your Web site, the more likely it is that others will find something they'll want to link to. That's the key.
After getting your Web site included in the major directories, turn your attention to other ways of generating external links. In a future column, I'll discuss optimizing a new Web site in greater detail.
Old Site, Never Optimized
Most SEOs would refrain from saying this, but I'm gonna tell you
If you have a Web site that's been online for a number of years -- with loads of quality content and built-in authority with the search engines -- but it's never been properly optimized, you're sitting on a search engine gold mine.
These are easy projects. Easy is a relative term, of course. There may be any number of other issues, such as site structure, content, and the competitive nature of the keywords of focus that can keep a good SEO very busy. Any SEO worth their salt can take your Web site to unbelievable heights in short order, using search engine sanctioned, white-hat tactics.
These Web sites may require little effort in terms of off page optimization. However, they may lack for a number of on page factors.
Title Tags Explained
In previous columns, I've mentioned that the biggest problem with these Web sites is the use of the title tag for their Web sites. More often than not, I see this: "Company Name – Home."
The title tag is the most important factor in doing well in the search engines. Your home page title tag is the most important title tag of the entire Web site. So, change your title tag to use keywords you want to be found for. Don't put marketing fluff or the name of your company here.
Every page of your Web site should have a unique title tag that reflects the content on that particular page. Since every page of your Web site is unique, every title tag should be unique for every page.
Internal Linking Explained
If you already have a deep Web site, how are you linking your pages? Do you have a sitemap? With Web sites that already have a great deal of authority with the search engines, good internal linking can be enough to achieve rankings for particular keywords. Making sure internal links have good anchor text (words that are actually in the hypertext link) can do it.
That's why people call me "old hat" at times.
I've overseen approximately 220 SEO programs. From years of experience, I've seen what works and what doesn't. I've witnessed Web sites rank without a lot of assistance from off page labor. About the only case I've seen where Web sites rank with only off page factors is an SEO competition or the "miserable failure" experiment from some time ago.
If you have any questions as to where your Web site may fall, feel free to contact me and I'll try and get back with you as soon as possible. For those of you going to Pubcon, I'll be speaking on a panel and would love to meet you.