On-page or Off-page SEO, Which Should Come First?

On-page SEO vs Off-page SEO sounds a little like the chicken and the egg for a lot of people.

Even some SEOs scratch their heads and wonder which to do first.

It would seem on the surface that it would be quicker to do off-page…

Get some links…

Market some content…

Use social media…

I mean it’s gotta be faster than fixing all the errors in the site, writing content that works, creating the right user experience, flow, internal linking, etc...right?

Read a little further and you might see why this dog don’t hunt (as one of my old friends from Texas would say every time something doesn’t add up).

Here’s the beginning of that dog not hunting. If you do off-page SEO, you are attempting to draw attention to your site from Google to help your rankings… right?

If Google already doesn’t like your site enough to rank you well, why would you draw attention to it and say… “Hey Google, look how great my site is.” You would end up like the yapping chihuahua that just ticks everybody off.

On-page SEO Enables You to do Off-page Without Fear of Drawing Attention to a Poorly Optimized Site

I work with many contractors so for the sake of the example I’m going to relate this to being a contractor.

Let’s say a guy calls himself a house painter but he doesn’t know what he’s doing. There are paint drips all over the house and the paint didn’t even 100% cover the siding. You can see the old color through the new paint. There’s paint on the roof line and the landscaping… you get the idea. Why would this guy put neon arrows pointing to the work saying, “work done by XYZ Painting, call us to have your home painted”? Who in the world is going to call this guy to paint a house?

This is what doing off-page SEO is like if the on-page factors are not correctly done on your website. You’re not helping yourself and may be hurting the situation. Use this on page SEO checklist to see how well your website's SEO strategy is working.

I personally feel like doing off-page SEO first is only compounding the problem that you have not gotten found well online because your onsite SEO is not correct. I can tell you from experience that we can get a site ranked pretty well before we do the off-page SEO, but we can’t get a site ranked with really bad on-page SEO.

The exception to this rule is the really giant sites like Amazon or Monster that have so much content and so many links that they defy the laws of technical SEO. This just isn’t an option for most companies.

Here’s a link to a tool from Google that most SEOs use to check on the health of a website.


Off-page SEO ideas

This is only one of many technical SEO tools available but it will give you a good idea of whether your site is pretty well optimized or in bad shape. If you don’t get scores of at least in the high 80s (and you really should be in the mid to high 90s), on both mobile and desktop, start by fixing the on-page SEO so that you’re not shining a light on your mistakes. Remember that sites with mistakes don’t rank well.

On-page SEO Requires Technical Skills

My team and I are technical SEOs. This doesn’t mean that we don’t also use the off-page techniques that work well. But we use them after we make sure your on-page factors are right and you are well-aligned with what Google needs to see before we start blowing an air horn and asking Google to look at how great your site is.

When you have your onsite SEO correct, the flow of the site works well for the visitors, the content gives users what they want, and gives Google what it needs, etc. Your SEO campaign will help you do far better in the SERPs (search engine ranking pages).

One last thought: The mobile structure of your site is incredibly important. Google now indexes your mobile site before your desktop website. If you don’t have a website that is sized correctly and presents your content correctly on smartphones, you are getting penalized. The days of having a second site as your mobile presence are gone. Your site has to be responsive now. This means that it automatically adjusts for all size devices. The navigation becomes one button with a drop down and you don’t have to stretch the content to read it.

Here’s a tool from Google to check: https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly

Once you’ve run this test, you will see a screen that says your site is mobile friendly or it isn’t mobile friendly. This is not the end of the useful data. On the left side of the screen just under your URL, you will see text that says, “page loading issues.” Click this and you’ll see what might be an issue for your mobile site.

Something to consider is there is code on your site for Google Analytics and if you use paid ads, you will have doubleclick code for tracking. These both show as issues. In a recent call with Google, they assured me that these are not issues for your SEO campaign and they should be on all sites.

If you need a quick boost in business and can’t wait for the onsite SEO to kick in and get you what you want from the Internet, try some paid ads on Google and/or Facebook. This will be far more successful than attempting to help an under optimized site with off-page SEO.