Explainer: The Difference Between On-Page and Off-Page SEO

Are you wondering what on-page and off-page SEO really mean? Do you want to know why they’re both important for successful search engine optimization?

Look no further, because here you will find an explanation of the differences between on-page and off-page SEO. You will also learn why digital marketers typically combine them for maximum search engine results.

What is the Difference between On-Page and Off-Page SEO?

The main difference between on-page and off-page SEO is the location of the optimization. On-page optimization lives on the page of content, while off-page SEO lives on a third-party site, like a directory, blog, or social media.

Learn all about on-page and off-page optimization with the Advanced SEO Certification Training Course. Enroll now!

Some examples of on-page SEO include:

Some examples of off-page SEO include:

  • Links to your page from another site
  • Shares of your content on another site
  • Mentions of your brand on another site

Digital marketers frequently use on-page and off-page strategies like these to strengthen the impact of search engine optimization.

Let’s see what this looks like.

On-Page SEO: What You Control

The optimization you do on the pages of your website is important. It not only helps search engines understand your content better, but it also gives your pages an advantage over those that haven’t been optimized (maybe your competitors!).

On-page SEO is one area where you have greater control. Whereas off-page SEO is mostly in the hands of third-party websites and users, the success of on-page elements is largely determined by you.

You write the page content, you write the metadata, and you decide what is visible to search engines through your optimization efforts.

Here is an example of what on-page optimization looks like on a search engine results page: 


Source: Google Search

As you can see, all of the on-page SEO elements have been optimized, such as the title tag and meta description tag. This helps search engines deliver the most accurate information to search users, and that means users are more likely to click on your link. 

More clicks indicate to search engines that your page is highly relevant to the search query, and they increase your chances of maintaining — or increasing — your search engine rankings.

On-page optimization is critical to successful SEO, but it’s only half of the equation.

Here’s how off-page works to your benefit as well.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Training Course

To become an industry-ready SEO specialistEnroll now
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Training Course

Off-Page SEO: Votes of Confidence

Any time another website links to your page, search engines view it as a “vote of confidence.”

For example, if Harvard University’s website is linking to one of your blogs, it shows search engines the importance and relevance of your content — especially if it comes from an education or government page.

If a business directory like Yext provides a link to your website, it also gives weight to your page.

And if someone mentions your brand name on social media, search engines factor it into your overall search engine performance.

These are all examples of how off-page optimization can happen on third-party sites by a source other than you.

And that’s exactly what gives it more weight to your web pages. Instead of you telling search engines why your page should rank higher via on-page SEO, other people or sources are telling search engines for you through off-page SEO.

Think of off-page SEO as a referral or a recommendation, and you will see why search engines regard these links or mentions as valuable.

Here is an example of off-page optimization from an article hosted on Marketing Land:



The third-party website, Marketing Land, provides a link to the Simplilearn website. Every time a reader clicks on that link and visits the website, it signals to search engines the link and associated content are valuable. This boosts SEO for the web page and helps the overall performance of the website.

Off-Page SEO Exceptions

While the majority of off-page optimization occurs from someone else linking, sharing, or mentioning your brand on another site, there are opportunities for you to improve your SEO off the page.

This includes posting your own content on other sites like Medium, Quora, Reddit, or LinkedIn articles. Publishing content on third-party sites gives you the opportunity to link back to your own website, as long as it is useful and relevant to the content being uploaded.

Are you prepared enough to be an SEO Specialist? Try answering this SEO Online Test Questions and find out now!

Wrapping Up

Now that you understand the difference between on-page and off-page SEO, as well as why it helps to use both strategies, you can put this knowledge to work. Take the opportunity to analyze your website content for areas of on-page improvement, and then learn what other sites are already linking to your content.

It’s not only a best practice to combine your on-page and off-page optimization, but it also gives you an advantage over other brands that aren’t leveraging this valuable opportunity.

If you want to learn more about on- and off-page SEO, enroll in our Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Training Course.  For more comprehensive training, check out Simplilearn’s Digital Marketing Course, to learn how to run successful campaigns from end-to-end.

About the Author

Rob SandersRob Sanders

Rob Sanders is a digital marketing veteran with over 20 years of experience. During that time, Rob has helped a wide range of companies utilize new and emerging technologies to increase sales and profitability. As founder of RSO Consulting, Rob helps clients maximize their digital marketing efforts via SEO, SEM, SMO, and Web Analytics. He is responsible for many facets of the web analytics value chain, from identifying business goals and objectives to developing strategies and translating those into Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Rob also teaches digital marketing and analytics classes throughout the U.S. and abroad. As a contributor for Simplilearn, Rob creates expert thought leadership content on a variety of digital marketing and analytics topics.

View More
  • Disclaimer
  • PMP, PMI, PMBOK, CAPM, PgMP, PfMP, ACP, PBA, RMP, SP, and OPM3 are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.