SEO or Link Building First: How to Choose?
Search engine optimization and link building are an integral part of any search engine marketing campaign. Completing SEO can be time consuming and link building campaigns, with the quickly rising costs of inbound links, can very expensive. What should a company with limited resources invest in first? Both SEO and link building are key factors for ranking and traffic generation so how does a business select one over another and use their marketing budget for optimal results.
On-Page vs Off-Page
To answer this question let’s first look at the differences between On-Page and Off-Page SEO. When a business focuses on making a website more visible and appealing to search engines with the goal of increasing their ranking position they are performing “on-page” optimization. On-Page factors include making edits to the structure or a web site, the content, navigation, meta tags, page speed, and over a hundred site attributes Google looks at.
Off-Page is based on creating incoming links to a web site. In a nut-shell, each link counts as a popularity vote and the more links a web site gains the higher the value Google puts on the web site. The idea behind this as a ranking factor is that if a web site offers quality content, a good product or something insightful, other web sites will naturally link to it as a resource. Link building is an “off-page” tactic because it requires someone else creating a link on their web site.
On-Page SEO Attributes
Generally speaking, the most important factor in On-Page SEO is writing quality content. Content is more difficult than most people think as it is not just about writing informative web page text. The goal of good content is to solve a search query and to have a better answer to that query than the competition does. In writing content we have to remember that Google is a computer and does not think like a person does. How does a computer determine which site has better content over another? The answer to this is complex with a search algorithm looking at hundreds of factors to determine which web site has the best answer to a search query. Search algorithms continually change, minor algorithm changes occur daily with larger updates happening several times a year, in order to return the best results possible.
Beyond site content are a few critical site attributes that are taking the forefront in the On-Page SEO industry.
- Mobile-first design – Boost your page rank by designing your site to provide an outstanding experience for mobile users.
- Logical navigation – Search engines try to crawl your website to look for accessible material. If you design your site so users can easily find the information they want, search engines can also find it.
- Social media – Search engines incorporate “social signals” as they determine page rank. Be sure that your social media profiles link to your website and add buttons that make your pages easy to share.
- Shareable elements – Infographics and videos make learning entertaining and fun. Also, these formats get shared more than “plain text” articles. Besides, many people learn better visually than they can by reading. Additionally, search engines place a premium on visual content, so hosting it can boost your visibility in search results.
Off-Page SEO Attributes
In the early days of the internet, search engines counted the number of incoming links that lead to a particular website or page to determine its importance. When people found out about this, a large number of random online directories and link pages sprang up to help webmasters get the links that they needed. Things have changed.
Search engine algorithms have evolved and have become intelligent to the point where they can assess the relevance and quality of backlinks. This means that your website can have many links leading to it, but some of them can hurt you because they are published on spammy or unpopular websites.
Needless to say, search engine algorithms have made building links difficult and expensive. After all, if people don’t willingly link to your pages, you need to ask for them or pay them to do so. This leads many website owners to engage in guest blogging campaigns, networking, and influencer marketing to earn standing with other sites.
Of course, the number of high-quality, authoritative sites in any industry is limited. So the process of acquiring desirable links has become intensely competitive and time-consuming. Off-Page SEO and link building can be very expensive with a quality link often costing a thousand dollars or more. And, knowing where to acquire a link is critical and requires an SEO expert with years of experience and ample research on search engine updates and traffic generation.
Answer: Complete On-Page SEO First and Then Engage In Off-Page SEO
Put your best foot forward. On-Page SEO should be completed prior to engaging in a link building campaign. Make sure that a web page is optimized correctly with quality content and correct page structure before building links. A business could build hundreds of links to a web page but if that page is not optimized for search engines to read, it will have little effect on ranking. Also, sending web traffic to a page not fully complete or with ample content that truly answers a query will create high bounce rates and be nearly impossible to rank.
For many businesses, content creation is the hardest aspect of maintaining a web site. It requires creating content that is more informative, longer, well researched, and that really answers the question that a consumer is asking. Despite being time consuming and requiring substantial research, the investment in really good content and On-Page SEO will have greater impact on ranking and traffic generation than focusing on Off-Page SEO first.