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Technical SEO vs off-site SEO: What's the difference?

Updated: Sep 26, 2022

The process of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) revolves around two main components – technical/on-site and off-site activities. For this article, I’ll refer to them as on-site and off-site.

Google, for example, uses over 255 different ranking factors in its algorithm to determine where your website appears in the search results for specific terms and keywords.

First, the basics (and a good way to remember the difference between the two). On-site activity constitutes any changes made to your website - either ‘behind the scenes’ in the coding or activity completed to optimise a website’s content and appearance. Off-site activity is what happens away from your website to drive SEO benefits - mostly through PR, content and links.

Most business owners almost always seek on-site activity ahead of off-site, but importantly, the two activities produce the best results when they’re carried out in tandem – influencing and complementing actions taken by the other to increase organic success in search engine results. If you’re only investing in one of these elements of SEO activity, choosing which to go for really depends on the SEO work that you've implemented previously and how your site is currently performing.

What is technical/on-site SEO?

On-site SEO defines the actions taken on your business website to optimise its appeal and compatibility with Google and other search engines. These actions help search engine spiders index and crawl your website more efficiently.

On-site actions include optimising all the aspects of your website’s architecture and content, such as robots.txt and meta tags (stay with me here) and ensuring that the pages are designed to consider the ‘customer experience’. Other on-site actions include simpler tasks such as implementing best practices for images and adding internal linking and keywords in the right places and pages.

On-site SEO also delves deep into the speed of your website, mobile-friendliness, site architecture, data mark-up and duplicate content, setting your business up for the best chance of digital success.

What is off-site SEO?

Moz’s definition explains it well: “off-page SEO (also called off-site SEO) refers to actions taken outside of your website to impact your rankings within search engine results pages (SERPs)”.

Off-site SEO activity is also known as digital PR and combines several different techniques, but the strongest is building natural links back to your website from other, reliable websites. Consider it similar to a recommendation from someone on LinkedIn, for example. Search engines deem quality, organic links to be an expression of trust.

Search engines also consider other important factors of off-site activity when determining your website’s ranking position. Although they don’t carry as much weight as links, brand mentions are significant and help contribute to your business's overall presence and identity online.

A good, organic link carries more value depending on the linking site’s popularity, the link's relevance and the trustworthiness of the linking sites, among other things. Content marketing is one of the best ways to build high-quality links for your brand.

How do technical SEO AND digital PR work together, and do you need both?

You can, of course, carry out one tactic without the other, but the most effective way to see results quickly is to combine your efforts and seek support from an on-site and off-site SEO specialist.

An initial audit combining both elements is one proven way to see an overview of what actions need to be taken on your website to increase your brand’s ranking position for certain keywords. Owners of small business websites should even be able to complete some of the quick-win actions on their own, with little support.

On-site SEO requires a bulk of actions to be completed initially and on an ongoing basis, informing your short and longer-term keyword strategy, ensuring these terms are used naturally on-site (e.g. product/service descriptions). It also informs your off-site content and activity (e.g. content marketing published on third-party sites).

Potential results

The results of implementing a solid SEO strategy can be far-reaching. By combining the two key SEO activities, I’ve seen brands jump from the third to the first page or from the eighth position for carefully targeted terms/keywords.

SEO activity not only helps to improve the search engine friendliness of your site and boosts your ranking for specific keywords, but it also helps to focus what’s on your site and, in turn, is effective at increasing enquiries, digital presence and sales.

Ongoing strategy and actions are the most effective way to achieve results month-on-month. Consider that your competitors will also be trying to optimise their SEO performance - not to mention - the requirements for SEO are always changing to incorporate different factors.


On-site and off-site SEO require two different skills but have the combined power to positively influence your ranking position – whether it’s local or national customers you need to target. LIT Communication works closely with a technical SEO specialist to deliver initial SEO audits or full-service SEO packages that bring together the key components of the process to help you climb the search engine rankings and be discovered online by potential customers.

Get in touch at for advice on digital PR and SEO.


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