On-Page SEO vs Technical SEO: Key Differences and Benefits

Alaina Bradenburger
Kassidy Vavra
Published: Apr 08, 2024
Last Updated:
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As of February 2024, there are over 192 million active websites online. Unless you already have a large, established customer base and stellar brand recognition, you need search engine optimization (SEO) to pop up in search results.

Even for known brands, SEO plays an essential role in reaching target audiences.

SEO is more than simply adding some keywords and phrases to your website and hoping the internet will match you with the right search query. It's an art that can help boost engagement and get eyes from your target audience on your site. When you understand the difference between on-page SEO vs. technical SEO, you can perfect your strategy and rise through the search engine results pages (SERPs). 

On-Page SEO vs. Technical SEO: Key Differences Explained

Both on-page and technical SEO are strategies to make your website more visible to search engines so they can find it and match it to relevant searches. On-page SEO activities refer to the process you would use to optimize content and other copy on your page to make it more visible to search engines. Technical SEO, meanwhile, involves cleaning up your website’s code and other structural details to ensure it meets website standards.

Both on-page SEO and technical play an important role in an organic SEO strategy, but each takes a different approach to optimization. 

On-page SEO includes: 

  • Keywords and phrases
  • Title tags
  • Meta descriptions
  • Internal links
  • Page-specific URLs

Optimizing your website for technical SEO includes:

  • Improving its structure
  • Enhancing the performance
  • Make it easier for web crawlers and search engines to find

Advantages of On-Page SEO for Driving Traffic

There are plenty of resources available to aid you in on-page SEO, making it a cost-effective marketing strategy. Optimizing your website’s copy and content helps you rank higher in organic searches, meaning it’s easier for potential customers to find your site when they need it. 

On average, websites that achieve the top ranking in a Google search have an average click-through rate of 39.6%, which drops significantly after the third-highest result. You can always pay to move your site to the top of the SERPs, but optimizing your site for organic traffic is more sustainable and less costly. 

Benefits of Technical SEO for Overall Rankings and Performance

Technical optimization also drives organic search results by improving the user experience. Applying technical SEO strategies creates a faster, more secure, and mobile-friendly website. Search engine bots scouring the internet for websites evaluate these factors to determine if a site is a good fit for search queries. 

Focusing on technical SEO also helps boost your brand reputation because it helps make a potential customer’s experience on your site more enjoyable. More importantly, 25% of customers said they would leave a website that takes longer than four seconds to load. If you’re not using technical SEO strategies to create a fast-loading website and improve your performance, you might be missing out on business before they even see your homepage. 

6 Tips to Master On-Page SEO

When implementing an SEO strategy, start with on-page SEO factors. These tips will help you evaluate and modify your site’s content to improve your SERP ranking. 

1. Learn How To Do Keyword Research

In on-page SEO, keywords and phrases drive search engines to match various internet queries. It’s important to include the ones your customers are looking for so you appear at the top of their results. 

Keyword research gives you a better understanding of which keywords and phrases appeal to your target audience so you can place them strategically throughout your website. You can start by looking at your website analytics and listing the words that send the most traffic to your website. 

Next, use a keyword research tool to analyze your website and tell you which keywords and phrases you’re already using. You can also use these tools to analyze your competitors’ sites. Researching the competition helps you understand how they position themselves in the market and identify keywords you may be missing. 

When starting your research, write down every word and phrase you can think of and narrow your focus based on what matters most to your target audience. Include a mix of long-tail keywords and single relevant keywords.

A long-tail keyword is a phrase of three to five words people would use to find you. For example, people might search the internet for “the best Chinese food in Oakland.” Short-tail keywords, meanwhile, are only a word or two but help cast a net to a broader audience. This may be “Chinese food.”

2. Understand Where To Place Keywords in Your Content

After making your keyword list, you can start plugging words and phrases into your website. You want to ensure a white hat SEO strategy — keep the integrity of your site and follow any search engine guidelines while adding keywords and other best practices to improve your site's SEO.

Vary your list and be strategic to avoid keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing involves using the same words repeatedly on your website to try and make your page more visible. While you may think more is better, the problem with this technique is that it makes your site less readable, and Google and other search engines penalize you for it by moving you down in the SERPs. 

Here is where you can naturally incorporate your keywords using language that flows. 

How To Optimize Headers

Every heading on your website offers an opportunity for on-site optimization. Master headers using a clear and consistent hierarchy and structure. Each header on your website should be easily identifiable to a user.

  • H1 headings: Main topics, generally just as the title or at the top
  • H2 headings: For subtopics, to separate body content
  • H3 headers: For sub-subtopics

For example, if you are developing an e-commerce website selling cosmetics, your topics may be makeup, skincare, body, and hair. 

You may create an H1 heading with each category, like:

  • Makeup
  • Skincare
  • Body
  • Hair

Your H2 headings could be the different categories in each of your main groups. H2s for makeup, for example, may be:

  • Foundation for Every Skintype
  • Mascara for Length, Volume, and More
  • Eyebrow Pencils, Pomades, and Gels

H3 headings might be the various brand names or the product names. Or, they may further break down the products into smaller categories. The below sub-headings may fall under the “Makeup” H1 and the “Mascara” H2:

  • [Brand] Lengthening Mascara
  • [Brand] Tinted Lash Serum
  • [Brand] Volumizing Mascara

Incorporate keywords wherever they are a natural fit. Look for places to add tags to improve your chances of appearing in featured snippets on Google. A featured snippet is a block of text Google displays on the top of each SERP that answers the search query. 

How To Create SEO-Friendly Meta Tags

Mastering meta tags is a solid on-page SEO optimization technique. When you search for something on Google or with another search engine, you usually see a small paragraph under that main search that gives you more context about the site. Meta tags populate this part of a search result. 

Be specific in your title tags. Think about what your target audience is searching for and write meta titles featuring these keywords. Then, move on to your meta descriptions. Keep these short – under 150 characters. Make them as accurate and descriptive as possible and write them to match a user’s search intent. 

Do not duplicate your meta descriptions. If you’re unsure whether your current meta tags are optimized, use an SEO checker to generate ideas on how to improve them for on-page optimization in SEO. 

How To Write URLs

A website URL is the link users would use to navigate to your page. Your URL structure will vary based on how you want your website to function. For example, if you do business in multiple countries, you will probably structure URLs to display your site in different languages. 

Regardless of your URL structure, the best way to optimize it for SEO is to organize it logically. Unless you define your URLs when building your webpage, your site may auto-generate them. Random URLs are often complicated and don’t clearly indicate what’s on the webpage.

You’ve probably seen one such as this: https://about.xyzcompany.com/contact/%4afwww.xyzcompany.com%freeguide%advanced_options.

URLs like this aren't only not ideal for SEO — they can also make your site look and feel clunky.

Instead, keep your URLs short and to the point, such as: https:about.xyzcompany.com/office-locations.

Make sure all your URLs follow the same structure that is logical and easy to remember. Another great tip is to use the https protocol to show Google your website is more secure.

How To Write Alt Text

Photo of a groom standing outside barn doors that are half open showing the bride walking up

Alt text is another great place to add keywords and phrases to your website. These descriptions are required for any non-decorative images on your website. Alt text helps search engines find various images on your website, which improves your SEO ranking. 

It can also help people who are visually impaired “see” your site. If they use a screen reader to surf the web, the tool will read your alternate description and allow the person listening to understand the images on your site. Alt text is required if you want your website to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

To optimize your alt text for SEO, determine your intent behind each image. For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, you may include alt-text in your portfolio, such as: “Photo of a bride and groom standing in front of a rustic barn under lights.”

However, if you sell wedding dresses, you might include the following alt text on the same photo: “Bride wearing a 2023 [designer name] mermaid wedding gown with a beaded bodice and tulle skirt next to a groom. The couple are standing in front of a rustic barn.”

Include common relevant keywords to enhance your on-site search engine optimization.

How To Apply Anchor Text Best Practices

When your on-site content includes links to other websites, the highlighted words that direct a user to the link are known as anchor text. Best practices involve matching the anchor text to the relevant keyword as closely as possible. 

For example, if you wrote a blog post about tips for integrating your new puppy into the household, you might link back to a well-known animal expert. You would likely use their name as the anchor text to their website. However, if you’re linking information about introducing your puppy to existing pets, you might use anchor text such as: “introducing the puppy to your cat.” 

Anchor text should be part of an existing sentence, so integrate it as naturally as you can to keep your flow. If possible, use low-density keywords for anchor text. This refers to content that doesn’t include a lot of other keywords. Aim for shorter anchor phrases for readability. 

How To Include Keywords in Your Content and Avoid Stuffing

Content optimization is great for easy on-page SEO. A rich content database makes it easier to establish your site’s relevance to search engines. It also increases the number of internal links you can post on existing pages. 

The key to nailing content is to keep your readers in mind. If you have done keyword research, make lists of primary keywords and related secondary keywords. Use these lists to make outlines that will help you write relevant, interesting, and high-quality content for your target audience while effectively using keywords. 

Include multiple variations of your chosen keywords and phrases to avoid keyword stuffing. Finally, ensure every piece of content is consistent with your brand tone and voice, and pay attention to the overall quality. Higher-quality content will help you establish your authority in Google searches. 

3. Plan a Flawless Internal Linking Structure

Internal links are hyperlinks to other parts of your website. They tell search engines how to index all the pages on your site, which is another tool for boosting your authority. A good internal linking structure also improves user experience because it makes your site more engaging and easier to navigate. 

Internal links can be: 

  • Navigational: Help users navigate your site by highlighting various topics and page content. 
  • Contextual: Include these in your website content and link to other pages that expand on a topic or idea. 
  • Breadcrumb links: Establish the relationship between pages and help a user navigate to relevant subjects or find their way back home. 
  • Footer links:  Appear at the bottom of your page and often link to contact information, privacy policies, and other important information.

Before building your website, plan your internal linking structure. Organize pages into a hierarchy and map how you will create internal links from page to page. Link to your best pages and include links to relevant content. 

4. Understand the Importance of High-Quality Content

High-quality content is one of many on-page SEO optimization techniques that also contributes to technical SEO by improving user experience. Regularly posting content that is relevant to your target audience is a key search engine ranking factor for relevance. It can also reduce your bounce rate and increase a user’s time spent on your site. 

When you publish high-quality content, you build your brand as a reputable authority in your industry. You can also improve backlinks, which refers to when another website posts a link to your content. As another upside, high-quality content is great for generating leads and improving brand awareness. 

5. Create a Content Strategy Based on Pillars and Sub-Pillars

Utilizing content pillars gives you a clear hierarchy on your website. It helps you organize each piece of content more logically so readers can easily find what they need. It also helps you generate more keyword-based content that can improve your ranking in the SERPs. 

To create a content pillar strategy:

  • Use results from your keyword research to identify your main focus topics.
  • Stick with three to five main pillars.
  • Brainstorm subtopics you can post under your main pillar.
  • Add related internal links to each sub-pillar topic to encourage website visitors to spend more time on your page. 

6. Avoid Duplicate Content Issues With Canonical Tags

If you have a lot of sub-pages on your website, you risk being flagged by Google and other search engines for duplicate content. For example, if you run an e-commerce shop selling clothes, your URLs for items in a category will likely be similar. Google could see these two pages as duplicates and throw them out of relevant searches. 

Adding a canonical tag tells search engines which page they should consider the primary result for any similar content. When building your e-commerce site, you might make the URL https://company.com/denim/boyfriend_jeans canonical.

That way, if you have the URL https://company.com/denim/dark-wash-boyfriend-jeans on another page, the page for “boyfriend jeans” would still appear in search results instead of being discarded as a duplicate of the “dark-wash boyfriend jeans” page.

5 Tips to Improve Your Technical SEO

Once you’ve improved your on-page SEO factors, you can move on to the technical aspects of your site. Use these technical SEO strategies to improve your website’s performance and make it user-friendly. 

1. Start by Planning Your Site Structure

Planning your site structure makes your website logical and intuitive. To begin, look through your industry's top search engine results to see how each site is structured. Next, develop strategies for: 

  • URL structure
  • Categories
  • Navigation
  • Internal links
  • Breadcrumbs 
  • Sitemapping

Use your keyword research to develop your site’s hierarchy and categorize your existing pages. Eventually, you will be able to visualize how your site fits together and how to connect each page.

Identify any orphan pages on your site, which are pages that have no internal links pointing to them. Decide where they fit into your hierarchy and add links to these pages or delete them if they’re no longer relevant.   

2. Ensure Fast Page Loading Speed

Your users will not wait for your amazing content to load, so do what you can to make it fast. Optimize images with lower-resolution photos and compress your site’s existing photos. This doesn't mean to use blurry photos — you just don't always want to use the largest file size.

Reduce the number of features on your page that make http requests. These commonly include images, scripts, and CSS files.  Then, instruct browsers to cache parts of your page that won’t change and remove any unnecessary code that slows down your site’s loading time. 

3. Make Your Site Mobile Friendly

Around 4.3 billion people used smartphones in 2023, and the number is only expected to keep increasing. To reach these potential customers, ensure your website works on mobile devices and opt for a mobile-first layout.

  • Choose a responsive layout and test it on mobile devices before making your site live. 
  • Optimize scripts and speeds so your site loads quickly.
  • Use pop-ups strategically to keep them from disrupting the mobile experience.
  • Pay attention to your website design and avoid cluttered and text-heavy elements that may make it difficult to navigate on a mobile device. 
  • Check if you need smaller or fewer images on a mobile version of your site for easy loading.

Google also uses mobile responsiveness as part of its core web vitals to determine if your site is relevant. If you're not paying attention to your mobile interface, you risk sinking in the SERPs. If you’re not a designer, choose a web hosting platform that helps you make your site mobile-friendly.

4. Understand Common Page Errors and How To Fix Them

Use a technical SEO audit tool to identify errors on your page and fix them. Common technical SEO issues include: 

  • No http security: Use https protocols and get an SSL certificate. 
  • Indexing: Make sure your site is indexed by Googling your brand name and seeing how many pages are indexed. 
  • Missing XML site maps: If you don’t have a site map, it can be hard for people to navigate your site. Type your website into the search bar with /sitemap.xml at the end. If no site map exists, make one or have someone build it. 
  • Broken links: Check each internal link and backlink on your page to make sure it loads. If not, add the correct link. 
  • HTTP errors: If a server can’t find your site, users may see a 404 Not Found error. Test and fix broken links to avoid this. 

5. Show Search Engines that Your Site Is Secure

Once you’ve installed your SSL certificate, the data transmitted from your website to a web server becomes encrypted. After you have this certificate, change all your URLs to start with “https.” Google prefers secure sites, so this will help improve your SEO. 

Regularly update your website and scan it from time to time to add a layer of security. Use a tool that checks for malware and other vulnerabilities and clean up any insecure features you find. Finally, use a web application firewall to detect and block malicious traffic to your site. 

As an added measure, back up your site regularly. This way, if you do have to take it down to clean it, you can still run an active version for your customers.

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SEO can be difficult to navigate — but you don't have to do it alone.

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