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General Search Engine Marketing Issues Forum

Is it possible to improve rankings by onpage optimization only?

 6:56 am on Jul 22, 2009 (gmt 0)

Is it possible to improve web site rankings in Google, Yahoo & Bing MSN by only doing on-page optimization (Creating meta tags, writing keyword rich content) and not doing off-page optimization?



 3:49 pm on Jul 22, 2009 (gmt 0)

I think that would depend on a few things:

1) Does the existing site have any inbound links or authority built up? If you have an aged site with inbound links that exist you may be able to get away with sticking to on-page optimization

2) what keywords are you targeting? Are they super competitive or weaker, long tail keywords? The less competitive the keywords the less work you need to do to hit them.

3) where does the page rank currently? If it is already on the first or second page you can probably make some tweaks to bump it up. If you're in the no man's land of page fourteen it may not be a simple tweak to boost it.


 12:05 am on Jul 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

The ranking for webpages in the SERPs can be greatly enhanced with on-site optimization. As a matter of fact, in most keyphrase competitions, on-site optimization alone is enough to position a webpage amongst the top players.


 4:07 am on Jul 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

The reality of the situation is that links are a HUGE factor in rankings.

Without them a site will not thrive.


 1:34 pm on Jul 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

"The reality of the situation is that links are a HUGE factor in rankings.
Without them a site will not thrive."
Inbound links can have a positive effect on rankings for keyphrase searches and sometimes they can be HUGE. If someone has developed poorly optimized web pages, poorly crafted webpage/website components and standard, boring, generic content then they have no other choice but to try to empower their mediocre webpages externally. They have to artificially enhance the content so as to make it appear to be of importance in order to stand a chance of getting somewhere in the SERPs however briefly and feably.

Now, inbound links can occur naturally, they don't have to be ammassed via some trendy link building scheme. Naturally generated inbound links can be a powerful ranking factor but they don't need to be hunted down, bought, swapped, dumped, extorted, listed, signature spammed, blog spammed, useless article writing spam, Twitter spammed etc.. no, they just develop naturally because of the exceptional content.

A web site can thrive without incoming links. A web site's internal linking structure can be one of its best assets in ranking the webpages.

Web site owner can easily justify becoming their own off-site factors too. A marketing agenda can often be better supported and more effectively delivered by divided itself into two or more marketing directions hence the creation of another, sister web site or even a corporate blog. In this case one would think it important to pay attention to these webpages/websites on-site factor. See how off-site factors can become your on-site factors.

Ok so everyone go back to chasing links now ...


 3:39 pm on Jul 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

A web site can thrive without incoming links.

So you are going to tell everyone here that you believe a website can rank for competitive terms with 0 inbound links?

they don't have to be ammassed via some trendy link building scheme.

No one in this thread mentioned any schemes or techniques. Simply that links are a very large portion of the current algorithms.

Naturally generated inbound links can be a powerful ranking factor but they don't need to be hunted down, bought, swapped, dumped, extorted, listed, signature spammed, blog spammed, useless article writing spam, Twitter spammed etc.. no, they just develop naturally because of the exceptional content.

Maybe.....maybe not.

Who came first, the chicken or the egg?

If your website has no visitors but you create exceptional content who sees it? And who finds it to link to it?

If you create exceptional content you still need to market it, promote it, and get the word out there so others will link to it.

A web site's internal linking structure can be one of its best assets in ranking the webpages.

False again. A website's internal linking structure distributes the link juice it has earned from external websites.


 5:01 pm on Jul 23, 2009 (gmt 0)


It doesn't surprise me that you have this need to rebuke the facts. Linking strategists the world over are scared to face the truth. Your days are numbered.


 5:04 pm on Jul 23, 2009 (gmt 0)


You have no idea who I am or what I do. I am not a linking strategist nor a person that relies on linking for SEO.

I am simply pointing out the well known facts that the number and quality of inbound links to a website are a large part of the search engine algorithms and ability for a website to achieve success in the competitive SERPs.

Leave your agenda at home.


 6:25 pm on Jul 23, 2009 (gmt 0)


Agenda? You speak of link juice and the power of incoming links as being a large part of an SEO strategy. I understand that, it is a common miscomprehension of what a search engine looks for when ranking web pages. No doubt that amassing a volume of credible, relevant links can empower webpages externally, but this is wishy washy empowerment. I don't recommend people relying on outside sources to artificially enhance the importance of the webpages. Just create important webpages.

Link juice refers to Google PageRank, the passing of PR from one webpage to another. Who cares about PR when a PR2 can beat the snot out of a PR7 webpage both targeting the same keyphrase. PR is a dinosaur. It isn't me that recommends chasing it, through link building strategies, it is you.

I am saying to the OP to remain focused on what is within his own control, his webpages and his webpage/website optimizable components; the on-site factors. SEOs that focus on crafting their optimizable components can succeed without even spending one second hunting down inbound links. Oh, links will come, there isn't such a thing as a webpage with 0 inbound links, they come naturally and in many ways. The best way to generate naturally driven incoming links is to create indisputably authentic, unique, interesting and exceptional content. This will attract links, maybe not as many as if you went looking for them, but some good ones will come on their own.

Don't dismiss the power of the internal linking structure either. Google compares webpages to webpages not websites to websites, regardless of where the webpages derive.

As you are a moderator of this forum I resent you dictating to me how I should form my opinions regarding SEO and SEO strategies. This is a discussion. You have an opinion and I have one too. I may not agree with most of what I read in SEO forums but I sure am not going to keep quiet about sharing the truth about how an SEO technique should be employed. I don't care much about how experienced search engine optimizers go about their business and tout their techniques, it is the GreenHat SEO that I care about, the newbie that can be so easily influenced into search engine manipulation techniques that won't stand the test of time, are a reflection of their professional ethics and a stain on the corporate image of their clients.


 7:56 pm on Jul 23, 2009 (gmt 0)


It is our job to monitor and eliminate the misinformation from spreading to innocent people that are trying to learn about the subject.

If someone goes into a forum trying to learn about cancer and one of the members says "it is a myth, it doesn't exist" it would be the job of moderators and other members to weigh in and correct the statement.

I see this as similar to your statements of links not mattering. I did not invent the concept of links playing a large role. It is widely known, accepted, and validated by the search engines themselves.

Furthermore, I didn't mention PR. I mentioned link juice which refers to the harnessing the power of your links that point to a page and distributing it within your site.

If you would like to take this debate offline please PM me.


 10:10 pm on Jul 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

Debate? That's why I come here to "General Search Engine Promotion and Marketing Issues". If you don't want to debate with me then don't debate with me.

You know, just because I'm a little off the flow from the other SEOs that frequent these places doesn't mean I should be closed out of a debate.

Misinformation? I said this about incoming links:"Inbound links can have a positive effect on rankings for keyphrase searches and sometimes they can be HUGE." I never once wrote in this debate we are having "I see this as similar to your statements of links not mattering.". Whose throwing out the misinformation?

Maybe it's time you stopped playing the stewart stopping "misinformation from spreading to innocent people" and let intelligent debates about "General Search Engine Promotion and Marketing Issues" decide what constitutes misinformation.


 10:47 pm on Jul 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

Returning to our normally scheduled programming, I would like to respond to the OP.

On page optimization can have a profound impact on rankings. I would rate the three most important factors to ranking as

1. Anchor text in links (on site and inbound both)
2. Links, links, links...
3 On page/on site optimization (to include everything from server issues, markup, navigation and more)

I think there is some gain to conceptual search engine optimization as an on-site activity and all the off-site stuff as site marketing. Whether you are buying ads, links or trading, you are investing resources into getting visitors to your site. If you site is best in class, and you have visitors coming, then it will begin to sustain itself.

Just like brick and mortar, you have to invest in getting customers through the front door, but once they are their you better have a shop that keeps them coming back.


 12:23 am on Jul 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

since it hasn't been mentioned yet...
in my opinion the single most important on-page optimization factor is the title element.


 12:28 am on Jul 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

CanadaFred. Clearly your idea of building a site with great content is well founded. In fact that's a GIVEN for any legit site that is serious about building repeat users.

In an ideal bubble world that Google wants all webmasters to live in you could just create great content and they "will find you". Your rankings will just naturally rise based on the quality of your content and users will just naturally come to your site.

But we don't live in that world. The reality is that rankings ARE manipulated by millions of webmasters and you can either sit back and be altruistic, hoping users find you as your competitors blow by you, or you can be proactive and acquire links yourself. If you want to make money online you had better be thinking of a linking strategy because "good content" wont do it alone.

There are countless ways to do this. The number of types of linkbait alone could be discussed at length. You might argue that a site filled with great content is itself linkbait, and you would be correct. However, you made it sound as if just building great content, optimizing your on-page elements, throwing up an XML sitemap, and doing some URL rewriting is enough to "position a webpage amongst the top players". In most cases, this is simply NOT TRUE.

If you opened up a Bakery in a shopping center and you made the best bread in the country, are you going to just hope that people come into your store? Are you going to just wait for them to find you? You'd be out of business in a couple months.

No one was saying that you don't also write good content and do the traditional on-page optimization. Of COURSE you do. That's a no-brainer. That's like telling people to make sure they put in a <BODY> tag in their code.

But EVERYONE knows that links matter. The Search Engines have said themselves they matter. The Page Rank formula was invented on how links play a roll in relevancy. Countless patents have been released saying they take it into account. Cutts, Udi, and countless others have said links matter. Whole sub-industries have been created just to acquire links. Terms like Google-Bombing were created to explain the phenomenon of link juice manipulation. If links didn't matter why would Google care if you sold them? Why was "nofollow" invented if links don't matter? We can go on and on with examples. This is indisputable FACT.

So when you say that you don't really need links or shouldn't consider your linking strategy when creating a site and instead all you have to do is build great content and optimize your pages, then sit back and wait, you have to EXPECT someone to call you on it.

It IS misinformation you are spreading because the issue of whether links matter in rankings IS NOT UP FOR DEBATE. It is like trying to debate whether gravity exists.


 8:49 am on Jul 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

If you have a million links, and poor content, you will be penalised. Your site WILL NOT RANK.

If you have good content, and absolutely awful (and I mean awful) markup, the page will not rank.

If you have great content, perfect markup and no links, you will not rank in the modern SEs. Maybe up to 2003, but not now.

Now, fundamentally, YOU DO NOT NEED TO PARTICIPATE IN LINK BUILDING CAMPAIGNS TO OBTAIN RANKINGS. Why not? Well, because you will start attracting links by having great content. I suggest you do some marketing, such as press releases and articles, just so you are 'on the radar'. SEs have to be able to find you, and visitors too, otherwise you cannot rank.

Links may be a crucial part of ranking, but acqusition of links does NOT need to be part of your strategy. I suggest you do pay some attention to it, but its not necessary. Before link building became an industry, sites got links. Same today. Sites get links.

Most link builders concede unsought, editiorial links from sites that just like yours are the most powerful. And most analysts realise that acquiring links from off-topc sources is low-value, and possibly penalisable.

As an employee of an ecom site, I can guarantee that I get more bang for my buck concentrating on the site than on link building. The fact is that its pretty difficult to get non-advert links as an ecom. What works for me, in roughly this order, is:

After that, its
H1 to align with title (not match, but align)
Call-to-action meta-description (for CTR, not ranking)
Internal menu navigation structure
Hx scheme properly utilised
Cross-linking properly implemented
Images properly labled
Information sites rank differently, from what I can tell, at least on Google. There is a much stronger correlation between link-volume and ranking with info sites than there are with ecom, although whether this is because good sites both rank well and attract link, or because highly ranked sites cause link acquisition, or because link acquisition cause good rankings are all equally good inferences from a statistical POV*. However, a reasonable explanation is that links imply the linking site endorses the information. The more endorsement, the 'better' the information is likely to be, and thus the better it will be ranked as SEs are all abour sending searchers to good information.

*For clarity:
Good sites => [ranking & links]
Ranking => Links
Links => Ranking

Are all equally valid interpretations of the statistical correlation.


 9:01 am on Jul 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

Just re-read my post. In an effort to seem even-handed, I have come off looking like I think links are not important, and that you can just write some content and the rest will take care of itself.

This is clearly simplistic. Links do come naturally, but you first people need to know your there. I treat link acqusition more like real-world marketing. Its all about branding, strategic partnerships, presence and positioning (as in, where you fit into the market). Links come, but I want the traffic they bring, or the recognition they engender, more than the PageRank they add. For me, a PR campaign is about Public Relations, not PageRank.

Also, in regards to the title of this thread, most sites I analyse could do themselves a favour and focus on just on-site SEO for a while. Most sites are awful for on-page factors. Multiple H1 tags, Title elements of "Home", no meta-description, empty, missing or keyword-stuffed alt tags on images. Some sites could VASTLY improve with a bit of on-site SEO, rather than a mindless obsession with link acqusition.


 12:43 pm on Jul 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

I can see how I have difficulty making myself clear. I'll try again.

Webpages in a 10 page website can come out of the sandbox a PR4 with 3 incoming links and place amongst the top players in meaningful keyphrase competitions, right off the get go; little established credibility, no SEO manipulation, just well optimized webpage components and a powerful internal linking structure (good competitors analysis too).

Links (incoming, outbound, internal) are a factor that search engines use, along with probably 200 others factors, when determining the importance of webpages for a keyphrase search.

Well-optimized webpages/websites need not concern themselves with deploying link building schemes in an effort to rank well in competitive keyphrase environments because what they have crafted is indisputably important.

Incoming links are generated naturally because that's the way the Internet is and as a result of exceptional, unique, well-crafted, interesting content the naturally generated inbound links are sufficient enough to satisfy the SEs ranking criteria (which can be a major or minor ranking aspect depending mostly on the keyphrase competitors).

If a search engine optimizer wants to obsess himself with harnessing the power of off-site factors then they should consider building another website or blog, when easily justifiable, and then concentrate on its on-site factors.


 9:51 pm on Jul 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

Onpage optimization only goes so far, unless there was something missing or wrong to start with. Google was built around the concept of inbound links being an indicator of website quality...hence authority sites.


 7:13 pm on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

Remember that one of the basis that the google consider in page ranking is the backlinks to your site, that can be done through off page optimization such as, article submission, web directory submission, social bookmarkig, forum and blog posting and other off page optimization techniques.

[edited by: tedster at 10:19 pm (utc) on July 31, 2009]

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