Technical SEO vs. On-Page SEO: The Differences

S-E-O acronym for search engine optimization.

If you’re not up to your ears in SEO like we are, it can be hard to “get” some of the terminology that SEO professionals throw around. So today, I’m going to clear up a common question: what’s the difference between on-page SEO and technical SEO?

What Is Technical SEO?

Technical SEO is the practice of optimizing the “back end” of a site so that search engines like Google can better crawl and index the website.

Here are some of the things you might work on when performing technical SEO (not an exhaustive list):

Spider-friendly code: Streamline website code so that search engines, when they crawl the site, can access the important content first.

Content management systems: Choose a content management system that’s primed for SEO. Configure and monitor the CMS so you can identify any inherent SEO problems that come with the system.

Site speed / page speed: Page speed (how fast a page loads) is part of Google’s ranking algorithm, and it impacts the user experience. Make sure your pages are up to par by using the PageSpeed Insights tool.

Mobile usability: How many of your website visitors come from mobile devices? Ensure your site is optimized for mobile.

Robots.txt: Use the robots.txt file to tell search engines which directories on the site can and cannot be crawled. Bots check for this file in the root directory of your website each time they visit.

XML sitemaps: Tell search engines about the pages, images and videos on your website with an XML sitemap.

301 redirects: Avoid error pages as much as possible by redirecting old URLs to new, more relevant URLs. Always use a 301 (permanent) redirect.

Fully qualified URLs: Make internal links fully qualified and avoid crawl issues by starting with the “https:” instead of a relative URL.

Structured data markup: Structured data (“schema”) helps search engines understand what the content on a webpage is about. Adding markup from clarifies what type of information is being presented and may lead to enhanced search results, too. Learn more.

Canonical tags: Use the canonical element to tell search engines which version of a URL you want in the search results. This is often used to resolve potential duplicate content issues.

Server maintenance: Regularly check and address server diagnostic reports to address any errors that might occur that create a bad user experience for visitors coming to your site. Also make sure any plugins are updated consistently, for security reasons.

Siloing: Structure your website content by grouping related webpages together in hierarchical categories based upon how people search. This technique actually sits between technical SEO and on-page SEO as it deploys both types of skills. Learn more about SEO siloing.

Read more about technical SEO in our SEO Guide.

What Is On-Page SEO?

On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing webpages from top to bottom. The dual purposes are to give pages a better chance of showing up in the search results and to create a better user experience for website visitors.

Here are some of the things involved in performing on-page SEO (not an exhaustive list):

Quality content: Create quality content that is worthy of E-A-T. This is a huge step worth exploring before you create any content.

Content length and readability: Knowing how many words to write and at what reading level you should write based on the top-ranked pages in the search results is key to competing.

Meta data: Put effort into creating unique meta tags per page. The title and description may be the first things a potential visitor sees when looking at your website’s listing in the search results. Likewise, meta data is one of the first things a search engine encounters on a webpage that tells them what the page is about. Learn more about meta tags

Keyword optimization: Make sure you are integrating the keywords correctly into the content. For more, see my post on how a WordPress plugin can help with content optimization.

Heading tags: Create properly formatted heading tags. Heading tags within an article differentiate the subsections on a webpage. It allows for an easier read by visitors and also signals to the search engines what topics are covered on a page. Read about heading tags and their impact on search engines.

Image optimization: Optimize all the elements of your webpages including images to help you gain visibility in search verticals like Google Images. This also boosts visibility in the main search results. And be sure to include an alt attribute with each image. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states all websites should do this for the vision impaired.

Structured data: Structure the information on your webpage to make it more digestible for visitors and search engines. This includes things like using HTML tables, bulleted lists, ordered lists, a table of contents at the top, and a TL;DR (“too long, didn’t read”) summary. These items may also help your website rank for featured snippets.

For more on-page SEO ideas, check out our SEO checklist.

Why You Need Both

A good SEO strategy focuses on both on-page and technical SEO. A site that is built from the ground up for SEO will ensure that search engines can crawl and index pages with ease. A site that publishes quality, optimized content will create a good user experience, earn links and in turn, do better in the search results.

If you’re looking for assistance with your SEO strategy, our flexible consulting could be your answer. Request a quote here and let’s talk about your needs.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (17)
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17 Replies to “Technical SEO vs. On-Page SEO: The Differences”

Really great….I like your article!
It’s comprehensively written, gives a lot of info to the readers.
Amazing thanks this info.

Informative and in detail post, nice to read.

Thankyou so much for sharing detailed on on page and off page SEO

Both type SEO are required to optimize the website completely.

Thanks for sharing. I specially liked the summary to be added as TL;DR section that can be optimized for featured snippet.

Worth a read.

Technical SEO is a technique in which we optimize the “back end” of a site. We have to write spider-friendly code and robots.txt is an important file that tells the search engines which directories on the site can and can’t be crawled. In on-page SEO we need to write to qualitative content, keyword optimization, and create a proper format of heading tags. Keep sharing informative posts in your upcoming articles.

Useful text. My suggestion and opinion is that SEO is more important for people than technical SEO.

Great write-up here. Since the first day I came to your blog, its been freebies worth hundreds of dollars from you and I’ve learnt another great deal in this post again. Subs means alot

Paula Allen

Lisa, thanks for that. We’ve always focused on making our website an educational resource, so it’s great to hear the value you’ve received as a reader.

Hey, can you please let us know the best SEO tools to find technical issues? and how about a language tag. Do you think it’s still important?

Thankyou so much for sharing this detailed blog about on page and off page seo

Dear Robert,

The correct sequence to be is
1)Tech SEO
2) On-Page
3) Off Page
& 4) Content Structure & Amplifications.
However everyone have their own approaches to SEO.

Dear Vivek,

We have alreday published a number of resources and e-Guide for Core Web Vitals and it is covered in our SEO ToolSet as well and is a major update coming your way in the name of Consumer Web Experince by Google. This is very important post mobile-first indexing has been prioritized. I belive that post 5G roll-out the secnario will be different.

Stepping into the world of SEO is like diving into the ocean. Every type of SEO (On-page SEO, Off-page SEO, and Technical SEO) is important, but, if you want to start improving your SEO step by step, I suggest beginning with On-Page SEO, then moving to its Technical part, and, finally, polishing the Off-Page aspect.

We are regularly read your blog post and learned many SEO tips and tricks and we are trying to implement it through our websites. Thanks to you my friend for your wonderful post.

I think you should also include “Core web vital issues.” Core Web Vitals are a set of specific factors that Google considers important in a webpage’s overall user experience. Core Web Vitals are made up of three specific page speed and user interaction measurements: largest contentful paint, first input delay, and cumulative layout shift. In short, Core Web Vitals are the part of Google’s overall evaluation of “Page Experience.”


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