Each and every week, I listen to somebody ask exactly where they should place their Search engine optimization budget – in on-page seo tactic or link building through inbound marketing.

The honest answer is “it depends”. Many SEO services firm will try to give you a direct answer. It all depends on what they specialize in. I am going share 4 case studies with you and explain how we would allocate your budgets for each one.

What is On-page SEO?

On-page seo optimization means keyword research, writing good TITLE tags, internal linking and crawl architecture, and rich unique content creation. Basically, it is everything that you directly control on your webpage.

Case #1: The Authority

75% On-page, 25% Link-Building

The Authority is a website that has estabished with a solid, trusted link profile and usually a good base of content. Sometimes, it is a site that evolved over time without real planning. The Authority could be suffering from any or all of the following:

  • Keyword research could be out of date
  • Keywords are not targeted for specific pages
  • Internal links have grown
  • Site architecture doesn’t fall in line with business goals
  • Page titles have overlapped or duplicated
  • Old valuable content is showing 404 pages

The Authority’s strong link profile and solid content keep it ranking well. The problem is that you’re sitting on a gold mine of untapped opportunities. This is what I recommend. The Authority should continue to build solid relevant inbound links, but shift to really planning and focusing on on-page issues starting with keyword research and developing new fresh content utilizing all ethical on-page optimization techniques.

Case #2: The Perfectionist

25% On-page, 70% Link-Building

The Perfectionist is the guy that spends all his time consumed with creating the perfect content, meticulously moving keywords around and following all the rules that they’ve learned by reading 500 blogs on SEO. He want to squeeze 0.01% more SEO value out of every article that he’s written.

There comes a point where your on-page is good enough. You have to get Google to your site to put that on-page magic to work. You have to start building inbound links. It’s important to continue to develop content (which is why I’ve left on-page at 25%), but spend the next 6 months developing and implementing a link-building campaign.

Case # 3: The Hot Mess

90% On-page, 10% Link-Building

The Hot Mess has broken a ton of on-page seo rules and has been penalized by Google’s Panda Update. The Hot Mess has done some or all of the following:

  • Blocked crawl paths and bad redirects
  • Massive URL-based duplication
  • Excessive internal search, categories, and tags
  • Aggressive ad-to-content ratio
  • Extremely “thin” content
  • Nonsensical site architecture and internal linking
  • Keyword stuffing

This could be “over-optimization” and an attempt to manipulate the search engines. In order to fix this problem, you need slow down your link building campaign and begin cleaning house by creating more engaging content and optimizing each page correctly.

Case #4: The Bad Boy

10% On-page, 90% Link-building

The Bad Boy has broken a ton of link-building rules, and Google finally noticed. Huge penalties could come down on his website for doing the following:

  • Link farms, networks and exchanges
  • Excessive low-value links
  • Aggressive anchor-text targeting

You need to spend your time addressing the problem links and begin building a pattern of positive high value inbound links. You may have to file for reconsideration with Google.

Is There a Perfect Mix?

When you first build a new site, you’re going to need to invest in your site structure, keyword research, and on-page aspects. That mix may be 100% or 90% on-page for a couple of months. When that structure’s in place and you launch, you’ll still need to build content, but you’ll also want to get your link-building in gear. For a site that’s naturally based on new content (like a blog or news site), on-page may still be 70-80% of the mix (since I’m counting content as “on-page”). For a directory or resource site that has a critical mass of content, you may go 30% on-page, building out the long-tail and 70% link-building for a while. The mix will always be changing, as your site evolves and your business needs change.