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Maximizing Online Visibility for Packaging Manufacturers: On-Site vs. Off-Site Strategies

By Todd M. Zielinski and Lisa Benson

March 20, 2024

In a competitive market space such as packaging, a digital presence is critical for reaching potential customers. Most packaging manufacturers understand the importance of having a website to showcase their services and capabilities, and many are aware that search engine optimization (SEO) is required to drive people to their websites. But if asked what SEO entails, for many, things get a bit fuzzy. In this article, we hope to provide guidance on improving your online visibility using on-site and off-site SEO strategies.

Why SEO Is Important

SEO refers to optimizing your online presence so your company and services appear organically—as opposed to paid—as one of the top entries on a search engine result page (SERP). The search engine we are optimizing for is generally Google, which has nearly 85% of the market share, according to Statistica. The next-closest is Bing, with less than 10%, so it becomes clear why so much effort is afforded to ranking on Google.

However, just showing up isn’t enough. The first five organic results—the ones under those labeled “sponsored”—account for nearly 70% of all clicks, and 75% of searchers never go past the first page, according to Zero Limit Web.

This is why both on-site and off-site SEOs are critical. Unfortunately, many manufacturers do not understand this and operate under the false sense that a nice-looking website or even a website with some optimization is enough to bring prospects to them.

On-Site SEO

On-site SEO is what many think of when discussing search engine ranking and increasing website lead flow. When optimizing for on-site, it is critical to do it for the website structure and content.

Some elements related to website structure to consider include:

  • URL Structure: URLs should follow a logical hierarchy reflecting the site’s organization and include targeted keywords.
  • Site Navigation: Navigation should facilitate finding content with minimal clicks.
  • Breadcrumb Navigation: Breadcrumbs help users understand their location within the site and provide a logical structure for search engines.
  • XML Sitemap: An XML sitemap lists all important pages of your website, making it easier for search engines to crawl and index your site comprehensively.
  • HTTPS: HTTPS provides encryption and verification that HTTP doesn’t. Search engines prefer secure sites (HTTPS) and may take users to a “Your connection is not private” page and/or display “not secure” next to the URL for sites that are not secure.
  • Header Tags: Proper use of header tags (i.e., H1 through H6) helps organize content hierarchically, improves readability for users, and provides contextual information to Google.
  • Structured Data Markup: Also called schema markup, structured data markup can enhance how your pages are displayed in search results with rich results (or rich snippets), improving click-through rates. Google supports 35 types that are relevant to different types of content.
  • Canonical Tags: Canonical tags are used to prevent duplicate content issues. They indicate which version of a URL you want to appear in search results.
  • Robots.txt File: This file tells search engines which pages or sections of your site to crawl and which to ignore. It helps in optimizing the crawl budget (the number of pages it crawls in a given time frame). However, it doesn’t prevent a webpage from being shown by Google. To do that, you can block indexing with a noindex tag or password protection.
  • Error Page Management: Proper handling of the “404 error message”  and “500 error message” errors ensures that users are guided back to the relevant sections of your site. If users encounter these errors and immediately hit the back button, it can signal to Google that the content isn’t valuable for the keyword, which can drive rankings down.

Content on your site should be well organized and incorporate relevant keywords tailored to packaging. Keywords are words or short phrases that define your content and are used in search queries when people are looking for information. Understanding how people search is important. In an overly simplistic example, if people erroneously call corrugated board “cardboard,” their search will bring up sites with cardboard as a keyword. Single-word terms like cardboard can be highly competitive and tough to rank for, so long-tail keywords with a more defined intent such as “double-wall corrugated cardboard” are used.

Several online tools can help you find relevant keywords with search volume and low competition such as Google Keyword Planner, Moz, Semrush, and Ahrefs. Some of these research sites can also help you uncover what keywords your competitors are ranking for.

Website content should also contain internal links that take users to other pages. A well-planned internal linking structure helps distribute page authority throughout the site and improves navigation.

User experience is also important as people will quickly leave your site if the experience is poor. This includes ensuring it is mobile-responsive. Google started penalizing pages for not being responsive in 2015 and, in 2020, rolled out mobile-first indexing for all websites, which means a site’s content is crawled with a smartphone agent. Most websites are compliant today, but you occasionally find one that isn’t. In mid-2022, mobile accounted for around 45% of North American online traffic, according to Statistica, so it’s clear why this is critical.

Page load time is another factor that can impact the user experience. Most people will abandon a site if it takes more than a few seconds to load. Additionally, Google crawls and indexes sites based on its crawl budget, so if your pages are slow to load, it may base its ranking on a partial view of your site, which can impact your ranking.

Off-Site SEO

While much attention is paid to on-site SEO, off-site SEO also plays a role in driving prospects to your site. Off-site SEO refers to tactics used outside of your website to help increase your ranking and demonstrate your expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness—a method Google uses for determining quality websites.

Many packaging manufacturers’ customers tend to be near them. Local SEO tactics will help to increase local traffic to your site. Optimizing your Google Business Profile is one way to ensure you show up for locals in searches and Google Maps.

Another tactic for off-site SEO is link building. Link building means getting other websites to link to your website. This is referred to as creating backlinks. Backlinks from high-authority sites and unique domains can help you rank higher because they demonstrate to search engines that you have valuable content. Creating content with interesting information that others will want to link to is one way to increase backlinks. Additionally, backlinks can come from industry groups, resource pages, sourcing platforms, manufacturing databases, etc. Beware of buying backlinks as this goes against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Social media is another off-site strategy for getting more attention for your brand. As content is shared, more links to the content may be generated. Consider creating videos, which are highly popular, as part of your content strategy. Similarly, guest posting on other sites can help you reach a larger audience and get backlinks to your site.

SEO Is a Long-Term Process

On-site and off-site SEO strategies are essential components of a well-rounded digital marketing approach. SEO is a long-term strategy that requires patience for substantial results to emerge. The time it takes for changes to a website to be reflected in SERPs and for rankings to improve can vary widely, depending on several factors, including crawl budget, indexing speed, algorithm updates, use of Google tools to submit sitemaps and request reindexing, and competitiveness. Generally, it can range from days to several months. However, SEO is not a set-it-and-forget-it process.

SEO requires continual attention and adaptation. For example, search engines often view updated content more favorably as it signals the site is active and provides current information. Regularly reviewing and updating your SEO strategy helps ensure your site remains competitive, relevant, and visible in search engine results.

Todd M. Zielinski is managing director and CEO at Athena SWC LLC. He can be reached at 716-250-5547 or

Lisa Benson is senior marketing content consultant at Athena SWC LLC. She can be reached at