On-Page SEO Ranking Factors 2020 [Updated]

Google uses about 200 various factors to rank a site. Apparently.

It doesn’t matter how accurate this number is. The sheer magnitude of it is still intimidating.

Especially for someone only starting to rank their site.

But here is the catch.

Not all those factors are equally important. Some are indeed must haves, but others might not make much of a difference in your market.

Many you don’t even have much direct influence on. If you just launched your site and are trying to find out what aspects of SEO you should focus on first, here’s a treat for you.

A list of the most important Google ranking factors a beginner should know.

On-Page factors 2020:

The way your page is optimized has the most profound effect on its rankings. Here are the page optimization factors that can affect its search visibility

1. Keyword in the title tag.

What is a meta title tag?

A title tag is an HTML element that specifies the title of a web page. Title tags are displayed on search engine results pages (SERPs) as the clickable headline for a given result, and are important for usability, SEO, and social sharing. The title tag of a web page is meant to be an accurate and concise description of a page's content.

Code sample

<head><title>Example Title</title></head>

Optimal format

Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name
8-foot Green Widgets – Widgets & Tools | Widget World

Optimal title length

Google typically displays the first 50–60 characters of a title tag. If you keep your titles under 60 characters, our research suggests that you can expect about 90% of your titles to display properly. There's no exact character limit, because characters can vary in width and Google's display titles max out (currently) at 600 pixels.

Why are title tags important?

Meta title tags are a major factor in helping search engines understand what your page is about, and they are the first impression many people have of your page. Title tags are used in three key places: (1) search engine results pages (SERPs), (2) web browsers, and (3) social networks.

1. Search engine result pages

Your title tag determines (with a few exceptions) your display title in SERPs, and is a search visitor's first experience of your site. Even if your site ranks well, a good title can be the make-or-break factor in determining whether or not someone clicks on your link.

On-Page seo factor

2. Web browsers

Your title tag is also displayed at the top of your web browser and acts as a placeholder, especially for people who have many browser tabs open. Unique and easily recognizable titles with important keywords near the front help ensure that people don't lose track of your content.

On-Page SEO Ranking Factors 2020 [Updated]

3. Social networks

Some external websites — especially social networks — will use your title tag to determine what to display when you share that page. Here's a screenshot from Facebook, for example:

On-Page SEO Ranking Factors 2020 [Updated]

We recommend: Yoast SEO and Rank Math

Keep in mind that some social networks (including Facebook and Twitter) have their own meta tags, allowing you to specify titles that differ from your main title tag. This can allow you to optimize for each network, and provide longer titles when/where they might be beneficial.

On-Page SEO Ranking Factors 2020 [Updated]

How do I write a good title tag?

Because title tags are such an important part of both search engine optimization and the search user experience, writing them effectively is a terrific low-effort, high-impact SEO task. Here are critical recommendations for optimizing title tags for search engine and usability goals:

1. Watch your title length

If your title is too long, search engines may cut it off by adding an ellipsis (“…”) and could end up omitting important words. While we generally recommend keeping your titles under 60 characters long, the exact limit is a bit more complicated and is based on a 600-pixel container.

Some characters naturally take up more space. A character like uppercase “W” is wider than a lowercase character like “i” or “t”. Take a look at the examples below:

On-Page SEO Ranking Factors 2020 [Updated]

The first title displays a full 77 characters because the “ittl” in “Littlest” is very narrow, and the title contains pipes (“|”). The second title cuts off after only 42 characters because of wide capital letters (like “W”) and the fact that the next word in the title tag is the full website name.

Try to avoid ALL CAPS titles. They may be hard for search visitors to read, and may severely limit the number of characters Google will display.

Keep in mind that, even within a reasonable length limit, search engines may choose to display a different title than what you provide in your title tag. For example, Google might append your brand to the display title, like this one:

On-Page SEO Ranking Factors 2020 [Updated]

Here, because Google cut off the text before adding the brand (the text before “…” is the original text), only 35 characters of the original title were displayed. See more below about how to prevent search engines from rewriting your title tags.

Keep in mind that longer titles may work better for social sharing in some cases, and some titles are just naturally long. It's good to be mindful of how your titles appear in search results, but there are no penalties for using a long title. Use your judgment, and think like a search visitor.

2. Don't overdo SEO keywords

While there is no penalty built into Google's algorithm for long titles, you can run into trouble if you start stuffing your title full of keywords in a way that creates a bad user experience, such as:

Buy Widgets, Best Widgets, Cheap Widgets, Widgets for Sale

Avoid titles that are just a list of keywords or repeat variations of the same keyword over and over. These titles are bad for search users and could get you into trouble with search engines. Search engines understand variations of keywords, and it's unnecessary and counterproductive to stuff every version of your keyword into a title.

3. Give every page a unique title

Unique titles help search engines understand that your content is unique and valuable, and also drive higher click-through rates. On the scale of hundreds or thousands of pages, it may seem impossible to craft a unique title for every page, but modern CMS and code-based templates should allow you to at least create data-driven, unique titles for almost every important page of your site. For example, if you have thousands of product pages with a database of product names and categories, you could use that data to easily generate titles like:

[Product Name] – [Product Category] | [Brand Name]

Absolutely avoid default titles, like “Home” or “New Page” — these titles may cause Google to think that you have duplicate content across your site (or even across other sites on the web). In addition, these titles almost always reduce click-through rates. Ask yourself: how likely are you to click on a page called “Untitled” or “Product Page”

4. Put important keywords first

According to JasaSEO.be's testing and experience, keywords closer to the beginning of your title tag may have more impact on search rankings. In addition, user experience research shows that people may scan as few as the first two words of a headline. This is why we recommend titles where the most unique aspect of the page (e.g. the product name) appears first. Avoid titles like:

Brand Name | Major Product Category – Minor Product Category – Name of Product

Titles like this example front-load repetitive information and provide very little unique value at first glance. In addition, if search engines cut off a title like this, the most unique portion is the most likely to disappear.

5. Take advantage of your brand

If you have a strong, well-known brand, then adding it to your titles may help boost click-through rates. We generally still recommend putting your brand at the end of the title, but there are cases (such as your home page or about page) where you may want to be more brand-focused. As mentioned earlier, Google may also append your brand automatically to your display titles, so be mindful of how your search results are currently displayed.

On-Page SEO Ranking Factors 2020 [Updated]

6. Write for your customers

While title tags are very important to SEO, remember that your first job is to attract clicks from well-targeted visitors who are likely to find your content valuable. It's vital to think about the entire user experience when you're creating your title tags, in addition to optimization and keyword usage. The title tag is a new visitor's first interaction with your brand when they find it in a search result — it should convey the most positive and accurate message possible.

On-Page SEO Ranking Factors 2020 [Updated]

Why won't Google use my title tag?

Sometimes, Google may display a title that doesn't match your title tag. This can be frustrating, but there's no easy way to force them to use the title you've defined. When this happens, there are four likely explanations…

1. Your title is keyword-stuffed

As discussed above, if you try to stuff your title with keywords (sometimes called “over-optimization”), Google may choose to simply rewrite it. For many reasons, consider rewriting your title to be more useful to search users.

2. Your title doesn't match the query

If your page is matching for a search query that isn't well represented in the title, Google may choose to rewrite your display title. This isn't necessarily a bad thing — no title is going to match every imaginable search — but if your title is being overruled for desirable, high-volume searches, then consider rewriting it to better match those search keywords and their intent.

3. You have an alternate title

In some cases, if you include alternate title data, such as meta tags for Facebook or Twitter, Google may choose to use those titles instead. Again, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but if this creates an undesirable display title, you might want to rewrite the alternate title data.

4. You have an old DMOZ listing

In rare cases, search engines may pull a title from DMOZ (aka Open Directory Project). If your display title in search doesn't match your title tag but does match your DMOZ listing, then you can block that substitution with the Robots NOODP tag, which looks like this:

<meta name="robots" content="noodp">

Meta robots is a fairly technical topic, but if you're seeing an unexplained display title in SERPs, do a quick search on DMOZ for your business. You might save yourself a few headaches.

Site SEO Factors:

There are certain site-wide factors that can affect your site’s search visibility as well:

1. Sitemap. A sitemap helps search engine to index all pages on your site. It is the simplest and most efficient way to tell Google what pages your website includes.

2. Domain trust. Trust matters. It’s hard no to think that sites Google trusts should rank higher.

3. Server location. Some SEOs believe that a server’s location helps to boost rankings for that particular country or region.

4. Mobile optimized site. Only a year ago, 46% of searchers used mobile exclusively to research. I believe this number increased exponentially in the last 12 months. It would be no surprise then that having a mobile optimized site would affect rankings in some way.

On-Page SEO Ranking Factors 2020 [Updated]

5. Google Search Console integration. Lastly, having your site verified at Google Webmasters Tools is said to help with your sites indexing. Even if that’s not the case, the tool provides valuable data you can use to optimize your site better.

search engine console

Off Page SEO factors 2020:

When ranking your pages, Google looks at factors outside of your site as well. Here are some key ones:

On-Page SEO Ranking Factors 2020 [Updated]

1. The number of linking domains. The number of domains linking to you is one of the most important ranking factors.

2. The number of linking pages. There might be some links from a particular domain to your site; their number is a ranking factor too. However, it is still better to have more links from individual domains rather than from a single domain.

3. Domain Authority of linking page. Not all pages are equal. Links to pages with higher domain authority will be a bigger factor than those on low authority domains. Therefore, you should strive to build links from high domain authority websites.

4. Link relevancy. Some SEOs believe that links from pages related to your pages topic carry more relevancy for search engines.

5. Authority of linking domain. The authority of a domain may be a ranking factor too. For that reason, a link from low authority page on a high authority site will be worth more that from a lower domain authority one.

6. Links from a homepage. Similarly, some SEOs believe that links from a home page of a linking domain carry more strength than those on one of its pages.

7. A number of do follow vs. nofollow links. Google officially stated that they don’t count nofollow links (link with rel=nofollow attribute attached). Therefore, the number of your do follow links should affect your rankings too.

8. The diversity of link types. The types of links you build to your site matters too. Too many links of one type may be a spam indicator and impact your rankings negatively.

9. Contextual links. It is said that links within the content of the page are worth more than links in a sidebar for instance.

10. Link anchor. Anchor text of a link used to be a strong ranking factor. Today it can be utilized as a web spam indicator, negatively impacting your rankings.

Domain SEO factors 2020:

Lastly, your domain can affect your rankings as well. Some of the domain signals aren’t as strong as they used to be, there are few things worth paying attention to:

1. Domain registration length. Google considers domains registered for longer than a year as more trustworthy. QUOTE.

2. Domain history. You may not be the first person who registered the domain. And if your domain has been penalized in the past, its history might affect its current rankings.

3. Country TLD extension. If you try to target a particular local market, it is said that having a domain with a country specific TLD (.pl, .co.uk, be or .ie for instance) will help to achieve better rankings for that location.

Content SEO Factors 2020:

The content of a page is what makes it worthy of a search result position. It is what the user came to see and is thus extremely important to the search engines. As such, it is important to create good content. So what is good content? From an SEO perspective, all good content has two attributes. Good content must supply a demand and must be linkable.

Good content supplies a demand:

Just like the world’s markets, information is affected by supply and demand. The best content is that which does the best job of supplying the largest demand. It might take the form of an XKCD comic that is supplying nerd jokes to a large group of technologists or it might be a Wikipedia article that explains to the world the definition of Web 2.0. It can be a video, an image, a sound, or text, but it must supply a demand in order to be considered good content.

Good content is linkable:

From an SEO perspective, there is no difference between the best and worst content on the Internet if it is not linkable. If people can’t link to it, search engines will be very unlikely to rank it, and as a result the content won’t drive traffic to the given website. Unfortunately, this happens a lot more often than one might think. A few examples of this include: AJAX-powered image slide shows, content only accessible after logging in, and content that can't be reproduced or shared. Content that doesn't supply a demand or is not linkable is bad in the eyes of the search engines—and most likely some people, too.

On-Page SEO Ranking Factors 2020 [Updated]

From: A Visual Guide to Keyword Targeting & On-Page SEO

SEO Best Practice

Content pages are the meat of websites and are almost always the reason visitors come to a site. Ideal content pages should be very specific to a given topic—usually a product or an object—and be hyper-relevant.

The purpose of the given web page should be directly stated in all of the following areas:

  • Title tag
  • URL
  • Content of page
  • Image alt text

Here is an example of a well-laid-out and search engine–friendly web page. All of its on-page factors are optimized.

On-Page SEO Ranking Factors 2020 [Updated]

The content page in this figure is considered good for several reasons. First, the content itself is unique on the Internet (which makes it worthwhile for search engines to rank well) and covers a specific bit of information in a lot of depth. If a searcher had question about Super Mario World, there is a good chance, that this page would answer their query.

Aside from content, this page is laid out well. The topic of the page is stated in the title tag (Super Mario World – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia), URL (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Mario_World), the page's content (the page heading, “Super Mario World”), and within the alt text of every image on the page.

The following example is of a poorly optimized web page. Notice how it differs from the first example.

On-Page SEO Ranking Factors 2020 [Updated]

This figure shows a less search engine–friendly example of a content page targeting the term “Super Mario World.” While the subject of the page is present in some of the important elements of the web page (title tag and images), the content is less robust than the Wikipedia example, and the relevant copy on the page is less helpful to a reader.

Notice that the description of the game is suspiciously similar to copy written by a marketing department. “Mario’s off on his biggest adventure ever, and this time he has brought a friend.” That is not the language that searchers write queries in, and it is not the type of message that is likely to answer a searcher's query. Compare this to the first sentence of the Wikipedia example: “Super Mario World is a platform game developed and published by Nintendo as a pack–in launch title for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.”. In the poorly optimized example, all that is established by the first sentence is that someone or something called Mario is on an adventure that is bigger than his or her previous adventure (how do you quantify that?) and he or she is accompanied by an unnamed friend.

The Wikipedia example tells the reader that Super Mario World is a game developed and published by Nintendo for the gaming system Super Nintendo Entertainment System–the other example does not. Search results in both Bing and Google show the better optimized page ranking higher.

An Ideally Optimized Web Page

An ideal web page should do all of the following:

  • Be hyper-relevant to a specific topic (usually a product or single object)
    • Include subject in title tag
    • Include subject in URL
    • Include subject in image alt text
    • Specify subject several times throughout text content
  • Provide unique content about a given subject
  • Link back to its category page
  • Link back to its subcategory page (If applicable)
  • Link back to its homepage (normally accomplished with an image link showing the website logo on the top left of a page)

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