11 Essential Search Engine Ranking Factors You Need to Know for 2020

Posted by Marija Nikolovska

Ranking on Google has always been a numbers game, so to say. There are many search engine ranking factors that Google’s algorithms take into account when they are ranking your website or page.

That means that following these factors is enough to be at the top of the rankings. Right?

Wrong! Well, wrong in the sense that Google is not forthcoming with these factors. In essence, no one knows precisely what they are – we can only guess.

How Does Google Rank Websites?

As we humans are a resourceful bunch, many experts have found ways to figure out how the mighty Google ranking system works, which is why you’ll always hear about a bunch of people who say that they know what it takes to rank favorably on Google.

Unfortunately, many of them are no experts, and the information they are giving is not a proven fact. Since there’s no way to verify their claims with absolute certainty, it’s often hard to find the factors that indeed are relevant. What you need to do is find all the factors that are consistently being praised as the best and most important ones. That’s a hard and complicated thing to do.

Well, fear not, because we’ve done the research for you and found the exact Google ranking factors you need to know about to rank as favorably as you possibly can.

Before we go into them, you need to understand that no ranking factor provides you with something that will place your page on the number one spot in the search. The only thing that you can do here is to try to follow as many of the factors we lay out here, and you’ll have the best chances of ranking in the top ten search results in Google.

You might not be aware, but ranking in at least the top ten search results is a necessity today. According to the research conducted by Moz on ranking factors, up to 92% of all search traffic clicks end up on the first page. The percentage has fluctuated over the years, but the results are always the same – an overwhelming amount of traffic falls on the first page only.

But that’s not all. As much as half of all of those clicks belong to the top three positions.

With such staggering numbers, there’s no question about the importance of ranking as high as possible.

Now that that’s taken care of, let’s go into the essential ranking factors.

Top Google Ranking Factors in 2020

We’ve already established that Google uses many factors for its algorithms to determine the results that will be the most helpful to the user.

But here lies the main point:

Google ranks pages in search results according to what it thinks the users want to see.

That mostly boils down to what the user types, and that’s precisely why Google uses latent semantic indexing, which, in turn, bases the results on search intent of the user. Basically, Google’s algorithms are trying to determine the intent the user had when they typed their query.

Google uses over 200 ranking factors to effectively determine the search intent of the user. If you’re interested in knowing all of them, you can take a look at Backlinko’s list.

Search Engine Ranking Factors

However, there is only a handful of those that matter the most for 2020:

1. Having a Secured (HTTPS) Site

Security is of the utmost importance on the web, so it’s no wonder that one of the Google ranking factors places emphasis on having a secured HTTPS site, instead of an unsecured one based on HTTP.

The emphasis Google places on this is seen in the fact that only 1% of websites are secured through this vital SSL certificate, yet a whopping 40% of sites on page one of search rankings are HTTPS.

Having HTTPS, as part of the URL, is vital because it means that the user’s connection to your site is secured through encryption and authentication.

So what’s the conclusion behind this? Having an HTTPS site is one of the most important SEO factors in 2020.

2. The Age and Authority of Your Domain

The good, old-fashioned ranking signals are now more critical than ever.

When it comes to the age of your domain, it has always been important and remains so in 2020. Ahrefs research shows us that most of the web pages that achieve the highest ranking are more than a year old. What’s more, some 60% of the top ten results in Google rankings are always three or more years old.

When it comes to authority, it’s mostly the combination of high-quality content and off-page SEO factors that play the most prominent role. Use this simple tool to check the authority of your domain.

3. Speed of Your Mobile Page

Page speed has been a ranking factor for quite a while now.  Having a mobile-friendly site has also been a factor for a while. Google has even mentioned that there is no future for websites that are not mobile-friendly. It’s no wonder that mobile traffic accounts for more than half of the global web traffic. Consequently, mobile search has become one of the 7 most important trends for successful digital marketing.

Now all of that is less important because one of the main Google ranking factors of 2018 and later was having a fast mobile page. Google basically combined two of its major ranking factors to make one of the most important ones.

Plus, the research points to this being what the users want. Studies tell us that 53% of people will leave a mobile site if they need to wait more than three seconds for it to load.

4. Page Speed

Naturally, we can’t say that page speed doesn’t matter anymore. It was one of the most crucial SEO ranking factors in 2018 and onwards, and it still is.

Your average page loading time still has a huge effect on your bottom line because users don’t want to bother themselves with slow pages, and they will usually give up on them entirely unless they are quick to load.

To understand how real this is, take Amazon, for example. They have stated before that just one second more in loading times can cost them $1.6 billion in sales annually. Bear in mind that this was some seven years ago. People are even less understanding of slow load times today.

The recommendation is that your average load time is three seconds only, which is the same for mobile site as we previously mentioned.

How to achieve better Google search results ranking? Woorank has a useful and short guide on how to optimize your page speed.

Search Engine Ranking Factors Website Speed

5. Quality Content

Yes, it’s true – content still reigns supreme, and your site cannot hope to rank favorably without quality content on it. The latest content marketing statistics show that 72% of marketers believe that quality content is efficient in terms of increasing conversion rates.

But what qualifies as quality content?

Content that provides valuable information to the reader and answers their questions. Content that’s well optimized with main keywords and secondary keywords. Content that makes people stay longer on your page.

Also, are backlinks important? Most definitely. They also show Google that you have quality content. They can even be considered as an essential ranking factor in their own right.

Essentially, if a large number of people like your content, then Google will consider it worthy of being deemed as quality content, and will thus rank it better.

6. Quality Backlinks

As we’ve said previously, many would consider backlinks as an essential factor in their own right, and we tend to agree. We would go even further by saying that quality backlinks (we’ll explain in a bit what that means) are one of the leading SEO ranking factors in 2020.

Some sites don’t use backlinks but still managed to rank well. It’s still more than worth it to use them than not to use them, though. Think about it – why should you rely on luck when you can use something that tends to increase your ranking significantly?

Here are some powerful link building strategies:

  • Infographics – very popular online and tend to be continuously shared by blogs and on social media
  • Case studies – useful for making a point and showing how you’ve achieved something
  • Industry surveys – these are always linked by many, especially when they use some valuable, thought-provoking statistics

These are just some of our top choices, but you can still find many more. If you want to know more about how great backlinks are as Google ranking factors, you should take a look at Backlinko’s definitive guide on backlinks.

Some experts say that backlinks might lose their strength as ranking factors in the future, but all agree that this will not happen any time soon.

7. The Length of Content

Let’s face it; the length of content has been very important for a very long time. It was one of the top search engine ranking factors of 2019. What’s more, that doesn’t seem to have changed.

According to Neil Patel and Quicksprout, the average content length of the top ten results for most keywords is around 2,000 words, often more.

That’s not strange at all because content length often guarantees quality. There are hardly many writers who would bother writing a 2,000 or 3,000 words piece if they didn’t want to focus on its quality as well.

We can safely say that you should continue to pay attention to the length of your content for much longer, and there’s no need to elaborate on this further.

8. Social Media and Social Signals

Understanding the Google ranking algorithm today is also about understanding the effect social media has on it.

From what we know for now, social media doesn’t have a direct impact on your search rankings, at least not in the same way other search engine ranking signals do. Still, social media and SEO definitely have a cool relationship.

What you need to know here is the following:

  • Social media profiles and posts rank in search engines just like all other things online – as long as Google’s spiders can crawl them, they will be ranked.
  • Social media platforms are big enough that they act as search engines in their own right, making them very important, just like traditional search engines.
  • Social media signals affect your SEO in an indirect way as well by improving the visibility and traffic of your website, the authority of your brand, and local SEO.

So, to put it short: yes, we feel that social media plays a huge role in Google websites ranking. What’s more, expect their role to become way more significant very soon.

Search Engine Ranking Factors Social Media

9. Optimized Images

There’s hardly a decent page on the web that doesn’t have at least a single image. They have been known to have a significant effect on your ranking on Google, and they still do.

That’s why you need to make sure all of your images are optimized:

  • Make sure that the size of each image file is less than 100KB for the loading times to remain consistently high for all users.
  • In terms of Google ranking factors, your alt tags matter a lot when the search engine giant is ranking your images, which is why they are necessary.

As for other parts of an image like the title and the caption, they don’t have much of an effect on SEO, but they are useful for the audience, so you should use them as well.

10.  The Quality of User Experience Is Among the Major Search Engine Ranking Factors

It’s starting to seem that everything depends on quality when it comes to these factors.

And yes, it couldn’t be closer to the truth. The same goes for the user experience — the quality of which hasn’t mattered more than it does today.

Google has noticed this trend and seems to have made quality user experience among the most important ranking factors for 2020.

The statistics confirm that UX matters. Around 38% of people will stop engaging with a site entirely if the UX is terrible.

Furthermore, Ezoic’s case study has shown that there can be as much as a 186% increase in earnings per 1,000 visitors if you have a high-quality UX.

Naturally, your SEO ranking won’t advance by much if your UX doesn’t cover everything that matters, which includes the quality of your content, the design of your site architecture, and its speed.

When considering the architecture, all the rules you need to follow is that your site should look good and be intuitive, easy to use and navigate, and you’ll be safe.

11.  How Good Is Your On-Page Optimization

On-page optimization is very connected to user experience, but it is still one of the most crucial search engine ranking factors on its own.

Let’s explain.

On-page optimization basically includes the, let’s say, ‘behind the scenes’ parts of SEO.

However, that’s very broad. That’s why we have found a few of the fundamental aspects of on-page optimization that have the most substantial impact on your ranking. These are:

  • Metadata – title tags and page descriptions for your site which Google uses
  • Internal links – their quality and their structure matter
  • Schema markup – they help Google show quality snippets in search results

By making sure these on page SEO factors are respected and taken care of, you’ll be able to increase your overall ranking results further.


There are so many changes that Google regularly makes in how they rank websites, and it’s necessary for you to follow all the changes that they make. That will enable you to adapt and do what you need to do to keep ranking well.

We have already shown you the best and most useful ranking factors. And hopefully, the question of how does Google rank search results has been answered.

The main takeaway from this is that quality remains key in how you can rank well – the quality of content, the quality of links, the quality of the user interface, and the overall quality of your site.

All in all, if you can manage to follow the search engine ranking factors we’ve covered here, you’ll be well on your way to ranking in the top ten results in Google and other major search engine platforms.

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