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The 6 Essential SEO Ranking Factors You Need to Know in 2020

The 6 Essential SEO Ranking Factors You Need to Know in 2020
January 7, 2020

The 6 Essential SEO Ranking Factors You Need to Know in 2020

Jan 07, 2020

Mike Khorev is an SEO expert and digital marketing consultant who helps small and mid-size businesses generate more leads, sales and grow revenue online. He offers expert advice on marketing your company the right way through performance-based SEO digital marketing, web design, social media, search engine marketing and many other online practices. Find him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

SEO is an ever-evolving field, especially due to the changes in Google’s algorithms with each and every year. Meaning, SEO tactics, and optimizations that worked in 2017 might not work this year, and as an SEO marketer, we have to be in the know of the current SEO trends and important ranking signals.

In this guide, we will share six of the most important SEO ranking factors that are going to matter in 2020, especially after the recent introduction of Google BERT, the latest algorithm update based on machine learning.

Let us begin.

200 google ranking factors

What Are The Most Important SEO Ranking Signals?

1. Backlinks Profile

Backlinks—or inbound links— are any hyperlinks that are pointed to your site from other websites.

In the digital world, backlinks can be considered as the most expensive commodity: the “vote of confidence” on the internet. When a website links to yours, it’s basically saying that your site is credible and is providing trustworthy information. When the backlink is coming from a high-quality, authoritative site, it’s akin to getting a recommendation letter from someone important in our niche.

With that being said, it’s important to understand that nowadays, the quality of the incoming links is more important than quantity. In fact, getting too many low-quality backlinks at any given time can get your site penalized.

In general, getting just three to five high-quality backlinks every month is sufficient for ranking purposes, but obviously, it can be easier said than done. This is why link building is very delicate but at the same time a very important ranking factor in organic and local SEO.

2. Domain Security and Architecture

Here, our main focus is to have the right kind of URL with two main focuses:

Ensuring Google’s bots can properly crawl and index the site

Ensuring the human audience understood that your site is a secure, trustworthy place

To ensure your domain architecture is appropriate for Google, there are three main things to consider:

  • Make sure your site is built properly without any coding error (hint: using a trustworthy website builder can significantly help)
  • Make sure to optimize your robots.txt file so Google can properly index your site’s information
  • Use a proper XML sitemap. Nowadays, there are various sitemap generators that can help you in this process. If your site is based on WordPress, you can use the trustworthy Yoast SEO for this purpose.

Google announced back in 2014 that using HTTPS encryption is then a ranking factor. Google took domain security very seriously, and sites that use HTTPS are prioritized to rank higher than those with HTTP. In fact, Google might display a warning to the site visitor that a site is unsecured when it’s still using HTTP.

So, enable SSL security and migrate to HTTPS as soon as possible, if you haven’t already.

3. Mobile-Friendliness

It’s no longer a secret that since 2015, Google now prioritizes mobile-friendly sites on their SERP.

Also, more and more people are now exclusively using their mobile devices to browse the web, so if your site is not yet mobile-friendly, you are missing out on a huge chunk of potential visitors, and you might experience a very high bounce rate and low dwell time (more on this user-experience metrics below).

Use Google’s mobile-friendly test tool to assess the current situation of your site, and here are the important factors to look at:

  • Whether you are using mobile-responsive or at least mobile-friendly website template (depending on your website builder platform)
  • Large enough fonts to maintain readability
  • How easy it is to navigate through your menus
  • If you use forms, make sure they are easily filled on mobile devices and don’t include too many fields.

4. Topic Authority and Keyword Intent

Google search’s mission, as per their own words, is to deliver the most relevant and reliable information available. With recent algorithm updates especially the recently launched Google BERT, Google is getting better at doing this, mainly by recognizing user’s intent for specific queries, relations between different pages, and a website’s authority over certain topics.

Simply put, the more content you publish on your site to cover a certain topic, the higher each of these pages will rank in Google SERP. For example, let’s say the target keyword is “digital marketing”. A website that already publishes 10 content pieces on covering digital marketing will have more chances to rank these 10 pages on the first page of Google SERP compared to a website that publishes just one really good content on the topic.

Also, today a content’s optimization for the target keyword is no longer about keyword density, but keyword intent. Meaning, it’s the website that best matches the search intent behind a specific keyword that will get ranked.

To summarize, ranking on Google SERP nowadays is about providing value with our content to establish credibility over a certain topic, and to meet the audience’s intent.

5. User Experience Metrics

Since 2016, Google has used its AI-based algorithm, dubbed the Google Rankbrain to provide ranking recommendations. Rankbrain has allowed Google to better understood some signals related to user experience such as:

  • Bounce time–referring to the number of people who exits (‘bounces’) your site after viewing just one page (it doesn’t matter if it’s after 1 second or 1 hour)
  • Dwell time–the amount of time the user spends before leaving your site (they might view just 1 page or 100 different pages)
  • Click-through rate (CTR)–the percentage of the audience who click to visit your site when your page appears in the SERP

In short, the longer people spend time on your site and the more pages they viewed, the more relevant your site is in the eyes of Google—and the higher it will rank—. On the other hand, when your site is already ranking well but generates a relatively low CTR, you can be demoted in Google SERP.

6. Page Speed

Page speed is now one of the most prominent SEO ranking factors, especially due to its relation to the user experience metrics discussed above.

If your page loads slowly, it’s fairly obvious that you’ll get a low dwell time and high bounce rate. On average, more than 50% of users will bounce from a site that loads in more than 3 seconds—for standard 3G mobile connection—.

Use Google PageSpeed Insights to check your site’s current speed, and Google will also provide suggestions on how to optimize your site to achieve better loading speed.


End Words

The six factors we have discussed above are certainly not an all-inclusive list, but they are the most important to focus on if you want to quickly climb the Google SERP and create your SEO strategy in 2020. You might have noticed that these ranking signals share two main themes: the quality and relevance of your content, and maintaining user engagement for as long as possible.

In short, focus on providing the best value for your audience, and optimize the user experience elements of your site.

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