To determine which websites should rank at the top of the search results for a given keyword, search engines analyze hundreds of ranking factors.
These ranking factors can be categorized as either on-page or off-page, depending on where they occur.
Backlink quantity and quality, for example, are off-page ranking factors because they occur on other websites, whereas on-page ranking factors occur on your website.
So, what are the top on-page ranking factors?
If you're familiar with the fundamentals of search engine optimization (SEO), you probably know why it's important to publish content on your website.
From articles and blog posts to videos and photo galleries, content attracts visitors organically by providing them with relevant information.
Without it, there's no reason for visitors to access or stay on your website. As a result, content is a top on-page ranking factor used by all major search engines.
2) Internal Links
The use of internal links is an on-page ranking factor.
For search engines to understand what your website is about, they must crawl all or most of its pages.
If Google or Bing only crawls a single page, such as the homepage, they won't know which keywords are most relevant to your site's content.
Internal links allow search engines to crawl your website more completely by connecting them to other pages on your site. Internal links also allow visitors to navigate your website more fluidly.
3) External Links
In addition to internal links, the use of external links is an on-page ranking factor. External links differ from their internal counterparts by linking to a different website.
Some webmasters exclusively build internal links on their website, fearing that external links will drive visitors away. Assuming your website has superior content than its competitors, though, external links won't harm its traffic.
Using them will likely have the opposite effect by promoting higher search rankings.
External links help visitors find other relevant content, so search engines use them as an on-page ranking factor.
4) URL Format
The format used for your website's URLs can affect its search rankings.
Websites with clean URLs that describe their pages' content typically rank higher than those with messy, generic or irrelevant URLs.
When publishing a new page on your website, consider using its title as the URL, such as example.com/seo-top-10-on-page-search-ranking-factors.
SEO-friendly URLs aren't just more appealing; they help search engines understand your website so that they can rank it appropriately in the search results.
5) Title Tags
Don't forget to create custom title tags for your website.
Search engines have used this meta element as an on-page ranking factor for decades.
Even today, it's one of the influential ranking factors assessed by search engines.
The title tag is a form of structured data that's used to describe a page's content.
You should give each page on your website a unique 50-to 60-character title tag reflecting its content.
Search engines will use this structured data to create the titles for your pages' listings.
Another on-page ranking factor is speed.
Faster websites, not surprisingly, tend to outrank slower websites because they are easier and more enjoyable for visitors to use.
Speed hasn't always been a ranking factor. Throughout the early 2000s, the country's internet infrastructure was still in its infancy.
As a result, most U.S. households and businesses had slow internet, thus negating the need for fast websites.
Today, however, the average internet speed in the United States is over 90 Mbps, with some internet services offering download speeds of up to 1 Gbps.
As internet services become faster, search engines will continue to use speed as a ranking factor.
7) Mobile Friendliness
Statistics show nearly six in 10 website visits come from a mobile device.
With smartphones and tablets now trumping desktop and laptop computers, you can't ignore the value of a mobile-friendly design when optimizing your website.
Google and Bing, along with other search engines, use mobile friendliness as an on-page ranking factor.
If your website uses a design that's incompatible with mobile devices, it may rank high in the search results for desktop users, but it will probably rank low or not all in the search results for mobile users.
8) Dwell Time
An on-page ranking factor that's often overlooked is dwell time.
Dwell time is a basic measurement of how long visitors stay or "dwell" on your website before returning the search engine results pages (SERPs).
If most visitors abandon your website immediately or shortly after clicking its listing in the SERPs, it will have a low dwell time.
Search engines will then assume your website's content is irrelevant to the keywords for which it ranks, so they'll lower your site's rankings.
If your website has a high dwell time, on the other hand, search engines will assume its content is highly relevant to the keywords for which it ranks.
In 2014, Google announced that it would begin prioritizing HTTPS websites over HTTP websites in the search results.
To protect their users' data from theft and prying eyes, search engines use Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) as an on-page ranking factor.
Not to be confused with its predecessor, HTTP, HTTPS is an internet communications protocol that allows visitors to communicate with websites through an encrypted channel.
When a visitor downloads or uploads data to or from an HTTPS website, his or her data will be protected.
If your website is still powered by HTTP, you should consider upgrading it to HTTPS.
10) User Experience
Search engines analyze user experience as an on-page ranking factor. Google's RankBrain algorithm, for instance, analyzes user experience metrics like bounce rate and click-through rate (CTR).
If your website offers a poor user experience, it will likely have a high bounce rate and a low CTR.
Optimizing your website for a positive user experience will shift these user experience metrics in the right direction for higher rankings.
You can't rely on backlinks to drive your website to the top of the search results.
While search engines analyze backlinks when calculating a website's rankings, they also look at on-page factors.
Targeting these on-page ranking factors encourages search engines to rank your website higher in the SERPs where it will generate more impressions and visits.