The latest version of Search Engine Landâ€™s Periodic Table Of SEO Success Factors is now out. This is the third edition since we first launched our search engine optimization framework in 2011. Below, a rundown of whatâ€™s new and changed, as well as a reintroduction to the table.
The Tableâ€™s Goal Â Philosophy
Our goal with the Periodic Table Of SEOÂ is to help publishersÂ focus on the fundamentals needed to achieve success withÂ search engine optimization. This means itâ€™s notÂ about trying to list allÂ 200 Google ranking factorsÂ or detail Googleâ€™sÂ 10,000 subfactors. Itâ€™s not about trying to advise if keywords you want to rank for should go at the beginning of an HTML title tag or the end. Itâ€™s not about whether or not Facebook Likes are counted for ranking boosts.
Instead, the table is designed to broadly guideÂ thoseÂ new to or experienced withÂ SEO into general areas of importance. Title tags are generally important. Think about making sure theyâ€™re descriptive. Social sharingÂ is often generally seen as good for SEO. Aim for social shares, without worrying about the specific network.
What The SEO Table Covers
There are two majorÂ classes of factors:
- On-The-Page: factors that are largely within the control of publishers
- Off-The-Page: factors are influenced often by others or not directly tied to a publisherâ€™s site
Within these two classes are seven categories of factors, which are:
- Content â€“Â factors relating to the content and quality of your material
- Architecture â€“ factors aboutÂ your overall site functionality
- HTML â€“ factorsÂ specific to web pages
- Trust â€“ factors related to how trustworthy Â authoritativeÂ a site seems to be
- Links â€“ factors related to howÂ links impactÂ rankings
- Personal â€“ factors about howÂ personalized search results influenceÂ rankings
- Social â€“ factors on how social recommendations impact rankings
Overall, there areÂ 37 individual factors, which range from making use of descriptive HTML title tags to whether a site has success with visitor engagement. Hereâ€™s a close-up of the table, focusing on just the factors:
How To Use The Table
Each factor has a two letter symbol.Â The first letter represents the category the factor is part of, such as A for Architecture. The second letter represents the element itself, such as m for Mobile, giving Am its symbol.
Each factor also has a weight. This is a relative guide to how important it is to focus on a particular factor versus others and overall. Those with a +3 are most important, with +2 and +1 factors of lesser importance.
Itâ€™s also important to understand that the factors work together. No one factor will guarantee success. But several factors working together, even if they are minor ones, can increase the odds in your favor.
Violations are negative factors, spam activities that can harm your visibility. Donâ€™t do these things! Violations, unlike the other elements, all begin with VÂ regardless of what category they are in, so that they can more easily be identified as violations. With the weighting, factors marked -3 are consideredÂ worse than -2 and -1.
OurÂ Search Engine Landâ€™s Guide To SEOÂ hasÂ been updated to reflect all the changes to the table, and it goes into more depth about each factor. Be sure to check it out!
As with last year, the Search Engine Land editors brainstormed new elements that should be included, pondered ones that should perhaps be dropped or lowered in weight as well as those that deserved a boost.
We also ran a surveyÂ asking people to give their own opinion of how existing elements should be weighted. For new elements and one we were considering deleting (Identity/Authorship), we also allowed for weighting plus comments.Â We received nearly 400 responses in all â€” thanks to all you helped!
For 2015, the table has gained three new elements and four had weight increases.Â The summary is below. If you donâ€™t care about the changes, then please scroll past to our related resources, including how to get the table for yourself.
Cv: Vertical Search â€”Â As the days of â€œ10 blue linksâ€ are long-gone, which rich search results often pulling in image, news, video and local results from vertical search engines, we felt the table should recognize that vertical search can be an important success factor. Those surveyed seemed to agree, rating this a 1.7 weight, on average. Weâ€™ve settled on making it a +2, for its debut on the table.
Ca: Direct Answers â€” Itâ€™sÂ common that search engines these days show direct answers that are taken off web pages. But is it a success for a page to be scraped for its content in this way, if the answer means thereâ€™s no need to click to the page at all? We decided yes. First, being picked to provide a direct answer seems a sign of trust, which may help a site for other types of queries. Second, while thereâ€™s concern, thereâ€™s also some evidence that being selected as a direct answer can indeed send traffic. The survey put this at a 1.8 weight, but the Search Engine Land editors felt having it debut at +1 was more appropriate.
Ah: HTTPS â€” As Google explicitly added having an HTTPS secure site as a ranking boost last year, it was a no-brainer to add it to the part. The survey gave this a 1.5 average weight. Given that even Google says itâ€™s fairly minor, we felt making it +1 was appropriate.
Am: Mobile â€” Previously +1, the survey averaged at 2.6. We thought rounding to +3 would give this too much weight. But it did deserve to go to +2 given that both Google and Bing are now looking at mobile friendliness as a ranking factor. FYI, we also considered having a separate Aa factor for app indexing. That rated 1.5 on the survey. We decided for this edition to include app indexing / linking as part of mobile overall.
Hs: Structured Data â€”Â Previously weighted +1, the survey average was 2. We also agreed that it has grown in importance, so it was increased to +2.
Th: History â€” Previously +1. The survey average was 2. We agreed with that, so it has been increased to +2.
Te: Engagement â€” Previously within Content, this now moves to the Trust area. Stays at 2, in line with the survey having it at 2.3.
Vs: StuffingÂ â€” Previously it was -1. The survey average was -2.6. We felt rounding up to -3 was too high, but we have taken it to -2.
Vp: Spam â€” Previously it was -1. Survey average was -2.6. In this case, we felt agreed with rounding up to -3.
Va: Ads â€”Â Previously within Content, this now moves to the Trust area. The survey had it at 2.1, but weâ€™ve kept it at -1 because relatively speaking, we donâ€™t think itâ€™s that big an issue for most sites.
Not Changed But Notable
As you can see above, we didnâ€™t always go with exactly what the survey suggested. Ultimately, we try to be a bit more cautious than what the survey suggests. Here are some notable diversions from the survey:
As: Speed â€” The survey put this at 2.4, but when even Google says itâ€™s a fairly minor factor, leaving it at +1 seemed appropriate.
Au: URLsÂ â€” The survey had this at 2.2, but we felt keeping it a +1 was fair.
Hh: HeadersÂ â€” The survey had this at 2.2, but we felt that was too much weight for whatâ€™s a relatively minor factor. We kept it at +1.
Ti: IdentityÂ â€” With the death of formal Google Authorship, we seriously debated whether this should be dropped from the table. But the survey ranked it 1.6, a pretty strong showing for a factor that seemed diminished.Â Ultimately, we think identity will remain important even if how it is determined changes. So, this factor survived, staying on the chart as +1, as before.
Ln: Numbers â€” The survey had this at 1.9. Rounding that to give this a weight of +2 felt overkill from the +1 that it was at, especially at a time when Google has cracked down on people who simply get a lot of links rather than quality ones. We felt keeping it at +1 was more appropriate.
Pc: County â€” The survey ranked this as 2.2, but we felt country-specific results can be so dramatic that +3 was appropriate.
Pl: LocalityÂ â€” Like Country, Locality/CityÂ was 2.2 on the survey but we have it at +3, as before. It feels right to keep it thisÂ strong. Itâ€™s a big factor.
Ph: HistoryÂ â€”Â The survey had this at 1.8, lower than the existing +3.Â We considered dropping it to +2 but decided ultimately to keep it at +3, becauseÂ we think search history is a bigger factor than some areÂ giving it credit for.
Ps: Social â€”Â With the pullback on Google+, thereÂ wasÂ an argument for droppingÂ this from +2 to +1. But the survey put it at 1.6, which is +2 rounded.Â We decided to hold with the current weight.
Ss: Shares â€” While the survey put this at 1.7, which would round to +2, we didnâ€™t think a factor thatâ€™s about the number of social shares versus the reputation/authority of those warranted this. We kept it at +1.
Vh: Hidden â€” Oops! We forgot to ask about this on the survey, but we thoughtÂ keeping it at -1 wasÂ fine.
Vp: Paid â€” The survey only gave it 2.2. but weâ€™ve kept it at -3 because those hit by paid link penalties have difficult recovery, if they ever do.
Vp: Piracy â€” The survey put this at 2.5, which would round to -3. We agree, this is a severe penalty. But since most people arenâ€™t pirating content or likely to get hit by many DMCAs, we felt keeping it at -1 was appropriate.
Getting the table updated for 2015 was a huge effort. Some thanks are in order:
Next, thanks again to all those who participated in the survey!
As always, thanks to the Search Engine Land editorsÂ who participated in getting this edition of the guide updated, with a special call-out for our news editor Barry Schwartz, who has the pulse of SEO like no one else.
Thank you to David Chordigian of our Third Door Media tech department, for his assistanceÂ in getting the existing table updated.
Finally, bigÂ thanks again to the greatÂ folks at Column Five Media, who helped createÂ the original table in 2011 and have continued to support it since through the updates.
The table can be viewed in a larger format on its home page, where youâ€™ll also find options to download a PDF if you with to print it or codes to embed on your own site. Hereâ€™s the home page:
The table has an associated guide thatÂ explains more about the various factors, all freshly updated. Youâ€™ll find that here:
If you donâ€™t know what SEO is or are new to it, donâ€™t panic! Our overview pageÂ will help. It even has a movie!
We hope you enjoy the latest edition of the table. As always, Lq, Lt, Ln and Ss are deeply appreciated!