Now Updated: The Periodic Table Of SEO Success Factors

Two years ago, we released ”The Periodic Table Of SEO Ranking Factors.” Now we’re back with an update. We’ve introduced some new elements, adjusted a few rankings and given the table a more encompassing name, The Periodic Table Of SEO Success Factors.

Periodic Table Of SEO Success Factors

Clicking on the image above will take you to the permanent home of the table, where you can see a larger copy. You can also view a “condensed” version without the descriptions on either side of table. Both versions are available if you wish to embed on your web site or in PDF form, should you want to print them.

Philosophy Behind The Table

Our goal with the updated table is the same as before, to break search engine optimization down into broad fundamentals needed to achieve success. These fundamentals involve both “on-the-page” and “off-the-page” factors, which are:

  • Content – the quality of your material
  • HTML – elements used to technically create your web pages
  • Architecture – elements involved with your overall site
  • Links – how links to your content may impact rankings
  • Trust – the degree your site seems to be a trustworthy authority
  • Social – how social recommendations impact your rankings
  • Personal – various ways personalized search results impact your SEO

Within these broad categories are specific factors, ranging from content within your HTML title tags to whether your content is socially favored by visitors. Here’s a close-up of the individual factors (it also links to the table’s main page, where it can be downloaded):

Periodic Table of SEO Success

You may have heard that Google has over 200 “signals” or ranking factors, which in turn expand into over 10,000 sub-signals. You may have heard that Google doesn’t count Facebook Likes. Or maybe it does, some believe. Whatever you’ve heard, whatever your SEO skill level, there’s a good chance you’ve found yourself at some point overwhelmed trying to keep track of it all.

The table’s goal isn’t to list those 200 factors and be precise about how each and every one works. No one actually knows the exact answers to do that. Even if they did, the “recipe” or “algorithm” used to mix all these factors together and decide what pages to rank best changes all the time.

Instead, the table is designed to help publishers focus on the most important areas that have the broadest impact on rankings and search engine visibility. If you’re new to SEO, it’s a framework on where to begin. If you’re experienced in SEO, it’s a reminder of what’s most important, if you feel yourself getting lost in the details.

For example, It’s not about whether Google+ shares count more than Facebook Likes. It’s about the fact that search engines are considering social likes overall, so generating social signals overall will help generally with SEO efforts.

Similarly, it’s not about whether using a term you want to be found for carries more weight if used at the beginning of an HTML title tag rather than at the end. It’s about the general idea that having terms you want to be found for in your HTML title tags anywhere is generally helpful.

Understanding The Table

The table encompasses 33 factors, and all of these are among the most important things we at Search Engine Land feel should be considered. Still, we’ve also tried to show within this group which ones carry the most weight. These are shown with a +3 next to them, and they are also more darkly colored that the other factors. Just below are the +2 factors, then the +1 factors.

There are also negative factors, things that should be avoided, as they can harm your visibility. Factors marked -3 are considered the worst ones, then -2 and -1.

Again, all these factors are important. The weightings are general guides, and it’s also important to understand that the factors can work together. A page with several minor positive factors might outrank one with a single positive factor. Similarly, a single negative factor might not mean a site is never to be found.

Each factor has a two letter symbol. The first letter represents the category of elements the factor is part of, such as C for Content. The second letter represents the element itself, such as q for Quality, giving Cq its symbol. Violations are unique in that they all begin with V regardless of what category they are in, so that they can more easily be identified as violations.

What’s Changed?

For the most part, the table is remarkably similar to the original one released in 2011. But there have been some changes, of course. Here’s the summary:

  • New name - As covered above, the new name allows the table to encompass more than just ranking factors, though that remains the focus
  • Blocking factors dropped - As Google hardly provides blocking features, these were outdated
  • Violations integrated - Previously grouped apart from element categories, have now been integrated within them
  • Ad (Duplicate) – New element covering duplicate content issues
  • Hs (Structure) – New element covering structured data
  • Ti (Identity) – New element covering authorship and site identity
  • Va (Ads) – New element covering impact of ad-heavy pages
  • Vd (Piracy) – New element covering impact of hosting pirated or infringing content
  • Lt (Links) - weight of anchor text impact dropped from +3 to +2
  • Ph (History) - weight of personal search history increased from +2 to +3
  • Ps (Social) - weight of impact of social connections increased from +1 to +2

For more details on the how and why behind these changes, see our associated story, What’s Changed With The Periodic Table Of Search Engine Optimization.

Some Thanks!

Time for thanks to all those who made the update possible. I’ll start first with our special projects correspondent AJ Kohn, who oversaw our survey, compiling the results and then diving in on an update to the Periodic Table’s associated SEO guide (more about that below).

Next, thanks to those who participated in the survey. While the editors made the ultimate decisions, and those varied in a few cases from the survey data, it was extremely helpful to have that feedback.

Huge thanks to all the Search Engine Land editors, who participated in the healthy discussion of what factors to include in the update and how to weight them.

As always, thanks to Michelle Robbins, for all her assistance in getting the existing table updated.

Finally, huge thanks once again to the good folks at Column Five Media, infographic whizzes who helped bring the original concept to artistic life in 2011 and dived in again this year to make it reflect all the latest changes.

Related Resources

Once again, the table can be viewed in a larger format on its home page, where you’ll also find options to download a PDF if you want to print it or codes if you want to embed it on your own site. Here’s the page:

The table has an associated guide that’s meant to explain more about the various factors. That’s been given an update to reflect all the new elements. In the coming two weeks or so, we’ll also be updating it further with fresh links to more supporting content. Here the guide:

If you have no idea what SEO is, you’ve probably found this entire post a bit of a mystery. Don’t panic. We have an overview page as well as a short video that can help:

As I said last year, we hope you enjoy the table and find it useful. If you do, your Lq, Lt, Ln and Ss is deeply appreciated!

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Infographics | SEO - Search Engine Optimization | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Harry Clark

    I think the LT (Text) factor could be a little misleading here. SEO’s and webmasters now need to ensure they diversify their anchor text backlinks and also ensure they do not overuse keyword “money terms”.

    Obviously we know this as search marketing professionals, but if a business owner who has no knowledge of SEO were to read this, they may assume they should build links for the terms they want to rank for which means they run the risk of being hit by penguin.

    That being said, I don’t want this post to be too negative. I love the periodic table of SEO and always refer to it when explaining SEO to clients, apprentices, interns etc :)

  • Kamal Kumawat

    Still the importance of links can not be ignored and sounds interest “weight of personal search history increased from” in the new Periodic Table Of SEO.

  • Amithings

    WOW, very interesting, a non-chemical periodic table, in this way we can create periodic tables for many purposes.

    I will try to explore this approach in Amithings project.

  • Abdul Wahab

    Importance of links can never be ignored by any search engine. Because links help the Search algos to prioritize rankings. Any webmaster can improve On-Page factors but its link-building which costs them more. so some avoid to invest time and money on quality in link building…

    so its not gonna ignore

  • Rich Amor Indonesia

    Ads on the links should be my major factor on my links profile. As I remove many of them, voila.. my particular post appear in page #3 after long weeks of the post.

    Your periodic table of seo success factors is very helpful to define the linking building should be made. Thank you. I should deep down to your referred links.

  • Harry Bhanot

    Pretty nice post.. but in the end just good original content will work for long. Don’t try to build backlinks but instead let other find your post to link back. If one try to over use linkbuilding then that blog will not get that much of ranking.

    I like this post but it’s made too comlicated and scary for any new blogger. Images are scary man. You may love that formula type maths but I am scared of it. Did not read this post to the fullest because it was annoying me..

  • Lee Keadle

    Just when I thought SEO couldn’t get any dorkier, I find a periodic table designed specifically for it! This is a great visual for something that’s so abstract – so it’s very helpful. For newer site owners, I would add that paid links (Vp in the table) are
    different than paid ads which also provide links to your site. Paying for Google Adwords, for example, is believed to help with link building and general SEO.

  • Durant Imboden

    Google AdWords (unlike text links) don’t pass PageRank, and while they can boost traffic simply by being ads that people see and click on, they aren’t link-building or SEO tools.

  • Alan Smith

    I prefer to Unique and high quality content and Social signals.

  • Paresh Shrimali

    Need to consider all factor for getting top in organic search results. If people are consider few ranking factor then they will never get success to getting in top.

  • Jeroen den Ridder

    Thanks for structuring my macro thoughts on SEO. Nice and a good guide for search engine visibility and ranking. My generall advice is always “create good original content”, a good startingpoint for all clients. It’s impossible to define all micro SEO factors, that’s everyone’s estimate and besides that ever changing.

  • Glenn Comanda

    Thanks for putting all these up together. It’s a nice reminder to be holistic to approaching SEO factors.

  • Patrick De Wachter

    I’m missing the duplicate content factor. We publish our content (women targeted quality content) also to some newssites and we seem to get penalizied by Google because those newssites have a higher credibility than we (but we are the source of the content).
    Or have you put that kind of factors somewhere in the table I didn’t noticed yet?

  • Nebosh Course in UAE

    Hey thanks for providing us the great collection of the Blog list, its really very useful.. thanks.

  • Ben Smith

    Very clever concept to show a complicated topic in a simple way. It shows that SEO work is either harder now because of all the factors involved, or it is easier because if you create quality content that is helpful, educational, informative, then you will nail most of the factors as a by product. I know which way I prefer to see it.

  • emarketing .

    SEO is all about brand visibility and building of inbound links. Although, the structure of SEO will change but link building cannot be ignored.

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