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.

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:

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):

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:

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!


About The Author

Danny Sullivan
Danny Sullivan was a journalist and analyst who covered the digital and search marketing space from 1996 through 2017. He was also a cofounder of Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land, Marketing Land, MarTech Today and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo and MarTech events. He retired from journalism and Third Door Media in June 2017. You can learn more about him on his personal site & blog He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.