Periodic table of SEO

Many SEOs are still grasping and measuring the impact of Google’s most significant algorithm update this year, the Panda Update. To do this, Search Engine Land has published the Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors – it’s a clever way to illustrate the many “elements” (factors) that website owners should take into account in their SEO strategy.

Through this lens, I looked at the impact on SEO of the strategic use of UGC according to the best practices we’ve developed over six years in this space.

“On the Page SEO” is typically the most tangible of SEO activities – changes a website owner can make to their own site. In the Periodic Table, a category of On Page factors is Content, and specifically the degree to which a site’s content is “Quality (Cq +3)” or is “Fresh (Cf +2)”. Website owners can answer these questions:


Quality: Do you provide a reason for people to spend more than a few seconds reading your pages?

Since much of the country is in a massive heat wave, some folks may be in need of a portable air conditioner like this one from Living Direct. Although this may be a product that would otherwise be similar at dozens of retailers, Living Direct has quality content in the form of videos, reviews, and customer questions & answers for users that want to research the product.


Fresh: Are pages fresh & about “hot” topics?

When I was in Barcelona in early July, I checked out TripAdvisor for feedback on Cook and Taste, a hands-on cooking class that includes a tour of the famous Boqueria Market. I saw that glowing reviews dated just days before my vacation started – that sent me scrambling to make a reservation (alas, they get booked up fast, so I missed the opportunity)! This fresh content definitely lured me in, and search engines want to include sites like this to keep searchers satisfied with their results.

“Off the Page SEO” can be the most challenging and has arguably changed the most over the years as search engines weigh which signals indicate a “valuable” website. In the Periodic Table, a “Social” factor is a website’s “Shares (Ss +1)”.


Shares: Do many share your content on social networks?

Bare Escentuals’ customers regularly share their product recommendations and reviews through Facebook. With over 340K likes and several thousand reviews, it’s likely that they are getting SEO value from this Social factor in the search engine algorithms.


Authority: Are you a Trusted Authority?

When NPR or The New York Times have a lead story, people listen – online and offline, at the water cooler or in an RSS reader. Search engines definitely value and want to boost sites like this because this type of authority can only be built over time.

Realistically, no infographic can completely illustrate all of the factors and weights that go into search engine algorithms because search engineers are literally tweaking them every week. Bill Slawski from SEO by the Sea points out in the comments of the post that the infographic “unintentionally may mislead people because of that simplicity.” Rand Fishkin from SEOmoz recently posted his hunch that “authenticity” of a page’s content is growing in importance – this could be yet another factor or could weigh into another factor such as trust or authority.

Personally, my favorite aspect of this table is that it highlights how SEO is no longer a “background” aspect of your website – the best SEO strategies have always been aligned with a business’ overall goals. SEO campaigns encompass social and interactive activities, along with a robust content strategy, because that is what users want from your website and therefore, that is what search engines want.