Earlier this month, SEO watchdog Search Engine Land released their 2015 updated SEO ‘periodic table’, the third edition since the table began.
The idea behind it is to give SEOs a highly visual guide, indicating the shifting tides (and occasional tidal waves!) in the industry year on year – a valuable tool for a job which can often become bogged down in data and code.
With 200 ranking factors it’s a job in itself to keep up to date with Google’s processes, and nigh impossible to understand the weighting of each factor and its relationship to the other 199. But what the periodic table does is to simplify SEO into important elements – more holistically than algorithms – and place them in terms of their impact (+1 to +3, -1 to -3). Seven categories from site architecture to social media produce thirty-seven distinct factors which range from crawlability to duplicate content.
Changes to the table: SEO in 2015
In terms of what to prioritise, what to avoid, and what to downright forbid, the table shows the factors that should be a focus – for reasons good and bad – in 2015.
The table saw three brand new elements in 2015, showing the rapid changes in SEO as Google seeks to evolve its offering and market dominance. These new factors are born from the following changes we’ve seen in recent months:
• Richer SERPs – video, images, news, and now even tweets appear in search results (depending on search terms and location), so it comes as no surprise that vertical search (Cv) has been added to the periodic table with an impressive starting impact grade of +2. Getting on board with Google’s changing trends is a bad thing, said no SEO – ever.
• Direct answers – linked to the diversification of SERP results is direct answers (Ca). SEOs are divided on the impact of direct answers: will they hinder traffic? Does site authority and trust increase if you are considered a direct answer-worthy source? Time will no doubt tell, but it’s clear that with a box at the very top of search results that they are a force to be reckoned with.
• HTTPS – secure connections were outright confirmed by Google themselves to have SEO benefits in August 2014. Whilst HTTPS (Ah) remains a relatively unexplored due to complexities of migrating to an HTTPS site, they enter the periodic table with a +1 impact grade. At the moment, the padlock icon on tabs, signalling an encoded HTTPS site, is fairly rare. Watch this space…
The most obvious one is the increased importance of optimising for mobile search since the update in April, meaning that websites not considering the UX of their mobile users will lose out in rankings.
Targeting is becoming an ever more important theme with consistent +3s. Knowing your audience, and therefore the purpose of your digital channels, is vital to your business but also now vital to Google. From setting your target country and language to geo-specific SEO, localisation is gaining weight.
Factors like content, titles and links remain steady, despite concern that links may have numbered days. Link spam is now well and truly an SEO’s kryptonite, advancing to a glaring -3.
How to use the SEO periodic table
Whilst the table provides little technical insight and zero practical tips, it’s pinned on my wall as a daily reminder of the direction we should be heading in, and how to prioritise my time. Clients with smaller budgets can see which activities they can afford to do on a less regular basis, and those which should be seen as run of the mill maintenance.
If anything, it makes a complex task feel a whole world more manageable, and who ever complains about a bit of colour coding?
Find Search Engine Land’s full report on the 2015 table here.