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Search Engine Land’s 2017 SEO Periodic Table: What Does It Mean For You?

By: Martin Cahill

We’re lucky that every year, the fine folks of Search Engine Land assemble their SEO Periodic Table. It’s a thorough, intelligent breakdown of the most important ranking factors when it comes to SEO each year, and while many of the most important factors remain the same, there have been some major changes for 2017.

For as you well know, SEO can be a fickle beast. While there are often core tenets and underlying principles for making the best SEO possible for sites, tons of outside factors often influence these principles, any one of which could tip your hand favorably, or consign your site to the back pages of the SERPs. These outside factors can range from consideration of your mobile site format to making sure you’re using keywords in your title tags. But no matter the size of the endeavor, each factor is important.

So while you can read more at the link above, I thought I’d break down the biggest revelations of the new Search Engine Land SEO Periodic Table, and what these changes could mean for your SEO in the back half of this year.

The SEO Periodic Table is set up a lot like the classical periodic table of elements, with one large exception: the periodic table of elements doesn’t need to be reassessed every year, with certain elements gaining prominence, and others falling behind. In the SEO Periodic Table, these elements of good SEO find themselves laddering up and down every year, depending on importance. And this year, three elements have found themselves higher up: Mobile, Speed, and Direct Answers (otherwise known as featured snippets).

Mobile is the one least likely to turn heads. For the past few years, Google has been lending more weight to Mobile results, and have gone a long way to groom websites into having better mobile sites. From penalizing folks who were using mobile interstitials, and encouraging folks to optimize their mobile sites before their Mobile First algorithm update (which we’ll be covering as it’s rolled out), having a strong, optimized mobile site has never been more important. Just last year it was at the bottom of the table; what a difference a year can make as Google continues to reconfigure what it will rank for.

Speed has always been a huge factor, but now, especially in the light of Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages, it’s now at the top of the Periodic Table, and one of the highest factors for ranking. If you’ve got a slow site, or a site slower than what Google thinks is optimal, unfortunately, you’re not going to be getting the users you want. While speed sat in the middle of the 2016 periodic table, 2017 is unforgiving in its necessity to get consumers the best site experience possible.

Last but not least, is Direct Answers, which is similar to Google’s new Featured Snippet display, where the result or answer to one’s search is actually pulled from a site and displayed on the SERP results page.  While it seems counterintuitive to show an answer before a user can click on your site, it’s actually been known to drive results; if someone can see how qualified your site is before even clicking on it, it may actually encourage them to explore your site further.

So with these three factors now being some of the majority driving force for SEO in 2017, what does it tell us? That the biggest focus for increasing SEO rankings for 2017 can be found within optimizing user experience. Having the best mobile site available, at the best speeds, and showing your quality in the qualified answer from the SERP gives users a smooth, fast, and informative experience to find out what they need, but not at the cost of their time, patience, or attention. Even if you think your site is doing well in these factors now, it couldn’t hurt to revisit the elements, and see if you can’t polish them or fix them up for the encroaching updates.

What this periodic table doesn’t mean is abandon the strategies and fundamentals of SEO. Don’t throw out content quality for the sake of a faster site, and don’t ignore the technical boons by throwing all your energy into gaining seconds of speed. Use these tips here, and more on the SEO Periodic Table, to optimize your site across the board for 2017, and what other discoveries will be thrown our way in the year to come.