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Mark Frost

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Periodic Table of SEO: In-Depth Content Guide

Periodic Table

While SEO is a simple practice once you learn the basics (and begin implementing strategies and techniques), it's often intimidating to beginners and those who don't specialize in digital marketing.

In order to help more and more people learn about SEO in a simple and organized fashion, Search Engine Land created the "Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors." At a glance, it provides a fundamental guide to the practice, but lacks the detail necessary to go from crawling to walking. Below, we'll take a look at the content section of the table and dig deeper into the world of content for SEO to shape how you think about content and help you jumpstart your SEO.

Periodic Table of SEO - Content


You've probably heard the term "quality content" more times than you care to remember. To cut out the confusion once and for all, there is no real definition to let someone know what separates good quality content from bad quality content.It's mostly a feeling.

  • Did you write enough to properly cover your topic?
  • Did you add too much content? (Fluff, irrelevant points, etc.)
  • How was your grammar?
  • Did the piece flow from one part to another?
  • What about relevant images, videos, links?

All of these questions need to be answered confidently before you can truly call your content "quality."


Even if your piece is a simple 500-word blurb on a topic, knowing the type of phrases and language people will use when searching this content is extremely important.

Break out the Keyword Planner Tool found in Adwords and really take a few minutes to discover keywords related to your target topic. The most basic optimization may not take a post from zero to hero on its own, but it can give it the extra boost in needs to bring in a good flow of regular traffic.


Did you integrate the phrases and keywords you discovered? How did you add them in? Did it affect your content's quality? (The way it reads and flows naturally.)

While inserting keywords for the SEO benefit is something most SEOs practice on a daily basis, you can't ruin the reading experience for the end user just to satisfy search engines.


Covering topics that are "in" or "trending" is not a new phenomenon, but Google rewards this with what they call "Query Deserved Freshness."

The update itself is not new, and has been in action since 2007, but knowing that a certain type of content is treated differently in the SERPs may change how you create content, especially if you're in an industry where there's plenty of news.

For example, I love to take trending topics and turn them into longform content that goes beyond what other sites are reporting at the time. Because not all readers are able to follow stories that update several times, so answering all of the questions they could have in one epic post is an extra way to add value while attaching your site to the QDF Train.


While I mentioned images and video in the quality section, the "vertical" Search Engine Land lists in their Periodic Table of SEO has to do with search engines that are dedicated to a single vertical.

For example, Google Images is all about images, while Google News focuses on timely news related to pre-set categories or topics you search for on the site. In order to have a balanced assortment of content, it's a good idea to try creating content for these different verticals.

Whether that means utilizing custom photography or other imagery, shooting videos, or publishing regular news articles, it's possible to gain traction in multiple areas of content beyond just the written word.


Most sites might think they don't have a lot to provide Google with in regard to its Knowledge Graph, Direct Answers, and other useful information you see when you directly embedded in the SERPs nowadays.

Using on-page markup and structured data, such as Schema, you can optimize your pages to increase the likelihood that your content will be picked up by the Knowledge Graph and used in quick answers. Many SEOs are against the idea of Google embedding information directly on the SERPs, while others see it as an easy way to stand out from the crowd.

If picked up as a source of information, it's also another source of traffic to your site when users click on the source link Google often provides when pulling information from third-parties.


While your definition of quality may be different than mine, I like to think most digital marketers truly know the difference between quality content and thin content. It's often something you can spot within a few seconds of landing on a particular page, but some pages disguise thin content with well-designed pages and content templates.

Other terms used to describe thin content include "lacking substance," "useless," and "vague." This doesn't necessarily mean the content was too short, as many confuse thin content with anything under a certain word count. Unfortunately, content can be thin even at 4,000 words. This is because Google's algorithm can't effectively rate your content based on its merit just yet.

The search engine relies mostly on data from users to tell if content is supplying users with answers or not. If the data shows people bouncing from your site at an extremely high rate, it's likely your content sucks and isn't what search users are looking for.

While more words on the page can contribute to higher time on site, it can't prevent high bounce rates. Whether that means you work on increasing the quality of your content, or begin implementing a more hyper-focused approach to your topics, do your best to think of your target audience and what they want first and then worry about optimizing for Google and other search engines.  


As you expand your knowledge of content and how to utilize it for SEO, you should naturally be mindful of ways you can improve your content. If necessary, create a checklist that you can use to go through each element mentioned in the content section of the Periodic Table of SEO. This will help you identify errors in your content, and will bring better content rankings and reader engagement. Good luck!

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