What’s hot in June: document leak from Google

In the last few weeks, the SEO world has been rocked by a massive document leak from Google that offer a never-before-seen insight into the functioning of the search giant’s algorithms.

This leak, the largest of its kind in Google’s history, was first reported by Rand Fishkin, the legendary figure in the SEO space.

Let’s take a look at what was being kept as secret during many years by Google.

Main revelations from the Google document leak

The documentation exposes 2,500 modules and 14,000 attributes from Google’s Content Warehouse API.  These files uncover detailed information about how Google Search is using, or has used, clicks, links, content, entities, Chrome data and other elements to rank its search results.

 Clicks do their job

One of the most important revelations of the leak concerns the role of user clicks: the NavBoost system, which has been in existence since 2005, uses click data to refine the ranking of search results. This directly contradicts public denials by Google, which has long maintained that clicks do not influence its rankings. NavBoost analyzes the number of searches for a keyword, the number of clicks on a search result, and differentiates between long and short clicks to boost or demote rankings.

Site authority matters

The documents revealed a feature called “siteAuthority,” which measures the overall authority of a website. This is in contrast to Google’s previous denials of using domain authority as a ranking factor. Understanding and streaming site authority can significantly impact a site’s visibility on Google. So it’s important for businesses to focus on establishing a reputable online presence and being an authority in their field.

Content is king and links are crucial – everyone has known it even before the leak 😉

Links continue to play an important role in Google’s ranking algorithms. The leaked documents highlight the importance of link diversity and relevance, as well as content originality. Google evaluates content based on various factors, including the presence of keyword stuffing and the overall quality of the content. High-quality, original content is essential for achieving better search rankings​. 

Sandboxing and hostAge

The concept of sandboxing was another significant revelation. The leaked documents confirm the existence of a sandbox mechanism that temporarily limits the visibility of new or untrusted websites. This mechanism, which uses the “hostAge” attribute, is designed to prevent fresh spam from ranking highly in search results until the sites establish credibility and trustworthiness​ 

Chrome data

Contrary to Google’s public statements, the leak revealed that data from the Chrome browser is used in search rankings. This includes performance metrics and user behavior data gathered from Chrome users. This information emphasizes the importance of optimizing site performance and user experience to enhance search visibility​. 

Other ranking factors

The documents also uncovered various other ranking factors, such as document freshness, author credibility, and text formatting. Specific demotions are applied for issues like irrelevant anchor text and poor user satisfaction on SERPs. 

What do the SEO experts say?

The leaked files were further analyzed by various digital marketing agencies and experts. For now, they advise focusing on well-established SEO best practices: creating high-quality, engaging content, building a strong brand, and optimizing for user experience. These principles align with both the leaked insights and traditional SEO strategies.

Here are some notable quotes from some of the legendary experts in the industry 👇

Rand Fishkin, founder of SparkToro  and founder/former CEO of Moz, appeals to all the marketers who care strategically about the value of organic search traffic, but don’t have much use for the technical details of how Google works: 

“Brand matters more than anything else. If there was one universal piece of advice I had for marketers seeking to broadly improve their organic search rankings and traffic, it would be: “build a notable, popular, well-recognized brand in your space, outside of Google search.”

Mark Traphagen, a respected SEO strategist, Vice President of Product Marketing & Training of seoClarity, urged caution in interpreting the leaked documents. He emphasized that while the information is intriguing, it should not lead to drastic changes in SEO practices without further verification.

“Interesting from an academic POV, but nothing that would cause me to recommend anything different to our seoClarity clients than what we already recommend.”

Greg Bernhardt, Senior SEO Strategist at Shopify, has also commented on the Google document leak. His perspective emphasizes a balanced approach, cautioning against overreacting to the leak and reverting to manipulative SEO practices. Bernhardt stresses the importance of continuing to focus on product quality and user experience as the foundation for long-term success in SEO.

“The Google leaks are inherently interesting, but don’t let it make you slide back into the manipulation mindset. Keep focusing on product and user experience. That is the long game.”

To sum up this document leak from Google

This leak of internal Google documents highlights certain factors taken into account to rank sites in the SERP, sweeping aside previous assumptions and public statements by Google. The question now is whether these criteria are still in use (and whether they have only been used in the past), whether they are experimental, how much weight one criterion carries vs. the others, whether this leak is deliberate or not… And let’s not lose sight of the fact that Google could very well decide to change the rules of the game following these revelations.

In short, let’s stay user-centric, as this is undoubtedly the best key to a well-thought-out SEO strategy.

And to make sure you’re checking off the most important basic SEO rules, you can always rely on a ready-to-use SEO checklist.

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