Paid and Owned Media

What You Need to Know About the Google Algorithm Leak

Google’s search algorithm has long been a mystery. For decades, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has revolved around cracking the code to move up a page in Google’s rankings for a given keyword. Last week, that secret code was leaked.  

The Google Search Algorithm Leak 

On May 27th, 2024, over 14,000 potential search ranking factors were revealed in leaked documents allegedly from Google’s Content Warehouse API.1 These documents offer marketers a rare glimpse into the intricacies of Google’s ranking algorithm. 

The sheer volume of the leaked potential ranking factors underscores the intricate nature of Google’s algorithm. While the documents highlight familiar factors like backlinks and content quality, they also identify more obscure signals like “siteAuthority” and “hostAge.” 

As of June 4th, 2024, a Google spokesperson has confirmed the legitimacy of these documents.2 However, some information appears to contradict past statements from Google representatives. For instance, the documents identify click data and Chrome usage statistics as potential ranking factors, which are signals Google has previously downplayed. It remains to be seen how the search giant will address these insights and whether the leak will lead to changes in their communication or transparency regarding ranking factors. 

Despite the weight of each factor and their active use remaining unknown, this information offers valuable insights that may spark ideas for experimentation and optimization. While the core focus of SEO remains serving the users’ needs, there is potential value in exploring innovative approaches inspired by these findings.

What’s Inside: Key Learnings from the Google Document Leak 

With over 14,000 ranking factors released, it’s hard to know where to begin. Our search experts distilled these factors into nine key learnings: 

Site Authority

The documents confirm that a “siteAuthority” metric exists, referring to how credible and trustworthy search engines determine your site to be. The existence of this metric contradicts Google’s previous claims about Domain Authority, now suggesting that a website’s overall credibility—built over time by providing unique, valuable content and building high-authority backlinks—may influence rankings.  

Clicks Matter

This document leak confirms what marketers have thought for some time: Google uses clicks for search engine rankings. Google uses various click metrics as content relevance and user satisfaction signals. Our experts identified the four most impactful metrics: “goodClicks,” “badClicks,” “lastLongestClicks,” and “unsquashedClicks.” 

User experience is everything to Google, and these metrics only further emphasize its importance. While “goodClicks” rewards search results with positive user interactions, “badClicks” demotes results with negative interactions. Additionally, “unsquashedClicks” rewards clicks that are considered valuable and genuine. Finally, “lastLongestClicks” measures the time users spend on a page before returning to the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). While the weight of each metric is unclear, marketers should prioritize user experience in their SEO program. 

Author Influence

Google’s “isAuthor” metric implies that content creators’ expertise and authority directly impact rankings. While it’s hard to directly measure these concepts, there are numerous ways to showcase an author’s authority to search engines. For example, adding an author bio page improves their credibility alongside sourcing quality backlinks. Ensuring they have a wide breadth of valuable, unique content will signal an author’s trustworthiness. 

Content Freshness is Key

Google evaluates dates with metrics from three distinct areas: the byline (“bylineDate”), URL (“syntacticDate”), and on-page content (“semanticDate”). The existence of these metrics highlights the importance of timely and up-to-date content for search visibility. 

Demotion Factors

During the leak, many “demotion” factors were released to devalue sites with poor user experiences. For example, Google measures “anchor mismatch,” reducing the value of pages where anchor text doesn’t match the link’s content. If demotion factors are applied, they can significantly lower your site’s rankings. Marketers can avoid this by providing users with a seamless experience across factors like navigation and anchor text. 

Your Money or Your Life Content Focus

To identify the most helpful content, Google prioritizes content that demonstrates aspects of Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T). While E-E-A-T itself isn’t a ranking factor, Google places more weight on content related to “Your Money or Your Life (YMYL)” topics. This indicates heightened scrutiny for content that could impact the health, financial stability, or safety of users. 

Originality Score

The existence of an “OriginalContentScore” reflects Google’s emphasis on unique content to combat duplicate or low-quality content. To improve your SEO performance, ensure your site’s content provides valuable information to your target audience. 

Title Tags Remain Important

Google’s “titlematchScore” underscores the continued importance of title tags for search engine ranking. Optimize your site’s title tags by writing copy that is 160 characters or under and targets key keywords. 

Site Focus Score

Google’s “siteFocusScore” measures how much a site sticks to a single topic. The existence of this metric suggests that maintaining a clear thematic focus on a website can positively impact rankings. For example, it would be more beneficial for a luxury women’s apparel retailer to provide content relevant to women’s handbags than men’s luggage.

What The Google Document Leak Means for Marketers 

While this information doesn’t necessitate an overhaul of SEO strategies, it provides greater insight into the potential workings of the search engine. Read on for our search experts’ tips for leveraging these insights in your SEO program. 

Prioritize a Customer-Centric Strategy

From content freshness to originality, Google remains steadfast on rewarding content that serves users’ needs. Developing a high-quality, customer-centric strategy will drive incremental returns for your brand. Most importantly, marketers should prioritize creating content that demonstrates E-E-A-T and provides valuable information to their target audience. 

Test New Potential Signals

With this rare glimpse into Google’s algorithm, marketers may discover new ideas for experimentation and further optimization. Depending on your vertical, we recommend testing new ranking factors and adjusting your SEO program accordingly. For example, test content freshness by updating important content more frequently and measuring their performance against stale pages. 

Prevent Demotions

Demotions can significantly affect your site’s ability to rank well in the SERP. To avoid demotions, it’s important for marketers to provide users with an optimal site experience including seamless navigation and anchor link matching. 

Leverage Search Experts

With seemingly limitless information, knowing where to start optimizing your search program can be overwhelming.  Connect with Ovative Group’s search experts to help you build and execute a successful program that strategically leverages these insights. 

Sources: [1] Search Engine Land; [2] Search Engine Land

Kaitlin Kaiser

Senior Director, SEO

About the Author

Kaitlin is a Senior Director of SEO at Ovative. She is responsible for driving strong organic performance across a portfolio of world-class brands and guiding the development of future leaders across the SEO team. Before joining Ovative, Kaitlin spent two years consulting, five years at Google and four years at various agencies. Kaitlin brings 10+ years of agency and... Read More >>

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