Examining the Google Leak

By Michael DiMarco, EGC’s SEO Manager and Jamie Erhardt, EGC’s Director of Client Services

Recently, there have been leaked documents regarding Google’s algorithm that may raise some concerns or alarms. The leak consisted of over 2,500 modules and over 14,000 ranking factors. This seems like a lot. Upon closer inspection, however, it is actually a lot of stuff with little substance.

What to Know About the Google SEO Leaks

Almost everything that is being covered regarding these leaks center on concerns that we have either known for some time or speculated about. Many SEOs confirm this perspective—while several others are attempting to sensationalize/weaponize it.

The leaks revealed a large amount of ranking factors that are considered in search results. None of these factors, however, have shown the weight that they each receive in a Google search. As a result, these leaks do not show—‘how to rank #1’—as much as they just emphasize—‘here are the things to keep in mind when performing SEO.’ Many of those elements have been topics of speculation.

We do not need to take any reactionary or large shifts in strategy because of any information that came from these leaks. Although there is some information that is contradictory to what Google has claimed in the past (primarily, the use of a domain authority/ranking score), these elements are not consequential to creating a well-optimized site for organic search results and are explained in more detail below. Clients should continue to invest in creating strong, helpful content and maintain websites that are clear and provide a friendly user experience.

Below is additional information for more context as well as two links for extra reading. If there are any individual questions, please reach out to EGC and we will be happy to answer.

What Factors Were Leaked?

Some of the more pertinent factors:

  • Engagement on pages are weighted involves items such as clicks, dead clicks, and LastLongestClicks. Since GA4 switched to using ‘events’ as a tracking method, we have seen how Google tracks all activity that users perform on a website. It was therefore highly speculated that these were used in order to determine user experience—which is a confirmed ranking factor.
  • Page titles may have more weight than previously speculated (again, the degree of value was not provided), although it emphasizes an importance to optimize page titles and meta descriptions to be relevant for respective searches. We at EGC constantly evaluate titles and meta data for CTR.
  • Site authority or domain authority is something that Google previously stated they do not measure. The documents have shown that it is a factor. Third-party tools that EGC uses provide a proprietary domain authority score as a general guideline to determine the overall strength of a website. Additionally, for Google to use some form of site authority metric is not much of a surprise. Even if it was just operating in the background, logic would dictate it would need to exist in some capacity for determining why one site ranks higher than another. And that’s because Google had once denied that this was an aspect they have.
  • E-E-A-T is being explained as the basis for Google’s ranking factors (expertise, experience, authoritativeness, trustworthiness). This has been called into question by some regarding its importance. Some ‘experts’ have contradicted themselves by making this claim—but will then speak to how authorship is a notable and important factor which falls into EEAT categories.
  • Authors is a collective metric that Google has previously confirmed is a factor and falls into the E-E-A-T principles listed above. An author who is a credible source—such as a doctor or a specialist in a specific field—falls under both the experience and expertise categories. While many SEO articles are reporting this as a new major finding, Google has hinted at it for years.
    • In Google’s own words: “Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page?”
  • The leaks confirmed that link building is important and remains so. Further explanation of this, however, is that the number of times links get clicked on—from other domains to yours—factors in to how important a particular link is for SEO value. Again, this was previously assumed to be the case: If a website is seeing a high number of traffic from an external link, it is a safe assumption that the website has high traffic (think of sources such as Forbes), which means it would be higher in domain authority.

Google SEO Leaks on AI

There is not much that speaks to AI-generated content which may indicate that the information in these leaks can be older. Based on other ranking factors provided, however, helpful content is still at the core of what Google is looking for. AI-generated content cannot always provide this in the way that a person can in regard to more unique and personal perspectives that offer deeper insight to many things. The ‘human touch’ is beyond the more linear and direct responses that AI provides.

Clicks From Search Matter

Google also mentioned that clicks from its search engine can impact rankings. This means that Google weights the value/importance of a webpage based on how much traffic it receives from search results. Google may use this information for features such as sitelinks that appear. Previously, it was assumed that Google determined this result based on page traffic and factors such as the amount of time spent on a particular page, so this is not too far afield from what we already believed. We have also long known about factors such as ‘pogo sticking’ (when a user clicks on a Google result, then immediately leaves and goes to a new one), so we have known that clicks from Google matter.

Small Sites vs. Large Sites

There is seemingly a weighted difference in ‘small sites.’ This indicates, for example, that a personal blog—unless it is hyper niche and relevant—will have a difficult time ranking for certain queries, and Google then places active markers on that site to rank it accordingly. Then there is the matter of increasing AI search results—hinted at through these leaks. It has already been a safe assumption that larger websites and recognizable brands get dramatically more power in search results. With AI results—which only shows a few links/cited sources at a time—these websites are likely to dominate here as well. (Unless of course the sites are focused on highly niche and specific queries.)

Freshness of Content

The last item worth mentioning is timeliness/freshness of content, which is mentioned in the leaks. A general recommendation has always been to revisit—and refresh—old content. Lately, we have noticed that Google has both sitewide and individual page ranking factors. If there is outdated or poorly-written content on a website, it is possible for Google to use this as a negative signal against the site. That is why it is a good idea to revisit and update content regularly. (While we now have a level of confirmation that this is a valid factor, we still don’t know how much it is weighted.)

Are These Leaks Credible?

One point that a lot of sensationalists and headlines are not discussing is how many of these factors could have been phased out, never used, or have only a fraction of an impact on site rankings. This then calls into question the original sources and how relevant some of this information still is.

What Should You Do?

When it comes to organic traffic, the continued focus is quality content that is helpful, answers questions, and provides more help and information than what is available elsewhere. If you have any additional questions about any of these leaks, EGC can offer further assistance.

Additional Reading

Here are two different publications that may provide additional resources and information.

Plain English: The Biggest Findings in the Google Search Leak

More Technical: Secrets from the Algorithm: Google Search’s Internal Engineering Documentation Has Leaked