5 Secrets from the Google Leaks

In the past week, Google has suffered a massive leak of internal API documents. The documents, shared on GitHub by an automated bot, offer an unprecedented level of access to the inner workings of Google’s secretive search algorithm. 

Not all the leaked data relates directly to Google search, but there are some fascinating insights that will impact SEO best practices moving forward. Here’s what we learned from the leaks, and some of the practical changes that businesses can use to take advantage of them. 

1. Site authority is very real 

In the past Google has denied using “domain authority” as a ranking metric. However, something very similar appears in the leak, a reference to “Site Authority”. Site Authority is a term that’s widely used by a huge number of SEO services and broadly refers to how trustworthy your website is. 

Despite Google’s previous claims, the leaks clearly show that Site Authority can’t be ignored. So how do we improve our authority scores?  

SEMRush tracks site authority using two main metrics, backlink quality, and organic search traffic. You can improve both metrics by creating strong, original content such as guides, research or case studies and then sharing them with relevant publications. This will boost the number of links to your website from trusted sources. 

2. Brand recognition goes deeper than we thought 

Brand recognition is a staple of any good marketing plan, but did you know how much it affects your web traffic? The leaks have revealed some of the many ways Google identifies brands, and even suggests how its algorithm could favour some brands over others. 

Google search can identify brands by the websites and social accounts associated with them. This results in a lot more traffic heading to larger brands, rather than smaller ones, even if smaller brands are creating better content. This creates a significant challenge for aspiring SMEs. So, what can you do? 

Our advice is to diversify your brand awareness strategy. Think about social media, industry publications, events and partnerships to build your brand, the search traffic will follow. 

Another useful piece of data to highlight here is the fact that Google ranks user intent as one of its most important metrics. That means that even if your site is sitting on page 2 or 3 of the search rankings, if users take time to seek you out, your site will get a big thumbs up from Google. 

3. Authorship is tracked 

A revelation from the leaks was that the Google algorithm has specific code to track the authors of blogs and other content across multiple sites. This has a wide-reaching impact for news or scientific content but is relevant for businesses too. It shows how important your teams’ personal brands can be to your wider marketing strategy. 

You can take advantage of tracked authorship by working thought leadership content into your wider marketing strategy. This is also good news for brands who take advantage of guest blogging to boost their profile and create those all-important backlinks. 

4. User experience is vital 

One of the most interesting aspects of the leaks was learning more about what content Google’s algorithm actively demotes in searches.  

The leaks go into detail about how Google demotes content in real-time based on certain factors, these include: 

  • Mismatched Links: Where the label of a link and the destination it goes to are not the same. This is to ensure users are always referred to relevant content. 
  • Clicks: We’ll touch on this later, but user time on a site is measured and plays into whether a page is demoted. 
  • Navigation: Again, tracked through clicks, demoting sites with poor user experience. 
  • Location demotions: Google may demote content it sees as “global” in favour of relevant local content. 
  • Inappropriate content: This one is pretty obvious! 

While demotions can happen for a variety of reasons, user experience is a focal point. Fast load times, responsive design and intuitive navigation are an absolute must. Check out our recent blog for guidance on how to solve some common UX challenges. 

5. Not all clicks are created equally 

Google has long denied that clicks are used as part of its ranking strategy. However, the leaks have shown that various click-based metrics are tracked and could at least be a factor in how content is ranked. 

One of the most interesting insights was a new metric referred to as “Last Good Click” which suggests that when a piece of content was last accessed plays a part in its ranking. This should raise eyebrows, especially for marketers whose strategies rely on high-quality flagship content. It shows that successful SEO strategies can’t just rely on the creation of great content but maintaining that content to ensure it stays fresh and relevant. 

The SEO landscape is constantly evolving. These leaks have offered a look behind the curtain, but they don’t paint the full picture of Google’s ranking strategies. That’s why it’s so important not just to stay ahead of SEO trends, but to have a well-rounded digital marketing strategy that can help your business adapt to and take advantage of the latest trends and changes. 

How does your site stack up? Run our free SEO Site Health Check to find out.