2024 Google Leak Basics: What Companies Should Know

What Is the Google Leak, and What Does It Include? 

On May 27, 2024, Rand Fishkin and Mike King made public a large leak of Google documentation, the “Google Leak,” as it’s being called. You can read about how it happened in the link above, but for the purpose of this post, we’ll assume you’re caught up on that front. 

As Fishkin points out, the leaked information “doesn’t show things like the weight of particular elements in the search ranking algorithm, nor does it prove which elements are used in the ranking systems. But, it does show incredible details about data Google collects.”

What Is the Reaction to the Google Leak?

Naturally, the internet blew up. SEOs have been arguing about whether this information is important and whether it changes anything. Google has been largely silent, responding to Search Engine Land to say, “We would caution against making inaccurate assumptions about Search based on out-of-context, outdated, or incomplete information. We’ve shared extensive information about how Search works and the types of factors that our systems weigh, while also working to protect the integrity of our results from manipulation.”

Fairly vague. 

It seems that no matter what opinion you have, plenty of people will agree with you, plenty will happily and loudly disagree, and lots who will (perhaps wisely) remain silent on the issue, waiting to see what happens next. 

What Does the Google Leak Include That’s Relevant to SEO?

So much! As David Mihm put it in his article on implications for local search, “While the documents do not provide a complete picture of Google’s algorithms, they offer valuable directional information for SEO practitioners. … The leak suggests that a holistic approach to SEO, leveraging larger themes of site architecture, topical relevance, user intent, and entity-based optimization, may be more effective than targeting specific keywords alone.”

Now, we have known that focusing primarily on keywords wasn’t the way to go for a while now, but this is validation that we’re on the right track. 

Among other things, the leak provides “directional information” (Google’s placing value or categorizing various bits of information) about: 

  • Click-through rates and other user-click behavior (when in Chrome)
  • Brand/chain queries
  • The number of similar-type results that appear for a query (and limiting those!)
  • Site quality indicators
  • Significant page updates since last crawl
  • Toxic backlinks
  • Mentions of a brand, even without backlinks
  • Authors and their expertise on topics
  • Location of a business in relation to the searcher

These are just a few examples of the items found in the leak. Experts are still going through and finding what’s relevant and important. In the meantime, here’s our take. 

What Do We Do with the Google Leak Information?

We use it as a hint as to what’s important to Google: How Google is thinking about our websites and search queries. What users are doing on our sites—leaving immediately and clicking on another site or staying and engaging with our content. We were already thinking about these things, but the leak data reiterates that we need to consider them as important to Google, whether or not they’re currently used in the ranking algorithm.

For example, we can see that Google collects information about when and how much a page has been updated. We can determine that, at least for some queries, it’s important for Google to know that our content is updated and relevant. And for those types of queries, we need to prioritize keeping our content current.

To make it more specific, if the query is “top IT jobs in Memphis” and your page is from two years ago, you need to update it with authoritative data and sourcing. If you’re answering the query “how long should you roast a chicken?” routinely updating the information isn’t as crucial. 

TL;DR – So What?

So, based on the leak, what’s EVG Media doing? We’re staying on top of the information coming out. We aren’t changing our tactics, because we always try to use strategies that are effective long-term and are as “algorithm-proof” as possible. But we will be thinking strategically about how the revelations from the Google Leak may warrant micro-adjustments for specific clients. We recommend you do the same! And if you’re not sure what to make of it, we’re here to chat and help!

Good Sources for Further Reading

The Google Leak: Blogs from the two men (Rand Fishkin & Mike King) who brought it to the public and parsed out loads of technical data:

Google Leak implications for local search:

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