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The Biggest Leak from Google Search: What to Know & Do Next

Like any good mystery, this one involves secret information being leaked online to the public by an anonymous, but verified source, a sleuth, and a whole bunch of SEO professionals losing their minds.
The mystery of Google ranking factors

The Google Leak of  2024 The Century

Google’s ranking algorithm has always been its secret sauce. Sure, there’s plenty of information out there about how to improve your search rankings, but it mostly involves best practices that in themselves are based on limited information, extrapolations, assumptions, and based-on-my-experience advice. This, in a nutshell, is why a leak of thousands of documents related to Google ranking factors is a bombshell for those of us who care about SEO. 

Although you can read more specifics and see the code yourself, I’ll be sharing the most practical and actionable insights you should know.

Build Your Brand

There are so many on-page and technical items to optimize, that it’s easy to lose sight of the broader picture beyond your pages, architecture, and website. However, Google cares about showing established, credible brands in their results. In one example, domains created out of keywords (such as are being demoted. There is also evidence that larger, more well-known brands are being ranked above smaller or newer brands – not great news for smaller businesses or searchers looking for options they might not know of yet, but knowing where you stand and why you might be demoted is helpful in itself. 

In practice, a brand’s homepage is often the best representation of the organization. It also has the power to help your overall SEO. That’s right, your homepage can affect the ranking of your other pages. It’s all related to your overall domain authority which, it turns out, matters to Google as a ranking factor. If you don’t know your domain authority, look it up and follow recommendations for technical and on-page SEO improvements provided directly in tools such as Moz or SEMrush.

More broadly, continue to build your brand, not just as it pertains to your website, but your digital presence across the web and within your industry. Consider listings and profiles you can control (such as your LinkedIn profile and free listings on aggregate review sites) as well as earned media and mentions. 

Write Away 

Is it possible to prepare for a world in which AI takes over and keep up with publishing new, unique, and helpful content on your brand’s website? 

Answer: Yes! Staying in the present requires us to live in a world where content is king (for now). 

Google may be showing AI content now, but it’s also showing search results, and the way to rank there remains by publishing new content on a regular basis. Some highlights from the leaked documents related to content are:

  • If you are not already doing it – mix in both new, informative content along with pieces that are evergreen. I have clients who have a single piece of evergreen content that has brought more traffic to their website than their homepage over the past 2 years so I’ve certainly seen it work. In short, instead of choosing one way or the other – do both!
  • As long as you are publishing content on a regular basis, be sure to include dates. The majority of clients I work with do include dates on their blogs and news items, but the leak confirms that it’s a practice that helps with ranking. As a bonus – when you go back into an old piece of content and give it a refresh – go ahead and refresh the date on it too – the crawlers will take note.
  • No matter if you are using an outside copywriter or have a few or many subject matter experts – each blog or article on your website should be attributed to an author. Like adding a date, this lends some authenticity to your resource which helps indicate it’s unique. To go a step further, add pages with bios for your top contributors and include links there to both their onsite and offsite pieces. 
  • Keep your headings organized, both stylistically and logically. The actual font matters – the size and weight of your headings should appropriately match your heading value – ie your H1 is the largest and bolded, while your H2s, H3s, and H4s have an appearance that matches with their primary importance in relation to one another. 

Beyond the Click (Click Signals)

You want to impress Google? You’ve got to not just earn clicks when you show up in the SERP, but follow that up by engaging users once they are on your website. That’s right folks, it’s not just your organic listings and metrics around impressions, clicks, CTR, and rank that you should be thinking about – it’s the user experience on your site that can improve your SEO standing as well.

In the simplest form, for Google there are good clicks and bad clicks and they are in turn good or bad for your SEO value. Therefore, you should aim to not only achieve the good clicks, but to discourage and decrease the bad. Bad clicks are those where users are probably not finding what they are looking for – they are bouncing pretty immediately from your website. Turns out those users and clicks are hurting rather than helping. Instead, focus on your desired audience and create an engaging user experience for your visitors. Use metas that will show in the SERP that make sense and match with your onsite messaging and target your primary audiences.

Link Strategically

Both backlinks coming into your website and links going out are being used for ranking. This can be good and bad, as backlinking as a strategy can be difficult to master and, when not done strategically, can backfire on you.

Backlinks coming into your site can come from sites that have great domain authority (good for SEO!), but unbeknownst to you, they can also be on spammy sites which search engines consider toxic. Run reports in tools like Moz or SEMrush to find and disavow toxic backlinks on a monthly basis to keep things clean. In addition, consider where you could get backlinks from important sites within your industry such as your partners or from well-known industry experts.

Google also wants you to check your own outgoing links. These can go stale fast as other websites restructure and rework their architecture and pages. Do a check and find any broken links or those that are redirected and update them. 

In Closing

While none of the above is radically different from ranking factors we often talk about and work towards, it’s still the best confirmation we’ve seen of what to prioritize and where to put our SEO efforts for the most impact. Like it or not,  as long as Google remains a search behemoth and a vital part of digital marketing strategy to drive traffic to your brand’s website, following the rules they put forth is your path to ranking success.

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