What’s inside Google’s leaked documents?

A collection of 2,500 Google documents explaining how the search engine collects and ranks content has been leaked. Unsurprisingly, the leak has caused a huge stir as much of what the documents reveal contradicts what Google has been telling us for years.

For example, Google has never confirmed how much weight (if any!) organic link clicks, site reputation, and Chrome browser data carry in influencing website rankings. However, the leaked internal documents awkwardly show that it’s quite significant.

Here’s what you need to know. 

What do Google’s leaked documents tell us?

Site quality and domain authority matter

Google tracks how often users click on your website in search engine results pages (SERPs), how long they stay, and how many links they click within your site to assess its quality.

Based on these metrics, Google assigns a score to your site — the higher the score, the higher it ranks on SERPs. Google also tracks how trusted and popular your website is overall, a bit like its reputation. 

Tip: To position your site as a quality source, build your content strategy using Google’s EEAT framework. This will help you create valuable content that demonstrates your experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. As a result, users are more likely to share and engage with your content, signalling to Google that your site is a valuable resource which in turn boosts your ranking. 

Established brands take priority

Google tends to rank well-known, ‘trusted’ brands higher in search results compared to newer or smaller websites. This emphasises the value of building brand recognition as it can significantly enhance your organic search rankings. 

Additionally, Google continues to store author information and use entity recognition to link content with its creators. So, always attribute an ‘author’ to your content including a short bio with the writer’s experience, expertise, and links to other work. This strengthens not only the author’s personal brand but also your brand identity, enhancing your site’s visibility and reputation. 

Sandbox for new sites still stands

If your website is new, Google may place it in a “sandbox”. Here, Google watches your website closely to make sure it’s not spammy or low-quality, before ranking it higher in search results.

NavBoost and Glue systems track clicks

Google uses NavBoost and Glue systems to analyse which search engine results users click on most and how they interact with them. These systems help Google identify relevant content for the user and then determine where they rank on SERPs.

Chrome data is tracked

When users browse in Chrome, Google tracks every website they visit and every link they click. This helps Google understand content preferences and search habits, allowing it to serve the most relevant content in search results.

Additionally, Google uses cookie history and click pattern detection to prevent spam, fake clicks, and harmful clicks that could mess up search results.

High-importance categories are whitelisted

For important topics such as politics, COVID-19, and travel, Google maintains a list of ‘trusted’ websites. These sites are more likely to appear higher in search results so users have quick access to the latest information.

Website storage tiers are a ranking factor

Your website is categorised by Google into one of three ‘tiers’ based on how its data is physically stored. Bottom-tier sites, which are rarely updated, are stored on older traditional hard drives. Medium-tier sites are stored on solid-state drives (SSDs), and top-tier sites are stored in RAM.

The leaked documents reveal that Google uses these storage tiers as an organic ranking factor. Although there is no secret sauce explaining how to achieve top-tier status, the documents suggest that regularly updating your site and ensuring it is frequently crawled by Google are key.  This also means that a backlink from a top-tier website is more valuable than one from a bottom-tier site.

Summary

To be clear, Google’s ‘algorithm’ hasn’t leaked and we don’t suddenly have all the SEO answers. What we do have is a better understanding of Google’s inner workings and what factors they use to determine rankings. 

If you need SEO support, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’ll conduct a free SEO audit and create a tailored strategy to boost traffic, win clicks, and customers.

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