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Last month, Rand Fishkin, CEO and co-founder of Moz, unearthed a treasure trove of leaked Googled documents released onto GitHub by an automated Yoshi-code-bot. If you haven’t thought about how this impacts your SEO, it’s time to start.

Google API leak 2024 - Shows a laptop screen and the Google Search homepage

What happened? 

Writing on the SparkToro blog, Fishkin told his readers: ‘On Sunday, May 5th, I received an email from a person claiming to have access to a massive leak of Google API documentation from inside Google’s Search division.’ 

At first, Fishkin says he was sceptical—and we would be, too. A Google algorithm leak this big is virtually unheard of for the search engine giant, especially when the information revealed directly contradicts many public statements made by Google over the years. 

But after the claims made by the anonymous emailer, who was later identified as a man named Erfan Azimi, were authenticated by ex-Google employees, Fishkin, alongside iPullRank CEO Michael King, reviewed and analysed the documents and shared their findings with the SEO community.

As you can imagine, it’s rocked the SEO world and has implications for any business that uses SEO as a marketing channel. Here’s everything you need to know about the leaked Google API documents and how these discoveries might impact your SEO.

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Inside Google’s API leak – why should you care? 

Knowing how and why Google ranks content is like delving into Pandora’s box. It’s full of mystery, but the further you dive in, the more complicated it gets. And nine times out of ten, if you want to ace your SEO strategy and come out on top in SERPS, having internal or external support from SEO experts like Big Star Copywriting is essential. 

Brands want to do well in search. In fact, for many businesses, SEO is a ride-or-die strategy that underpins a big chunk of their business success. Without it, they risk losing sales, loyal customers and eyes on their brand. That’s why this API leak from Google is like stardust. 

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While Google has shared a lot of advice over the years, with tips, tricks and guidance for marketers looking to be discovered in the search, they’ve never really shared a detailed list or document with insight into their specific metrics and ranking factors. From the advice they’ve shared in the past, SEO gurus have been able to suggest and build guides to help others maximise their search potential. 

However, much to the dismay of many of these professionals, the Google API leak shows that we may have been misled. For example, while Google spokespeople have repeatedly denied that user clicks factor into ranking websites, the leaked documents note several types of clicks users make and suggest that they feed into ranking pages in SERPS.

Commenting on this, Fishkin told The Verge: “To me, the larger, meta takeaway is that even more of Google’s public statements about what they collect and how their search engine works have strong evidence against them.” Google clapped back and advised anyone who may have read these documents to proceed with caution, as the weighting of each ranking factor mentioned in the Google API leak isn’t noted. While this may be true, there’s still a lot worth knowing. The documents listed over 14,000 attributes, and here are the ones we think are the most important. 

The breakdown: everything you need to know about the Google API leak

Before we dive in, it’s important to note that, according to the documentation, every attribute mentioned was accurate as of March 2024. We don’t think Google would have completely upended their algorithm since then, but we imagine they’ll be running a pretty tight ship from now on. The documents also didn’t identify how each ranking feature was weighted. However, our guess is that they’re all significantly important. Let’s dive into everything we now know.

  • Google keeps a copy of every version of every page ever indexed. However, it only uses the last 20 changes of a URL when analysing links. 
  • Link diversity and relevance really matter, despite previous claims made by Google. 
  • Clicks matter, and you need to drive successful interactions from a broad set of queries. Google uses various measurements, including badClicks and goodClicks, to analyse click success. 
  • Think about authorships. Google stores information about page authors. 
  • Despite Google denying that they have a website authority score, the document revealed they use something called siteAuthority.
  • Google has a specific method of identifying the following business models: news, YMYL, personal blogs (small blogs), e-commerce and video sites. It is unclear why Google is specifically filtering for personal blogs.

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  • The most critical components of Google’s algorithm appear to be navBoost, NSR and chardScores.
  • Google actively measures traffic from Chrome, using a module called ChromeInTotal to tell Google about its Chrome browser ranking. 
  • Content freshness is really important. Google looks at dates in the byline, URL and on-page content.
  • Google stores domain registration information. 
  • Don’t forget your page title. Google has a feature called titlematchScore that is believed to measure how well a page title matches a query.
  • The Google API leak introduced Twiddlers, re-ranking algorithms that run between major updates to shift rankings. 
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  • Google tracks attributes such as font size for links and weight for text. Larger links seem more positive, and Google seems to read bolded text differently than normal text. This is also great for accessibility. 
  • Poor navigation with exact match domains can lower your rankings. 
  • You’ve got to get your keyword optimisation right; Google has a keyword stuffing score. 
  • Sites with videos on 50% of their pages are classified as video sites. 
  • There is a “gold standard” attribute that seems to note human-generated content, but it’s unclear how it’s triggered.
  • Travel, Covid and politics are ‘whitelisted’ topics that need to be approved to be shared. 
  • Google uses page embeddings, site embeddings, site focus and site radius in its scoring function.
  • Google tracks when domains are going to expire.

How does this impact your SEO: a checklist for marketers

So, what do you do with all of this information? We appreciate that there’s a lot to digest if you don’t live and breathe SEO. Big Star Copywriting’s Search Director, Ricky Marshall, says: “This leak tells SEOs what they already knew while confirming many things that were previously speculation”. Here are his biggest takeaways.

Authorship is incredibly important

People invest time in people, and consistently sharing content by a specific writer can help you grow a loyal following. Ricky said: “Authorship of posts now seems to have a much bigger weighting. It’s good to include an author profile markup on posts and provide an ‘expert’ opinion. Face-less posts aren’t perceived to be as high value to Google.” 

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Authorship matters because: 
  • Authorship establishes the credibility of content by associating it with recognised experts.
  • Content authored by recognised experts tends to be more reliable and valuable, which enhances user trust and engagement.
  • Establishing a reputation for quality and expertise helps maintain search rankings even as Google algorithms evolve​.
To get this right you need to:
  • Use markup to include author information in your HTML.
  • Include detailed author bios on your website. Each piece of content should have a byline with the author’s name, and the name should link to a detailed bio page. This page should include the author’s qualifications, experience, and links to other content they have authored.
  • Link your author profiles to sites like LinkedIn, Wikipedia or any content they may have written for well-known publications.
  • Encourage your authors to engage with their audience through comments, social media, and other platforms.
  • Regularly highlight the contributions of your authors through features, interviews, or special sections on your website. This not only boosts their visibility but also reinforces their authority in their respective fields.
  • Build authoritative backlinks by linking your authors’ profiles to other authoritative websites and publications where they have contributed. 

Side note – at the core of these great author profiles is content that shows your brand is an expert at what you say you can do. Not everyone is a natural-born writer, and that’s why employing the help of an external copywriting agency can make all the difference. Professional copywriters can help craft well-researched articles, manage author contributions across various platforms, and maintain a consistent voice and style, all of which are crucial when working with Google’s EEAT algorithm

Prioritise semantic optimisation

With the leak revealing Google’s Keywords Stuffing Score API, semantic optimisation is a far more effective tactic to ensure your content makes moves in search. Semantic optimisation involves using language and structure that helps search engines better understand the context and intent behind your content, aligning with the tech giant’s shift toward understanding search queries more holistically. Content that is semantically optimised is generally: 

  • Clearer and more informative for users, as it addresses questions and concerns. This can lead to longer dwell times and higher engagement rates. 
  • More resilient to algorithm changes. As Google continues to refine its algorithms to better understand natural language, content that is well-optimised semantically, prioritising user experience and search intent, is less likely to be negatively affected by updates.
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To implement semantic optimisation, you should: 

  • Use relevant and natural Language: Write content that naturally incorporates keywords and related terms. Avoid keyword stuffing and instead use synonyms, related phrases, and natural language that matches how people search and speak.
  • Structure content with clear headings and subheadings: Organise your content with clear headings and subheadings that reflect the main points and topics discussed. Use H1, H2, and H3 tags appropriately to create a logical hierarchy. This improves readability for users and helps search engines parse and understand your content better.
  • Incorporate LSI keywords: Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords are terms and phrases related to your main keyword. Use LSI keywords to provide context and depth to your content. Tools like LSIGraph or Google’s own suggestions can help identify these related terms.
  • Answer user questions: Identify common questions related to your topic and provide clear, concise answers within your content. Use formats like FAQ sections to address these queries directly. This can help your content appear in featured snippets and improve its overall visibility in search.
  • Optimise for voice search: With the rise of voice search, optimising content for natural language queries is essential. Use conversational language and long-tail keywords that reflect how people speak. Incorporating question phrases (who, what, where, when, why, and how) is a great step for capturing voice search traffic.
  • Leverage schema markup: Implement schema markup to provide search engines with additional context about your content. Schema helps search engines understand the entities and relationships within your content, enhancing its visibility in rich snippets and other SERP features.
  • Use internal linking: Create a robust internal linking structure that connects related content pieces. This helps search engines understand the relationship between different pages on your site and can distribute ranking power across your site. Ensure that your anchor text is descriptive and relevant to the linked content.

SEO is the backbone of your website’s success. You can write the best content in the world, but if it’s not search-focused and optimised for Google, it will fail to make its mark.

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In conclusion: Your content strategy is everything

As for Fishkin’s biggest takeaway? He thinks brand matters more than anything else. He said: “If there was one universal piece of advice I had for marketers seeking to broadly improve their organic search rankings and traffic, it would be: ‘Build a notable, popular, well-recognised brand in your space.” And to do this, your content strategy is everything. Ricky says: ‘Websites are rated ‘on the whole’. Even if a site has an excellent post, if it has a lot of poor quality or unrelated content, it’ll affect ranking potential for that one post.” 

With this Google API leak in mind, to nail your content strategy, you need to: 

  • Optimise user behaviour metrics by creating content that keeps users on your page longer. 
  • Keep your content updated to reflect the latest information and trends. This will meet user expectations and align with Google’s preference for fresh content.
  • Provide unique perspectives and original research. Avoid duplicating content available elsewhere and strive to add value to every piece of content you publish.
  • Collaborate with industry experts to create content. Highlight their credentials and include detailed author bios.
  • If writing doesn’t come naturally, use an external copywriting agency—like us—to develop high-quality, authoritative content. Outsourcing content creation allows your team to focus on strategy and other critical tasks, ensuring that your content is both effective and efficient in meeting your SEO goals.

Want to learn more about how we can improve your content? Get in touch

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