Google's algorithm leaks provide a rare peek into how the search giant works

Bruno Rodriguez
By Bruno Rodriguez | 4 June 2024
Bruno Rodriguez.

Last Tuesday, several figures in the SEO world started referencing what could be the biggest leak in Google’s history. The leak, containing 2,596 modules detailing the inner workings of Google’s systems in extreme detail, was accidentally published to a public code repository and then was picked by the SEO community.

Maybe the best example of this was Mike King’s Google algo leak and his follow-up How SEO moves forward with the Google Content Warehouse API leak.

If you’re in the field of SEO or adjacent, you’re probably aware of these leaks and have gone deeper than anything I could say here. But if you’re not, one of the most interesting things is that it doesn’t fundamentally change how we understand SEO.

What the leak says and what it doesn’t say

The leak is a set of technical documents describing features that could influence how Google ranks websites. Based on the dates, it’s newer than 2023 and Google has confirmed they’re real.

The document doesn’t weight these attributes or clarify which ones are used for ranking purposes and which aren’t; in most cases, these features are mentioned but not defined.

The result is the closest peek we’ve taken at Google’s algorithm history, but something that is not definitive and still very much open to interpretation.

Some of the biggest finds? Google seems to rely on Chrome user data, both CTR and UX metrics appear to be relevant, Google pays attention to who’s written the content, links look like they’re still very relevant, and there are domain-level metrics.

The most damning thing is, maybe, that Google had outright denied many of the components featured in the leak. In some cases, official Google Search staff had ridiculed or belittled SEO opinion leaders who came to conclusions now confirmed by the leaks. In others, Google’s position in public guides and documentation seems more focused on obfuscation than working with webmasters and content creators in building a better web.

This comes in a context in which Google is already antagonising the search industry and publishers by trying to turn their search engine into an AI walled garden and moving away from their focus on users to push revenue growth.

What do you need to be aware of?

Digital leaders should check with their SEO teams and partners and ensure their current strategies are aligned with what’s contained in these leaks. Content strategies will need subject-matter authors and content refreshed regularly, digital PR teams will see their work validated and will continue to build relevant and authoritative links and user experience will be consolidated as a key factor of organic channels.

These documents give a rare sense of clarity of what matters and what doesn’t, and it might be the perfect opportunity to review our SEO practices and ensure they’re aligned with current SEO. Most SEO professionals were already operating under these principles, and these leaks provide opportunities for experimentation, nuance and academic discussion.

They also open the door to accountability, for those professionals who didn’t stay up to date or couldn’t develop a coherent approach to SEO compatible with these findings.

This is just one more change in a period of radical transformation in the SEO industry. It has shown how, at its core, we’re an industry of profoundly curious people who lean on and learn from each other. An industry drawn by the promise of taking a peek behind the curtain and understanding just a bit better how the internet works.

Bruno Rodriguez, Head of Organic, Orange Line

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