If you were among the millions of SEO professionals worldwide who thought you knew everything about Google’s SEO ranking factors, you may have been caught off guard when an unprecedented document leak blew the lid off everything.

Now if you feel a bit of déjà vu, it’s probably because this isn’t the first time a major search engine has found itself in hot water over data leaks. In 2023, Yandex—a search engine that has the largest market share in Russia and is the fourth-biggest search engine in the world—became the victim of one of the largest data leaks of any modern tech company. It leaked 1,922 ranking factors. Needless to say, this was one of the biggest news stories of the year!

In comparison, the documents in the Google leak released 2,596 modules and 14,014 attributes related to Google services like Google Assistant and YouTube. But before we get into the nitty-gritty of the ranking factors that were released and what this means for SEO moving forward, here’s a quick recap of how Google’s biggest leak unfolded.

A quick look into the Google algorithm leak timeline

On March 13 2024, an automated bot called yoshi-code-bot released thousands of documents from Google’s internal Content API Warehouse on GitHub. The leak was then shared with the co-founder of SparkToro, Rand Fishkin, and CEO of iPullRank, Michael King in an email on May 5. 

Rand Fishkin spent weeks vetting the information that was shared and concluded that the information was, in fact, authentic as confirmed by ex-Google employees.

The analysis by Fishkin revealed that the documents gave a rare look into Google’s closely guarded algorithms. Aside from the information, what seemed to have made a clear impact was that some of the information revealed in the leak was in direct contradiction to what Google’s representatives have stated in past public statements.

What are these statements? Let’s take a closer look.

What Google said vs. What Google did (doing)

While the leak offers some great information for SEO professionals about how Google operates and what many consider to be the Holy Grail of SEO, Google’s ranking factors, many were taken by surprise when they found mismatches between what was being said and what was happening behind closed doors.

Domain authority: Even though Google’s claims say otherwise, the Google leak revealed a feature called “siteAuthority” which indicates that the search engine giant does measure sitewide authority.

Clicks for rankings: While Google may have denied using systems to influence rankings, the leak revealed that they use systems like NavBoost to leverage click data to impact rankings.

Sandbox: The leaked documentation mentions a “hostAge” attribute that is being used to sandbox new sites, even though Google has denied using sandbox in the past.

Chrome data: Another contradiction is the use of Chrome data in ranking algorithms, which was once again denied as being a deciding factor in the past.

With so many of Google’s secrets making the rounds within the SEO community, there has been a lot of talk about what the leaked documents contain and how they could help businesses and professionals get some inside information to improve their strategies.

So with that, let’s get into the crux of the Google leak.

What were the key findings in Google’s leaked documents?

Google ranking features from leaked documents | Swipe Insight

Ranking features and attributes

As mentioned earlier, the algorithm leak confirmed that Google’s algorithm consists of 2,596 modules including 14,014 attributes. Even with the leaked information, the exact significance of these features remains unclear; however, many believe that the existence of these provides substantial insights into what Google considers in their SEO ranking factors.

Twiddlers and demotions

Twiddlers can be explained as functions important in re-ranking. They adjust the information retrieval scores or can even alter a document’s ranking altogether.

According to the leak, content can be demoted based on several factors:

  • User dissatisfaction signals
  • Mismatched links
  • Product review quality
  • Exact match domains
  • Location relevance
  • Inappropriate content

Link importance

Even though there are some debates on the matter, the Google algorithm leak confirms that link relevance and diversity are significantly important when it comes to ranking factors. PageRank, which is a longstanding element of Google’s algorithm, is an integral part of their operations, especially when it comes to a website’s homepage.

Click metrics

SEO professionals understand the power of a click and the important role it plays in rankings. Google measures clicks using metrics like goodClicks, badClicks, unsquashedClicks, and lastLongestClicks.

While shorter content will be scored based on its originality, longer content can be truncated. This is especially true when it comes to Your Money Your Life (YMYL) content like health and news. So if you’re dealing with similar content, you need to keep a close eye on the content you publish.

Brand and entities

In Fishkin’s analysis, he speaks about the importance of building a well-known brand and how it affects organic search rankings. Plus, Google makes a point to store author information and uses entity recognition to make associations with authors and their content.

Site authority and Chrome data

Google has publicly denied the concept of site authority in the last few years, but it does make an appearance in the leaked documents. Google also takes information from its Chrome browser and uses it to drive rankings. This was made clear in a module called ChromeInTotal.

Whitelists and small sites

Google keeps a record of whitelists for specific domains like those related to Covid-19 or even elections. The documents also revealed that there’s a feature for smaller personal websites that could be subject to ranking adjustments through Twiddlers.

Freshness and core topics

From on-page content to URLs and dates in bylines, Google gives a lot of importance to fresh information and content. The leaked documents show that Google uses vectorization to determine if a page properly aligns with the core topics that the website is trying to address.

While the leak has revealed a wealth of information that SEO professionals can make use of, these are just a few of the findings that give some important insights into how Google works and how your content ranks online.

Recommendations and best practices: Making the Google leak work for you

Clearly, this is an incredible opportunity for SEO specialists to get ahead and spruce up their strategies. Ignoring this information is simply not an option, especially when there is an entire SEO community working on their strategies right now to meet the SEO ranking factors that Google didn’t want them to know about.

Here’s what you can do.

Stay on top of your click data 

As of January 2024, 14.2 million websites use Google Analytics 4 (GA4) while Google Analytics is being used by 44 million websites. The United States is the largest user of GA4 with 3.2 million websites using the platform.

If your business isn’t already using the platform to keep track of your website and app performance, you need to get started today so that you understand how users are interacting with your website.

Keep a close eye on metrics like bounce rates, click-through rates, and time spent on pages. These can offer great insights into what is working and what isn’t so that you can take action before it turns into a bigger problem.

Pay attention to the user experience

Never underestimate the power of an easy, fast, and mobile-friendly website, especially when it comes to the user experience. With 42% of users leaving websites as a result of poor function, you need to keep your focus on creating a great website. Plus, Google’s algorithms also prefer sites that give users a good experience.

Making simple changes like making navigation more intuitive and improving the loading speed can make a world of difference to your users and help you get in Google’s good graces.

Make your backlinks diverse

Backlinks from a variety of sources are important, but you can’t just add any old backlink. The backlinks you use need to be high in quality. Make an effort to build relationships with websites that have a great reputation in the industry you operate in.

With only 5% of all websites having backlinks that point back at them, you need to step up with more quality backlinks if you want your SEO plans to take shape.

Remember your quality rater guidelines!

Stay updated on Google’s quality rater guidelines. If you’re unfamiliar with what this is, it’s a handbook that gives you information about the approximately 16,000 contractors Google works with from around the world who analyse experimental and live search results.

This can give you an inside look into what Google considers to be high-quality content so that you can get the upper hand and make sure that your website meets these standards.

Stay ethical

Many people look for shortcuts and black-hat techniques to get some quick wins but they can also come with some heavy penalties in the long run. Google focuses on quality and user satisfaction which means that they crack down on unethical practices.

Taking advantage of the Google leak

The Google leak is quite clearly a complete game-changer for search engine optimisation. It clarified certain algorithms or systems that many suspected the search engine of running behind the scenes even as they publicly denied the use of Google sandbox or that it uses Chrome data to influence rankings.

But even more than that, it has given SEO professionals a roadmap of insights that they can use to gain a deeper understanding of the factors that determine search engine rankings.

Now, the SEO community has a golden opportunity, the likes of which have never been available to them before, to use this information and create content that resonates with users and search engines. 


Does the Google leak have the potential to impact every industry?

Yes. The algorithm leak applies to every industry and every business because the information shared offers insights into what influences Google’s ranking factors. Having an idea about the key findings can give you the information you need to adjust your SEO strategies.

Can I implement these changes myself, or should I hire an expert?

The information leaked requires a deeper understanding of SEO and its behind-the-scenes workings. Implementing most of these may require you to know the complexities of SEO and working with an expert can help you implement the right strategy the first time.

How long will it take to see results once I update my SEO strategy?

As with your regular SEO strategies, the time it takes to see results can vary depending on factors like the website’s age, the industry’s competition, and the quality of optimization efforts. However, it can take up to several months to see significant improvements in search rankings and traffic.