Earthquake in the SEO Industry: Thousands of Secret Google Algorithm Documents Leaked

Omer Leibenzon
SEO Industry Shocked: Anonymous Source Reveals Thousands of Confidential Google Algorithm Documents The SEO industry is reeling after an anonymous source leaked a trove of Google documents containing thousands of search API documents that detail the inner workings of the search engine's algorithm.
Google algorithm leak
An anonymized screen capture from Rand’s call with the source | Source: Sparktoro

In a stunning turn of events, thousands of internal API documents from Google were leaked to former Moz CEO, Rand Fishkin, by an anonymous source. After verification by several former Google employees, the documents were deemed authentic, sending shockwaves through the SEO community. The documents contradict numerous public statements by Google over the years. For example, one finding indicates that subdomains are treated as separate sites from their main domains, contradicting Google’s past claims. Other revelations include the age of a domain being a ranking factor, which Google has previously denied.

What Did the Documents Reveal?

Given space constraints, we will only highlight some of the most significant findings. For those interested in a deeper dive, please follow the link at the end of this article.

  • NavBoost: The documents reveal that Google uses a system called NavBoost, which incorporates click data to differentiate between long and short clicks on search results to enhance search quality. This contradicts Google’s previous denials of using detailed clickstream data for ranking purposes. This means that user engagement metrics such as click-through rates (CTR) and the time spent on a page after a search result click can indeed impact rankings.
  • Chrome Clickstream: The leaks suggest that Google leverages full clickstream data from Chrome users to power its search algorithms. This indicates that Chrome is not just a web browser but also a “tracking incubator” that allows Google to analyze user behavior and use this data to rank websites.
Use of Chrome browser clickstreams
Use of Chrome browser clickstreams | Source: Sparktoro
  • Whitelisting Practices: According to the leaks, Google used whitelists during specific events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and democratic elections, to ensure certain sites ranked higher for relevant queries. This shows that Google can manually influence search results under exceptional circumstances, a critical insight for SEO professionals during significant events.
  • Quality Raters’ Influence: The documents suggest that feedback from Google’s quality raters, via a system known as EWOK, may directly influence the algorithm. Although this system was previously known, new parameters not previously disclosed were identified in the API documentation. For more details, see the Google quality rater guidelines document.
  • Link Quality and Click Data: The leak discusses how Google categorizes links into different quality tiers based on click data. This means not all links are treated equally, and their impact on SEO may depend on user interactions, not just the number of links. SEO strategies may need to pivot towards acquiring high-quality links that drive user engagement.

Are the Documents Authentic?

To verify the authenticity, Rand Fishkin contacted some of his former Google colleagues, shared the leaked documents with them, and sought their opinions according to his article. Three of these ex-Google employees responded: one expressed discomfort with reviewing or commenting on the documents, while the other two provided the following feedback anonymously and off the record:

  • “I didn’t have access to this code when I worked there. But this certainly looks legit. “
  • “It has all the hallmarks of an internal Google API.”
  • “It’s a Java-based API. And someone spent a lot of time adhering to Google’s own internal standards for documentation and naming.”
  • “I’d need more time to be sure, but this matches internal documentation I’m familiar with.”
  • “Nothing I saw in a brief review suggests this is anything but legit.”

Additionally, Mike King, a technical SEO expert, confirmed the legitimacy and authenticity of these documents based on his extensive technical experience, as noted by Fishkin. The detailed and consistent nature of the technical content aligns with current expert knowledge on Google’s known practices, further suggesting that the leaked code documents are genuine and belong to Google.

Source: AskPavel

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Omer Leibenzon

Omer, a content writer with a youthful entrepreneurial spirit, finds particular joy in playing and composing music. Tasks demanding creativity consistently ignite his enthusiasm. He's drawn to creative individuals. Following the establishment of one of Israel's largest personal development communities, Omer pivoted his primary focus to his second passion: content writing. Over the past five years, he has honed his skills and expertise in content writing and marketing strategy.

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