Google algorithm leak: lots of excitement, little behind it

Feature image for the blog post about the Google algorithm leak

March 13, 2024: Various internal Google documents about how the search engine algorithm works are leaked on the developer platform "Github". At the end of May, the contents of the documents are published by SEO experts Rand Fishkin and Michael King. Since then, the wider SEO scene has been talking about a monumental Google algorithm leak.


We at Specht GmbH have been active as experts in search engine optimization for decades. Although we also find the insights into Google's documents interesting, we cannot understand the great excitement in the SEO scene.


In this article, we share with you the most important information about the Google algorithm leak and explain our view of the content in the documents.


Leaked documents provide insight into approx. 14,000 ranking factors

For a long time, it was said that the way the Google algorithm works was a well-kept secret. Google would not disclose any information about it, it was said. Nevertheless, it happened: An automated bot called "yoshi-code-bot" has published documents from Google's outdated Content AI Warehouse.


The documents were accessible for several hours, giving numerous SEO experts an insight into around 14,000 Google ranking factors. The information from the Google algorithm leak only became accessible to the general public through the articles by Rand Fishkin (on the SparToro website) and Michael King (on the iPULLRANK website) at the end of May.


After a few days of waiting, Google confirmed the authenticity of the documents, but at the same time warned against evaluating the content in the leaked documents without further contextual information. In any case, the SEO scene has been carried away and speaks of a "monumental leak", mentioning "sensitive information" in this context.


Findings from the leak and their relativization

We at Timo Specht have looked at the contents of the internal Google documents and do not understand the great excitement.


Before we go into the information from the documents in more detail, we list the reasons for our position on the topic below. In doing so, we put into perspective one or two findings from the Google algorithm leak that have been described as astonishing in several web articles.


Click dwell time has long been known as a ranking factor

Among the supposed "interesting information", for example, it says that Google uses the "Navboost" system to evaluate the duration of clicks in the search results and to include them as factors in the ranking of a website.


However, the dwell time of users is already known as a ranking factor. The "Navboost" system is therefore not really surprising, even if it is remarkable how differentiated and detailed - based on various categories and criteria - the search engine uses the dwell time as a ranking factor.


The "authority" factor is an integral part of

According to the leaked documents, the "siteAuthority" metric is used to determine whether websites have authority on certain topics and to rank these websites higher in the search results.


We at Timo Specht don't see anything strange in this either, as it is common practice in proper SEO to build up authority in certain subject areas and to achieve better rankings for these topics in the search results. Numerous SEO strategies are based on building dominance in a niche and growing out of the niche.


In addition, the so-called "domain authority" is specified in several SEO tools as a factor for search engine optimization.


Loss of trust due to contradictory content

Some SEO experts spoke of a loss of trust because some of the content in the leaked documents contradicted what Google had said about how the algorithm works.


For example, the existence of a sandbox was denied by Google, but the "hostAge" attribute is supposed to confirm the existence of the sandbox. As a result, it is more difficult for new websites to achieve high rankings after indexing.


Our opinion on the contradictions between the leaked documents and Google's claims: Who believed that Google always tells the truth anyway?


Whether it's because of the sandbox or for other reasons, every SEO expert knows the problem of quickly climbing high rankings with new websites - and every SEO expert has a solution for this by building backlinks and high-quality content and helping the website to gain authority in the eyes of the Google algorithm.


Interim conclusion

There is nothing wrong with viewing the leaked data and drawing conclusions from the Google algorithm leak. But on the whole, the documents do not provide any groundbreaking insights.


For Timo Specht's experts, for example, the Google algorithm leak hardly changes anything in their daily work at the SEO agency. We would argue that all professional SEOs already knew the most important ranking factors before the Google algorithm leak.


The benefit of the Google algorithm leak: It confirms the previous assumptions in the SEO scene!

The Google algorithm leak definitely has an important role to play: it largely confirms previous assumptions in the SEO scene. The leaked content from the documents shows that the public and SEO experts are already largely aware of the most important ranking factors and their relevance.


Below we have compiled our top 5 findings from the Google algorithm leak for you.


  • Insight #1: Backlinks play a significant role in SEO. In order to achieve top rankings in the search results as quickly as possible, backlinks with high content relevance from domains with the highest possible authority are important. At Specht GmbH, we have been placing a high value on link building using a wide range of strategies for a decade anyway.
  • Insight #2: Title tags are key ranking factors. A title tag (also known as a "meta title") is an additional title that supplements the actual HTML heading of a web page and is displayed directly in the search results. Webmasters and SEOs promote the visibility of content in search results with a title tag that matches the user's search intention.
  • Insight #3: Keywords are very important for categorizing the content of a website and assessing its relevance. Including keywords is one thing. The other is to use them appropriately in the context of a text and in accordance with the user intention - precisely these are important aspects when evaluating websites.
  • Insight #4: The topicality of content plays a central role. For several years now, SEO - and we do the same in our daily work - has placed a high value on regularly updating content. Now the content from the Google algorithm leak shows that the topicality of text is determined in several ways - e.g. via the publication date.
  • Insight #5: Authors are assigned to texts and can contribute to authority. The authors of texts are memorized. If author names often appear under texts with high quality and high rankings, the author name gains authority, whereupon the name can contribute positively to the ranking of new texts.


We at Timo Specht already reported months ago - well before the Google algorithm leak - that author names can also have an influence on the ranking of websites in search results. You can find out more about this in our glossary entry on the E-A-T principle.


We also wrote about the relevance of the title tag back in 2023 in our blog post on SEO basics. There, with reference to Google's Helpful Content Update, we emphasized how important it is to adapt the title tag to the user's search intention so as not to lure them in with false expectations.


Ultimately, most of the findings from the Google algorithm leak are not really ground-breaking insights for SEO experts. Instead, for many SEO experts, the findings from the leaked documents are a confirmation of the high-quality work they have done to date.


You can visualize the situation as follows: For years, almost nothing about how Google's search engine algorithm works was made public. Despite this, we SEOs were able to develop methods and strategies through our own practical experience and research work to help various website operators improve their rankings.


Helpful tool for extracting content from the leaked documents

Finally, we would like to point out a tool: the Google Leak Reporting Tool. It was fed with the leaked information from Rand Fishkin and Michael King. You can find it under this link.


In the input field, enter a prompt in English, such as: "Extract all the information about how the ranking for internal links works." After a few minutes of waiting, you will receive information on how you can improve your rankings through internal links.


Conclusion and outlook

The data leak from Google has mainly revealed information about how the search engine algorithm works that SEOs have known for a long time. Even if the details from the internal Google documents contain one or two new pieces of information, on the whole the findings from the leak have changed almost nothing for SEO experts.


Instead, it will be interesting to see how Google reacts to the data leak in the coming months: Will new updates and therefore new changes follow, so that several contents from the Google algorithm leak become less relevant?


We suspect that nothing will change for the time being, because Google knows just as well as we SEO experts: most of the content from the data leak does not provide any new insights.


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