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Google API Leak: What Does It Really Mean for Your SEO?


SEO has a long history.

And the history has a pattern: SEOs make hypotheses on what is and what isn’t a ranking factor. And Google, through its spokespersons, from Matt Cutts to Danny Sullivan, often refutes them.

However, a recent leak from specific Google documents turns the tables.

What happened?

The backstory

At the end of March 2024, some pretty important documents from Google regarding its search engine machine leaked. More specifically, internal Google API documents that shed light on extensive details about the company’s search algorithms and ranking factors–which are supposed to be confidential.

The leaked documents, span about 2,500 pages and contain 14,014 attributes. It’s the most detailed Google leak to date regarding its search engine and contradicts many of Google’s previous public statements about how its algorithm works. 

Should you take all the leaks at face value? 

As with anything in the SEO world, it depends.

The documents are, in fact, original. However, the gravity of the attributes, such as Google ranking factors, should be taken with a pinch of salt. Some features may be outdated or deprecated. Others could be part of test and internal projects with zero impact on Google’s search engine, or any other of Google’s products for that matter.

To conclude, the documents offer many insights but they don’t guarantee the active use of every documented feature.

The Top 9 Findings of the Document

As you realize, the document is pretty big. So what are the most important findings? Most importantly, what do they mean for you and your SEO activities? We made it easy for you.

1. User Clicks Influence Rankings

Time and again, Google has explicitly stated that user clicks don’t play a role in influencing Google search rankings. However, according to the documents, the “NavBoost system” is highlighted as a critical mechanism that uses click data to adjust search rankings.

This system has been in place since 2005 and operates by analyzing various types of clicks, such as long clicks (indicating user satisfaction) and short clicks (indicating user dissatisfaction), to refine search results. Accordingly, it collects click data to reinforce or demote rankings based on user behavior.

The acknowledgment of user clicks as a ranking factor means that creating engaging and clickable content is a factor in increasing search rankings.

👉 SEO action: Focus on user experience and engagement to drive successful clicks.

2. Link Diversity and Relevance

The leaked documents confirm that link diversity and relevance remain crucial factors in Google’s ranking algorithm. PageRank, although old and only part of the current algorithm, is still very relevant.

Accordingly, Google evaluates link diversity by considering the variety of sources linking to a page. The quality and relevance of these links are crucial, with diverse backlinks from reputable sites being highly valued.

The confirmation of link diversity and relevance as significant ranking factors means that building a diverse and relevant backlink profile is essential for improving search rankings.

👉 SEO action: Focus on white-hat link building from authoritative domains.

3. Site Authority

On the one hand, for years Google’s spokespersons have denied the use of a “domain authority” by the algorithm. On the other hand, the docs include a feature called “siteAuthority”, and it’s possible that it plays a significant role.

Like Ahref’s Domain Rating and Moz’s Domain Authority, this feature evaluates the overall trustworthiness and authority of a site. Which, in turn, affects its ranking potential.

As a general rule of thumb, building a strong site authority seems to be crucial for improving search rankings.

👉 SEO action: Create high-quality content and build a strong backlink profile.

4. Authorship

It looks like Google also stores information about the authors of content; it identifies authors and treats them as entities in the system. This possibly means that the reputation of individual authors can impact the rankings of the content they create.

The importance of author reputation means that the more recognized voices you have writing content for your site, the better.

👉 SEO action: Focus on featuring content by credible and recognized authors. If you are the author, work on building up your digital presence.

5. Content Freshness

Attributes in the document such as ‘updateFrequency’, ‘contentDate’, and ‘lastModified’ could be indicative of how freshness is measured.

Google evaluates how recent the information is which can affect how well content ranks in the SERPs. It assesses content freshness by examining elements such as dates in the byline, URL, and on-page content.

Therefore, regularly reviewing and refreshing content can help improve rankings and ensure relevance in search results. 

👉 SEO action: Regularly update and refresh your content, especially for your pages with the most traffic.

6. Chrome Data Utilization

Another instance where Google has denied the existence of an element but it was found as a feature in the leaked document.

According to the documents, Google uses data from its Chrome browser to influence search rankings. This includes data on user behavior and browsing patterns collected through Chrome.

It’s possible that “ChromeInTotal” module collects and integrates this data to refine search rankings, providing Google with insights into user behavior that help improve search result relevance and quality.

👉 SEO action: N/A

7. Whitelists

Another aspect that the documents revealed is the existence of whitelists. Google maintains whitelists for certain domains, especially those related to elections and COVID-19 information. 

This manual intervention takes place to ensure that users have access to reliable information on sensitive topics such as these and control the spread of misinformation.

8. Sandboxes

The existence of sandboxes was also proved. In practice, when a new website is launched, it is placed in a special area (the sandbox) where it can’t rank highly in search results right away.

Why? Because Google wants to monitor and evaluate the site first to ensure it’s not spammy or of low quality before it starts ranking high in the SERPs.

Of course, this contradicts Google’s previous denials of such a practice.

👉 SEO action: Don’t freak out if your new domain isn’t ranking high at the beginning.

9. Quality Rater feedback

Last but not least, the leaked documents reveal that Google uses feedback from the quality raters it employs. This feedback is then used to train and improve Google’s ranking systems, ensuring that search results better meet user expectations.

Quality raters assess various aspects of a webpage, including its expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T). The documents detail how this feedback loop helps Google identify high-quality content and demote low-quality or irrelevant pages. 

👉 SEO action: Create high-quality, authoritative content.


Google’s API leak put the big tech company in the corner as it’s challenging many of its previous public statements.

One thing is for certain, though. The need need high-quality, user-focused content SEO strategy is more relevant than ever.

For more about the leak and its implications, I suggest you read Rand Fishkin’s An Anonymous Source Shared Thousands of Leaked Google Search API Documents with Me; Everyone in SEO Should See Them and Mike King’ Secrets from the Algorithm: Google Search’s Internal Engineering Documentation Has Leaked.

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