What does the leak of Google algorithms mean for you?

More than 2,500 pages of Google’s internal search algorithm documentation were accidentally leaked in May. Google has, of course, been highly protective of the algorithms it applies for search engine rankings, so the industry eagerly evaluated this leak to see what SEO specialists may have been missing.

Keep in mind that algorithms like this change on a regular basis, often weekly. So there’s no guarantee that anything that was leaked will still be valid even a year from now. Still, there are some things we can glean from the leak.

A surprising find in the leak was that Google actually does “sandbox” your site after it first appears, to make sure that it isn’t a spam site. Google has long denied that they do this, but the document proves that they put a hold on listing new sites. So if you have just launched your site, expect there to be a delay before it appears in search results, regardless of how good it is.

One surprising discovery relates to outgoing links. SEO specialists have long assumed that outgoing links to external sites helped to rank your site higher. It turns out that they have no impact whatsoever. Linking out to other sites, such as linking to your suppliers or linking to an authority site such as Wikipedia, will not help your rankings. At least not right now. That may have been true in the past and it may be true in the future, but it isn’t a ranking factor right now.

In contrast, incoming links were found to be even more important than previously thought. These need to come from authority sites to have SEO value for your site. The assumption is that if a high-authority website finds your site to have relevance, it must be a good website. On the other hand, poor-quality backlinks can be devastating to your ranking. Unfortunately, many business owners have, over the years, fallen prey to low-cost SEO sales pitches that resorted to using toxic back links such as link farms. If such backlinks are pointing to your site, Google treats your website as if it was radioactive. No matter what you do to improve your SEO, it will have little or no impact.

Another key takeaway from the leak was that number of clicks from those backlinks has an incredible impact on your site rankings. For example, if your site is linked on a high-authority site and people are actively clicking that link, Google will give that significant weight in ranking your site. It turns out that how those clicks happen is also evaluated. Because of the growth of fraud, Google evaluates whether it is likely that those links are clicked by human beings rather than automated clicks from click farms that use hundreds of devices regularly clicking through to client sites using automated technology.

Because clicks matter, one of the most important things you can do in this regard is to include conversion rate optimization in your SEO strategy. Use social media to create backlinks to your content. Send Email newsletters that include backlinks to your content. Create relationships with authority sites to develop backlinks that relate properly to your content. If your content doesn’t clearly match the intent of the link or linking document it will hurt your results rather than help.

Among the most important factors in ranking your site is the quality of your content. Google emphasizes freshness of content. Sites that contain timely information and are updated often receive higher rankings. Google looks at the dates that your content is updated and how often new content is created. Keep in mind that the length of content is also important. You need a minimum number of words to ensure that your page is ranked at all. A single paragraph is not sufficient!

Optimize your content to ensure that it is high quality content. This goes beyond avoiding keyword stuffing and a lack of material. It also involves meeting search intent. Google uses AI to help determine how well your content might fit the intent of a search, even if the exact words in your content don’t precisely fit what was used in the search.

Content decay is another valid problem that could leave your site behind. This refers to the gradual loss in rankings and traffic of a piece of content. This can be impacted by content being stale. And as can be alluded from the leaked document, it can also be a result of not getting clicks to that page. Also, when you update something, make sure all dates associated with the freshness of the content are accurate (in schema, sitemaps, etc.).

The bottom line from all this is that content really is the best and most important element in your SEO strategy. Make sure that you have honest, high quality content that relates properly to the overall purpose of your site. And utilize tools such as schema coding to ensure that your search results will continue to be ranked properly.

If you have any questions or concerns, please get in touch.

George Pytlik

George Pytlik has been involved in the advertising industry for over 30 years and designed his first website when the Internet was one year old. He was an internationally recognized speaker on advertising and branding and served on a number of communication committees at various times throughout his career, as well as writing a regular column for Marketing magazine.

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