07 Jun 2024

Cracking the code: 7 SEO takeaways from the Google leak

Did you feel the digital tremors? That was the sound of the latest Google leak shaking the SEO world. If you missed the fireworks, don’t worry – we’ve broken it down to help you decipher the most important takeaways for your business.

What you’ll find:

  • Setting the scene
  • 7 takeaways and insights
  • Brand building is key
  • Niching down helps you rank up
  • User experience is as vital as ever
  • E-E-A-T your way to the top with influential authors
  • Mentions matter
  • Relevant & refreshed content is rewarded
  • AI could affect content effort score
  • Summary
  • Turn insight into action

It’s been splashed across every Search Engine Optimisation publisher and is making headlines in the SEO marketing space – the ‘Great Google Leak of 2024’ is big news for marketeers. But how much has really changed and what do these insights actually mean for your business?

Before we get into the key takeaways and the potential impact – let’s set the scene.

It may seem like old news by now (a couple of weeks can seem a lifetime in the SEO world), but if you’re busy running your business, it may have passed you by.

In May, 2,500 of Google’s internal API documents were leaked, giving everyone unprecedented insight into how Google’s famously guarded algorithm works. Since then, SEO industry experts (including Rand Fishkin and Mike King) have been bending over backwards to dissect the leaked documents and see what insights can be gained.

What is an API?

APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces, are essential tools for building and integrating modern software applications, enabling them to communicate, share data, and leverage each other’s capabilities seamlessly.

7 takeaways from the recent Google leak

So what does it all mean? And what practical steps can you take to implement these insights and improve search performance for your own website?

In a nutshell: what Google says, Google sometimes tweaks, and every SEO professional needs to stay nimble. Arm yourself with the insights to keep your SEO strategies sharp…

1. Brand building is key

You know the saying: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Well, in the digital realm, it’s all about who knows you. According to the Google leak, brand recognition plays a significant role in SEO rankings. A strong brand isn’t just about snazzy logos or catchy taglines – it’s about building a reputation that users (and Google) trust.

The concern is that smaller names or businesses just starting out will struggle to compete without a strong strategy.

“If there was one universal piece of advice I had for marketers seeking to broadly improve their organic search rankings and traffic, it would be: Build a notable, popular, well-recognized brand in your space” – Rand Fishkin, Former CEO of Moz and Founder of SparkToro

Screenshot of SEO expert Rand Fishkin discussing the impact of brand in the recent Google leak

What you should do to level the playing field:

  • Focus on consistent, quality brand messaging across all platforms
  • Build your online presence with authority and credibility
  • Invest in PR to boost visibility
  • Embed your presence across all relevant channels, including social media and email

2. Niching down helps you rank up

In the vast ocean of content, casting a wide net might seem tempting. But Google’s recent leak suggests the opposite: diving deep into niche topics can yield better results. Instead of being a jack-of-all-trades, be the master of one.

According to the leak, topical authority/niching down is a ranking factor tied to a “siteFocusScore”.

This isn’t really news to us. We’ve long been advocating for and seeing real results from taking a specialised, topic cluster approach to content with our clients. Check out some of our success stories to see this in action.

What you should do:

  • Hone in on specific areas within your industry
  • Create detailed, in-depth content that covers niche topics thoroughly
  • Keep your content focused and relevant – think of it as curating a specialised library

3. User experience is as vital as ever

The Google leak confirms that user experience (UX) is a major ranking factor. Google’s ranking algorithms are increasingly focusing on how users interact with your site. Metrics like bounce rates, time on site, and click-through rates are more critical than ever.

Google is watching page engagement vs your competitors, and if your users stick around it might rank you higher.

What you should do:

  • Prioritise intuitive navigation
  • Improve site speed and mobile-friendliness
  • Keep users on your site by answering their queries quickly
  • Ensure your visitors have a smooth, enjoyable experience. After all, Google’s not the only one watching – your users are, too

4. E-E-A-T your way to the top with influential authors

Although some experts have postulated that Expertise, Experience, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T) may not be as important as we thought, one thing most can agree on is that authors hold influence.

The leak highlights that the reputation of content authors directly impacts rankings. If your authors are credible, your content is, too.

“There is documentation in the leak suggesting Google can identify authors and treats them as entities in the system. Building up one’s influence as an author online may indeed lead to ranking benefits in Google.” – Rand

What you should do:

5. Mentions matter

It’s not just what’s on your site that counts – what’s said about you elsewhere on the web matters, too. Google’s leak indicates that brand mentions, even without direct links, can influence your site’s credibility and rankings.

Just as we thought, Google places a premium on the quality of your backlinks. Although backlinks are less important in 2024, irrelevant or low-quality links are more likely to hurt than help your rankings.

A screenshot of an excerpt from the Google leak about mentions and backlinks

What you should do:

  • Engage in digital PR to get your brand mentioned on reputable sites
  • Foster positive discussions about your brand across social media and forums
  • When link building, focus on earning backlinks from reputable, relevant sites
  • Create content that naturally attracts links from authoritative sources
  • Think of backlinks as a recommendation from a trusted friend rather than a random stranger on the street

6. Relevant & refreshed content is rewarded

In the battle for ranking supremacy, static content is a losing strategy. The leak makes it clear that Google rewards sites that provide quality, relevant content and keep it up to date.

We’ve been saying it for years – if you’re churning out thin, recycled content, you might as well say goodbye to page 1 rankings. Google’s updated content preferences lean towards depth, originality, and freshness.

As Rand mentioned in another article, the fact that Google is still using quality raters (human evaluators that check the quality and relevancy of Google search results) suggests that content that resonates with real people is just as important as technical SEO.

It’s no longer as simple as changing the date on older articles, Google wants to see significant updates to impact how often a page is crawled and indexed.

What you should do:

  • Invest in creating high-quality, unique content that answers users’ questions better than your competitors
  • Ensure the content you create matches your audience’s search intent
  • Regularly update your existing content to keep it fresh and relevant
  • Remove outdated or incomplete information on your website
  • Page titles are still an important ranking factor so make sure they’re optimised
  • It’s like tending a garden – consistent care yields the best results
  • Oh yeah… and having a content plan & strategy might just help

7. AI could affect content effort score

The leak reveals that artificial intelligence is playing a growing role in SEO and how your content is ranked. For example, AI technologies and machine learning helps the search engine understand content to improve the accuracy of results.

The leak also suggests that Google is trying to see how much effort is involved when creating content – perhaps trying to catch out content written using generative AI. Even more ammunition to build quality, original content by real experts.

What you should do:

  • Explore AI tools for content creation, data analysis, and user insights
  • Use AI to enhance your SEO strategy and stay ahead of the curve
  • Create human content that is original and written or contributed to by experts

Bonus: Testing is the only magic formula

We’ve seen first-hand that results come with creative thinking, insight-driven strategies and a healthy portion of curiosity.

Just like SEO expert and former CEO of Moz, Rand Fishkin…

Screenshot of quote by Fishkin about SEO experimentation

To sum up…

There you have it—seven golden nuggets from the latest Google leak. If the SEO landscape feels like shifting sands, that’s because it is. There’s no silver bullet when it comes to acing SEO and your strategy needs to include the right blend of topic cluster thinking, good content, brand, authority, relevance, core vitals…the list goes on.

Are you ready to turn insights into action?

Our formula for success covers all elements – combining creative thinking, content & activation to deliver results that matter to you. See what the help of a dynamic SEO agency could do for your website. Get in touch for a free consultation.

Author information

With 15 years of hands-on SEO and digital marketing experience, agency director Ash is the driving element behind our digital team. Ashley heads our digital execution team, delivering innovative strategic and tactical marketing initiatives and campaigns; helping propel our clients’ growth and success.

Learn more about Ash

Emily, our content manager joined SeventhElement in 2018 and is behind the creative thinking and SEO content strategy that fuels our client projects.

Learn more about Emily


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  4. Boom Cycle
  5. Search Engine Journal
  6. Wpromote
  7. Search Engine Land