Home Here’s what a huge Google leak tells us about search rankings

Here’s what a huge Google leak tells us about search rankings


  • A hoard of over 2,500 internal Google documents detailing the inner workings of its search algorithm has been leaked online.
  • The documents confirm the importance of links, user behavior, and Chrome browser data in determining search rankings.
  • While the leak affirms the value of quality content and strong branding, some argue that Google should be more transparent about its algorithm.

A hoard of internal Google documents revealing the inner workings of the search giant’s all-powerful algorithm has been leaked online.

The cache of over 2,500 pages, which Google has not disputed the authenticity of, sheds new light on how the world’s most used search engine ranks and presents information. Google is notoriously secretive about its algorithm which hundreds of millions have become so accustomed to as the gateway to the World Wide Web.

The documents, which appear to be current as of March 2024, outline the factors Google uses to determine search rankings. These documents were sent to SEO guru Rand Fishkin, SparkToro co-founder and founder of the influential Moz marketing agency from an anonymous source but who has since gone public and identified himself as Erfan Azimi, an SEO practitioner. Fishkin was also aided by Michael King, iPullRank CEO.

This includes information about how Google leverages data from Chrome browsing activity, tracks changes to webpages over time, evaluates site and page authority, handles small websites, and even maintains “whitelists” of sites related to sensitive topics like elections and COVID-19.

The documents are dated two mongs before Google began to roll out AI-generated search results.

What the leaked Google documents tell us about the algorithm

While the leaked documents don’t specify exactly how Google weighs the multitude of data points its algorithm considers, they do confirm a few important points to us.

Links are as important as ever

At the core of Google’s determination of the trustworthiness of a webpage appears to be links and site authority. This is not a shock to professionals in the search industry but Google previously said ‘links are not a top 3 Google Search ranking factor‘ when it seems like they are.

Clicks matter

Google’s ability to track user behavior, such as whether a search click seems to yield a “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” result for the user is another important factor in search ranking.

Michael King states: “You need to drive more successful clicks using a broader set of queries and earn more link diversity if you want to continue to rank.

“A focus on driving more qualified traffic to a better user experience will send signals to Google that your page deserves to rank.”

Chrome browser data

Notably, some of the revelations appear to contradict past public statements from Google. For example, Chrome browser data is shown to play a role in ranking, something Google representatives have previously denied.

Fishkin, who has analyzed the documents, says the leak affirms the importance of creating high-quality, authoritative content and building a strong brand outside of Google search. However, there have been calls for calling for greater transparency from Google, arguing that the company has not been fully forthcoming about the signals and data it relies on.

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Sam Shedden
Executive Editor

Sam Shedden is an experienced journalist and editor with over a decade of experience in online news. A seasoned technology writer and content strategist, he has contributed to many UK regional and national publications including The Scotsman, inews.co.uk, nationalworld.com, Edinburgh Evening News, The Daily Record and more. Sam has written and edited content for audiences whose interests include media, technology, AI, start-ups and innovation. He's also produced and set-up email newsletters in numerous specialist topics in previous roles and his work on newsletters saw him nominated as Newsletter Hero Of The Year at the UK's Publisher Newsletter Awards 2023. He…

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