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Hannah O'neill SEO Copywriter

Data leaks are nothing new, and we often expect to see them from companies, including financial organisations and even government websites. However, nobody could have imagined that Google would fall victim to information leaks.

As the world’s largest search engine, Google can make or break a brand. It also leaves SEOs constantly battling through algorithm changes and scratching their heads.

However, SparkToro and Michael King accessed documentation from Google’s Content API Workhouse, which could help us understand how its algorithms work.


In March 2024, Google’s leaked documents appeared on GitHub:


Erfan Azimi emailed SparkToro co-founder Rand Fishkin to share information about the document. Rand Fishkin then asked Michael King to assess the documentation.

While many SEOs initially wondered whether the leak was legitimate, Google employees have verified the information.

Since its publication, SEOs worldwide have reviewed the document and developed theories about its meaning.

Despite Google’s initial lack of response, a spokesperson issued a statement to Search Engine Land cautioning against making assumptions about incomplete, out-of-context, and outdated information.

The leaked information holds crucial insights into Google’s ranking factors. SEOs and businesses must decide whether to leverage this information effectively or risk making inaccurate assumptions that could impact their strategies.

Can we trust the leaked documents?

With 2,500 pages of documentation containing over 14,000 attributes, it’s easy to see why some SEOs are sceptical of the information. However, Michael King’s assessment and information from ex-Google employees confirm the document’s legitimacy.

can we trust the leaked documents

Are SEOs misinterpreting the leaked information?

Google’s complex nature and ever-changing algorithms mean many people are excited about the leak, as it could provide vital insights into ranking factors.

However, despite many SEOs assuming the information is all about how Google ranks websites, there’s no proof that the search engine uses all of the leaked attributes as ranking factors.

So, while some SEOs and businesses might believe they have the necessary information to dominate the SERPs, there’s also a risk that they’ll invest in techniques that don’t offer long-term rewards.

As Daniel Foley Carter says:

“You don’t rank by reading leaked documents. You don’t rank by reading regurgitated information. You don’t rank by reading 5-year-old SEO articles”.

are seos misinterpreting the leaked information

It’s also important to remember that some SEOs will have biases related to their specialities. So, while the leaks might provide some information, it doesn’t necessarily mean SEOs should base their entire practices on it.

Also, commenting on the leaks,Gael Breton said:

are seos misinterpreting the leaked information 2

Uncovering the meaning of each leaked information source

SEO influencers will immediately tell you that the leaked information means you can beat the algorithms and rank your site—but is this true?

While the document provides insights into how the search engine operates, there’s plenty of room for misinformation and biases.

Let’s explore the most important attributes and how they might impact your SEO strategy.


Some SEOs have a long-standing theory that Google has a sandbox (filter) in place that prevents new websites from ranking. However, the leaked documents contain a hostAge that facilitates sandboxing.

While some SEOs believe this proves that Google might prevent new sites from ranking, the document also indicates that hostAge sandboxes spam. Newer websites or those with less trust might be put into a sandbox to protect users, but this isn’t definitive.

Instead, we can theorise that niches with higher risk factors for users – such as medical websites – are more likely to witness the effect.

Site Authority

Google has stated that there is no Site Authority score, but there is a DR (Domain Rating) score. The leaked documents might not completely verify this statement, but we can now say conclusively that Site Authority is a thing.

However, even though the leak demonstrates that Site Authority does exist, it doesn’t reveal how it’s calculated. Focusing on aligning your practices with E-E-A-T and creatingHelpful Content is the best way to prime your site for top-ranking positions.


The Google Helpful Content Update prioritised user experience above everything else, so it will come as no surprise to learn that clicks do play a role in website rankings. However, it ties into the HCU, as click behaviour helps the algorithms decide whether content is helpful.

Websites need to generate successful clicks, where users interact with the page and content.


The leak didn’t mention experience, Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T) very often, but we do know that Google values user experience.

When someone publishes content, Google stores information about the author, including their biography, affiliation and name, indicating that authorship might factor into the ranking process.

However, even though the author is important, this doesn’t mean that high-quality content that offers value to readers won’t be ranked.

Link building

Link building is still intrinsic to the SEO process, allowing websites to demonstrate their authority and increase ranking positions. Google uses a sourceType metric, which assesses the link’s quality by looking at the location and source.

Building backlinks from high-authority websites holds more weight than links from sites with lower authority ratings.

We also noticed that Google’s algorithm prefers fresh content, which means links from recently indexed content grow more than traditional link-building practices.

However – as always – quality is more important than quantity. Investing inprofessional link-building servicesmeans you can generate links from authoritative sources.


The Google API Documents also show that the search engine ranks content using algorithmic demotions. The main things to look out for are anchor text and exact match demotions.

  • Anchor Text Demotions: Anchor text mismatches can result in ranking decreases. For example, if you use an anchor that says “hair brushes” but links to a general haircare page, it can impact user experience, which Google takes seriously.
  • Exact-Match Domain Demotions: In the past, websites would match their domain name with an exact keyword to increase their rankings, such as “” However, the focus on user experience now means low-quality websites can be demoted and classed as spam.

Focusing on quality and relevance can help you avoid demotions.

Panda algorithm

Google determines quality content by leveraging a scoring system based on external links and user behaviour. The system applies at subdirectory, domain and subdomain levels, proving that the Panda algorithm is about creating great content that generates clicks.

When you generate relevant website traffic and enhance user experience, Google will reward you by boosting your ranking positions.

Key takeaways

The Google leak gives us vital information about how the search engine works. By understanding the documentation, SEOs and businesses can ensure their strategies secure the best possible results.

However, it also highlights that Google can mislead SEO professionals, leading to trust issues. Here are some key takeaways that will help you secure better search rankings:

  1. User interaction metrics are key ranking factors. Ensure a positive visitor experience by focusing on relevance and value.
  2. Link building is still integral to your SERP rankings. Building a few quality links from high-authority sources is more effective than having many backlinks from websites with little relevance.
  3. Keep your content fresh and relevant. Google now favours new content as long as it offers value.
  4. Understand how certain activities can result in demotions and make sure your anchors are relevant.
  5. Remember that SEO is an ongoing process; reading the leaks won’t guarantee success. Instead, you should focus on user experience and outsource your needs to anSEO agency if you’re unsure how to leverage these insights.


How will the leak impact SEO?

The leak can positively impact SEO, ensuring more transparency and helping professionals refine their link-building practices.

We already knew Google was focused on user experience and content quality, which means businesses can enhance their ranking by offering value to target audiences.

While the leak revealed some critical insights about Google that weren’t previously known, it doesn’t provide all the answers. It’s impossible to know each ranking factor’s impact on SERP rankings, and Google’s algorithms are constantly changing.

What steps can I take to avoid demotions?

We now know that Google has measures in place to identify spammy websites. Integrating your main keywords into the domain used to have an impact, but the search engine could now classify it as spam.

It’s also essential to make sure your anchor text is relevant to the page it’s linking to.

What are the best ways to boost website rankings?

Content is still king, so regularly update your website with fresh, quality and relevant content. Assessing your website’s technical elements to provide a seamless experience and building authoritative links will prime it for success.

Hannah O'neill

Hannah O'neill SEO Copywriter