Navigating SEO with Insights from the Google Search Leaks

In late-May 2024, a significant leak occurred involving a 2,500-page internal Google document, revealing over 14,000 search ranking factors, making it one of the most extensive disclosures of Google’s search algorithm to date. The documents confirmed several suspected SEO ranking factors such as user engagement metrics, link quality, and content freshness, while also unveiling new insights like the use of clickstream data from Google Chrome. This leak offers valuable information for maintaining and refining SEO strategies.

This document brings together information from multiple sources, including Search Engine Land, BuzzStream, SparkToro and iPullRank, along with our own interpretation of the leaked documentation to deliver a point of view (POV) on the impacts to SEO. This analysis aims to equip enterprise brand marketers with actionable strategies to enhance their SEO efforts considering these revelations.

Key SEO Factors Disclosed in Google’s Internal Documentation

  1. Authorship and Expertise

    Google tracks authorship and values content created by recognized experts. This aligns with the broader trend of emphasizing experience, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-E-A-T) in content. Google stores author information associated with content and tries to determine whether an entity is the author of the document.

    Strategic Implication:

    Develop content with contributions from recognized industry experts. Highlight author credentials and maintain high standards for bylines and author bio pages to build credibility and authority. Focus on fewer, more credible authors to boost search signal. Leverage Schema markup to reinforce author entities for knowledge graphs.

  2. Internal Linking and Site Authority

    The concept of “SiteAuthority,” analogous to Moz’s Domain Authority, was highlighted in the leaks. The strategic use of internal links can significantly boost page authority and overall site ranking.

    Strategic Implication:

    Implement a robust internal linking strategy to distribute page authority across your site. Prioritize linking to high-value pages to enhance their visibility and impact so long as those page-level links are contextually relevant to helping your customer in their journeys.

  3. Quality and Context of Links

    The leaks have confirmed that not all links are created equal. Google evaluates links based on their quality, relevance, and the authority of the linking site. Additionally, the context of anchor text and surrounding content plays a crucial role in determining link value.

    Strategic Implication:

    Focus on acquiring high-quality backlinks from authoritative and contextually relevant sources. Diversify link profiles and ensure anchor texts are optimized for relevance and context.

  4. Freshness of Content

    The importance of content freshness has been reiterated. New and frequently updated content is more likely to rank higher as it signals relevance and ongoing engagement. Google looks at dates in the byline (bylineDate), URL (syntacticDate) and on-page content (semanticDate, lastSignificantUpdate).

    Strategic Implication:

    Regularly update content to keep it fresh, relevant, and helpful for your customers. Focus on creating timely and topical content that meets current user interests and search trends. Avoid copycatting other competitors in your vertical and focus on providing information gain for readers.

Newly Uncovered SEO Factors

  1. User Engagement and Click Metrics

    One of the most significant revelations from the leaks is the likely role of user engagement and click metrics in determining search rankings. Google tracks the search engine user behavior, including clicks, post-click interactions, and engagement rates, to assess the relevance and quality of content. The system is called NavBoost, and it was also revealed in the DOJ’s case against Google in the October 2023 hearings. Google uses a variety of measurements, including badClicks, goodClicks, lastLongestClicks and unsquashedClicks.

    Strategic Implication:

    Marketers should optimize against click-through rates (CTR) and user engagement on their sites. This involves crafting compelling meta descriptions and titles and optimizing site navigation and entry page content to retain visitors once they land from organic search with the end goal of reducing bounce rates.

  2. Clickstream Data Utilization

    Google’s use of clickstream data from its Chrome browser to inform algorithmic decisions was a notable revelation. This data likely influences ranking and elements such as sitelink appearance in search results.

    Strategic Implication:

    Enhance user experience (UX) and conversion rate optimization (CRO) to improve clickstream. Ensure your site is designed to engage users and encourage deeper interactions.

  3. Redundant Links and Link Freshness

    Redundant links from the same domain have diminishing returns, and the freshness of links impacts their value. This underscores the need for a diversified and continuously updated backlink profile.

    Strategic Implication:

    Avoid excessive linking from the same sources. Focus on acquiring new and diverse backlinks to maintain a fresh and impactful link profile, using the power of high-quality Digital PR.

Rand Fishkin - Google Leaks

Strategic Recommendations for SEO

  1. Integrate SEO and UX

    Creating successful user sessions is paramount to your brand’s digital strategy. Ensure that users find relevant information quickly and have reasons to stay on your site. This integration can boost engagement metrics that Google values and pull users further down your funnels.


    Conduct regular UX audits and make necessary improvements to enhance user satisfaction and retention. Encourage your UX and SEO teams to integrate early and often for website and page template redesigns.

  2. Focused Content Strategy

    Align content closely with core topics and maintain high standards of expertise and relevance. Continuous experimentation and adaptation are essential due to the variability in ranking systems. Google evaluates content on how comprehensive it appears to be (contentEffort), the relevance to your brand’s industries (siteFocus), and how current your content is for your users (lastdSignificantUpdate).


    Develop a content strategy that emphasizes quality, relevance, and expertise. Regularly test and refine content based on performance metrics. Ensure that your Content strategies and SEO teams are closely aligned on understanding and meeting user intent while deploying active content maintenance.

Tactical Recommendations for SEO

  1. Optimize for Engagement

    Create compelling calls to action and engaging content to keep users on your site. Focus on optimizing meta descriptions, titles, and on-page elements to improve CTR and lower bounce rates.


    Use A/B testing to optimize calls to action and other engagement features on your site. Tap into focus groups and heatmap tracking to determine website friction points that need to be resolved.

  2. Leverage Internal Linking

    Use strategic internal links to guide users to valuable content and improve site navigation. This not only enhances user experience but also distributes page authority effectively.


    Develop an internal linking strategy that prioritizes high-value pages and supports user navigation. Remember to build internal links when new pages and new thought leadership is launched.

The insights from the Google Search API leaks offer a valuable opportunity for marketers to refine and enhance their SEO strategies. By focusing on validated factors such as user engagement, link quality, authorship, and content freshness, and by adapting to newly uncovered elements like clickstream data utilization, marketers can achieve sustained success in search rankings. Continuous monitoring, testing, and adaptation will be critical in navigating the ever-evolving landscape of SEO.

For further details and ongoing updates, please refer to the original articles and resources that informed this POV:

Scott Gardner

Partner & Co-Founder | New Media Advisors

Scott Gardner is a Partner and Co-Founder of New Media Advisors. Previously, Scott was Head of Content, Search and Digital Consulting at Choice Hotels International and led the Content and Search Center of Excellence at Bank of America. Scott began his career as an entrepreneur, founding and serving in leadership roles at multiple digital agencies and startups. Scott is a recognized Digital Marketing industry expert and has been a featured speaker at SMX, Internet Summit, Pubcon and Digital Summit. When he is not serving clients, Scott is an active Rotarian.

Special Offer:

Schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation with one of our Senior Advisors and leave the meeting with 3 custom SEO actions your brand can deploy immediately. No strings attached.

Marketing  Insights