Google Algorithm Leak Contradicts What Google Has Said About Website Rankings

Google Algorithm Leak Contradicts What Google Has Said About Website Rankings

Google has confirmed that the 2,500 pages of internal documents leaked on Monday, detailing how its internet search algorithm works, are genuine, as reported by The Verge Wednesday evening and confirmed to CNET. 

The massive leak of API documentation seems to confirm what search engine optimization experts had been speculating about for years, despite that speculation often being denied by Google. For example, this leaked documentation appears to indicate that click-through rate affects ranking, that subdomains have their own rankings, that newer websites are thrown into a separate “sandbox” until they start ranking higher in Search and that the age of a domain is a consideration in ranking.

The documents were first leaked to SEO expert Rand Fishkin, co-founder of SparkToro and Snack Bar Studio, by Erfan Azimi, CEO of EA Eagle Digital, a digital marketing agency. Documents were also leaked to Mike King of iPullRank.

In fairness, it’s still uncertain how useful this leaked information is today. These inner machinations of Google’s Search algorithm could be out of date by now or these data points may have been collected but never used. Google also tends to tweak its Search algorithm on a regular basis. Still, it’s a rare look behind the curtain of Google’s core business. 

“We would caution against making inaccurate assumptions about Search based on out-of-context, outdated, or incomplete information,” Google spokesperson Davis Thompson said in a statement. Google contends that it’s shared information about how Search works in the past while also ensuring that it’s protecting the “integrity of our results from manipulation.”

Google is the most dominant player in online search, holding over 90% market share. Its dominance is the subject of an ongoing US Department of Justice lawsuit against the company, alleging it maintains a monopoly. Given that Google is the main highway to the internet for nearly every computer, iPhone and Android device, it gives the company tremendous power over how information is consumed. Ads sold against Search results is also the company’s main revenue driver. Last year, Google generated $175 billion in revenue from Search alone. Given the amount of money in online Search, it’s birthed a $68 billion industry of SEO companies and experts that try to game or predict ways in which Google’s Search algorithm will behave. 

Google has waged an ongoing battle with sites that fill Search results with low-quality content just to take in easy ad clicks. It’s why Google doesn’t publish transparent details on how its Search algorithm works, or else bad actors would only take advantage of it. Publishers, blogs and other small sites that do make good content are caught up in this struggle. The spam site problem is only being made worse by AI-generated content. 

Changes to Google’s Search algorithm last September, called the Helpful Content Update, has been devastating for many smaller sites like HouseFresh and RetroDodo, both of which have detailed the impact of Google’s decisions. 

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