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The Google Rankings Leak? Here's what I have to say

by:  Kosta

And how it affects your SEO strategy

Ah, the classic whistleblower scandal.

This is what happens when you decide to f*ck up a ton of small and medium info businesses, while at the same mindlessly pushing with an untested AI bot just to make your investors happy.

But that's another story. I'll write about the psychology behind it in a few days.

===

In this post, however, I'd like to focus on the practical SEO implications of the leak and answer questions like:

  1. What are the top takeaways from the leak?
  2. How do they affect our SEO strategy? 
  3. How is it different from what we've already been doing? 

Well, I've spent the night going through this API.

And here's what I found.

=========

First of all, this leak doesn't lay out clearly what signals Google use for ranking. It merely provides us with hints of how things might work or might have worked at some point in time.

Obviously, take it with a grain of salt.

-- 1. User Engagement is a ranking factor

Not a big surprise, really.

Links help with the initial ranking of a website. When you build links, Google gives your page a chance to "prove itself".

A few days and lower CTR rates, and your page goes down.

Speaking of which,

-- 2. Chrome tracks engagement

Google have a ton of data, including data collected from Chrome.

Surprise surprise.

Honestly, I would be surprised if that wasn't the case. It's just to convenient not to miss such an easy opportunity to gather CTR data and to catch footprints.

-- 3.  Author information IS STORED. Brand is important. 

Taken into consideration, stored, etc.

When you're building your site, it's important to build a BRAND.

And when writing content, it's important to have clear author information. It helps if the author is listed in the About Us page of the site.

Profiles on social networks (I'm assuming especially LinkedIn) also help.

-- 4. Content Demotion due to anchor mismatch, exact match domain

Anchor mismatch makes sense. You want your anchor text to match the meaning/topic of the target page.

Now, I'm not quite sure about the last one, since I know Greg Morrison has been using these quite consistently. You can check his YouTube channel here.

(I call is the No Bulls*it SEO Channel).

-- 6. Link Whitelists

Shady, but topics like US elections and COVID have been manipulated. Politics.

-- 7. Site Authority. Brand Authority. 

The leak confirms that Google uses a domain-wide metric. A Site Rank.

They use it for new pages, until the page itself develops a Page Rank. And even after that, the Site Rank matters.

The brand matters, the number of links, the power of links, etc., all related to the Homepage of the site.

-- 8. The Sandbox

New sites DO enter a sandbox and their links are devalued for a certain amount of time. Something they've claimed doesn't exist for a long time now.

This is why it's important to keep backlinks on new domains, even if results don't come immediately.

Using expired domains used to counteract this, although Google mentioned they're fighting the use of expired domain in the March algorithm update.

-- 9 Clear and organized site structure 

Site structure needs to be clean and organized, so that humans can find the information easily and Google can present the information in an easy to understand, structured way.

-- 11. Mobile-friendliness

Nothing to say here. Site needs to render well on mobile.

-- 12. Site speed

Site needs to be fast, although based on my experience, this doesn't affect rankings a ton.

Let's say you have 2 sites - one is beautiful, dynamic, interactive, but fully loads for 3-4 secs.

The other one is a simple HTML page, static, boring. But loads for 0.5 secs.

Which one would you prefer?

Personally, I would prefer a good compromise between functionality, visuals and speed. I suspect Google realize a lot of people feel the same way.

So I doubt the speed graph is directly proportional to the rankings benefits, up until a threshold.

-- 13. There's an attribute that marks small/personal blogs/sites

Google categorize small/personal blogs/sites.

What they do with this data, who knows. Maybe next time when they decide to reward small publishers, they could.

Maybe after all the HCU and SGE panic settles.

-- 14. Over-optimized anchor text triggers demotion. Keyword stuffing as well. 

Nothing new here. 2015 advice.

-- 15. Google stores the past 20 versions of the HTML

Now that's interesting.

A lot of SEOs tend to think they could change links, delete them, redirect sites, et cetera, without implications.

But the truth is that it's very easy to track and catch possible manipulations like this.

Let's say a Google update hits. You panic and start removing links. Changing anchors.

What happens? A footprint. 

It means you're tracking the traffic and you're thinking about backlinks.

Who's thinking about backlinks? SEOs.

That's why it's best not to panic and start deleting links, for example, at least not right away.

-- 16. If a site has videos on more than 50% of its pages, it's considered a video site.

These are treated differently. Good to know.

-- 17. YMYL has a different ranking score

So websites that have Your Money or Your Live content (YMYL) content have a special set of ranking rules, which really makes sense.

These are sites that cover topics on News and Current Events, Law & Government, Finance, Health & Safety, etc.

-- 20. Gold standard (AI-generated content)  -> big one

Now, there is a “gold standard” attribute that seems to mark human generated content, but it’s unclear how it’s triggered.

This tells us that Google DO care about what pages are AI-generated. It doesn't matter if they're taking action right now.

The important thing is that they know and can mark such content. What's the threshold between AI-generated and human-edited? We don't know.

But AI for content generation is a double-edged sword and we need to be careful about it.

That's the reason why we at QGP haven't fired our Content Writing Team yet. Because I want to protect our customers from potential link invalidation in the near future.

-- 22. Link tiers - freshness

Google puts different links into different categories, based on age, freshness, traffic.

This basically means that newer links are considered higher value, everything else being equal.

Links on domains that receive traffic are considered higher value.

And that's precisely our our pricing is based on Traffic, and not DA, DR or any similar third-party metric.

Links on pages that receive traffic (like news sites) are also considered higher value.

-- 23. Link velocity

The speed at which you're building links matters, and you can't really throw 100s of links to a new site all of a sudden. A brand and some authority needs to be built first.

This is why when I consult SEO clients, I always advise they start with powering up the Homepage with brand, generic and naked URL links.

This builds trust and diversity.

-- 24. Google decides how much they should value a link based on the Homepage trust level

Again, it's about the Authority of the Homepage. The brand. How much traffic is it generating? How many backlinks point to it? What's the anchor text diversification ratio?

This is why Guest Posts work so well. Because they're based on the authority of the domain itself.

-- 25. Dates are important. 

When you create new articles, don't manipulate the dates. They are stored, and the different versions of the HTML are also stored.

-- 26. Domain age IS stored

Domain age matters.

But also matters the CONTENT on the domain. If you put a new website on a 10 years old domain that hasn't been used, it's probably not a big win SEO-wise.

If you put a new site on a 10 years old domain, that HAS been used, with another site in the same niche, this could work.

But again, Google can detect this and they can easily massively devalue this practice if they want to.

-- 26. Links are still a massive rankings factor. 

No sh*t, Sherlock. 

The "links don't work" narrative has been building up for quite some time now.

The problem is that people don't understand the difference between correlation and causation.

When building backlinks doesn't drive the desired results, it could be due a multitude of reasons:

  • Miscalculated velocity
  • Unnatural keyword/anchor text diversity
  • Diversification issues
  • Engagement/CTR issues
  • AI content

Just to name a few.

But yes, building a 100 links and ranking top 5 doesn't work anymore by itself.

But you can't rank top 5 without links. And that's a fact.

==================

CONCLUSION

----------------------

To be honest, I didn't find too much new information on this leak.

The bigger issues are already addressed in the QGP Anti Footprints System.

Sure, there's a few nice-to-know things, like the video site ratio, the 20 pages storage.

But the main things like Brand Authority, Authorship, AI Content, Sandbox, CTR/Engagement, are things I've always known and have implemented in the QGP Platform.

Still haven't had a chance to explore it?

I also just noticed Greg published a new video on this topic exactly. You can check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFBZQj_e4v0&ab_channel=GregMorrison-OMGAcademy

--

Kosta

Kosta

Software Architect and SEO Expert with 10+ years of experience, he regularly speaks at SEO conferences and masterminds across the US and overseas. He also personally manages the QGP Community and Training programs.

With his passion for technology, design and SEO, he and his team will help you take your business to the next level.

Kosta

Software Architect and SEO Expert with 10+ years of experience, he regularly speaks at SEO conferences and masterminds across the US and overseas. He also personally manages the QGP Community and Training programs. With his passion for technology, design and SEO, he and his team will help you take your business to the next level.

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