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Posted By
James
Fulford
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Google's search algorithm is one of the world's best-kept secrets. 

So secret, a whole community and sub-sector of the Marketing industry is dedicated to ensuring companies' websites, copy and other content have been created and optimized to appear favourable on this unconfirmed algorithm. This is Search Engine Optimisation, usually just called SEO.

 You would be forgiven for thinking that the recent Google Content API Warehouse leak in late May was a big deal. However, having allowed enough time for the dust to settle – how much of a turning point is this for the world of SEO and marketing?

Let's get the basics out of the way: the Google cheat codes have not been leaked. Despite what any SEO agency salesperson tells you, we don't suddenly have all the answers. 

More than 2,500 documents, full of previously unconfirmed insight, spread widely across the internet after being shared by SEO heavyweights Rand Fishkin and Mike King.

The leaked documents consist of technical information meant for the consumption of developers; they are nearly impossible to read or understand for even seasoned SEO professionals without the aid of a developer. 

For anyone wanted to really get into the nuts and bolts of the leaked documents and, like me, can't read anything more than basic code, I recommend Mike King's initial breakdown, but the interesting findings are:

  • Google does use some kind of domain/site authority to determine search results

  • Google does use clicks for ranking

  • Google does use Chrome data for rankings

  • Exact domains can hurt ranking.

There’s nothing shocking here; it confirms SEO thinking and strategy. What’s most interesting is how this contradicts a series of Google spokespeople who have repeatedly said that Google Search doesn't consider any of the above when determining search results. 

For years, when asked about the future of SEO and how much weight it should hold within a wider marketing strategy (and budget), I have always tried to summarise by saying, 'Google hates SEO' as they would much rather customers buy ads. Still, their search isn't yet sophisticated enough to read and sort websites like the end user would. 

For short-term gains or quick wins, the focus should be getting a dedicated paid search campaign up and running as soon as possible. But for long-term growth, an SEO strategy and continued campaign are an absolute must to ensure that content is not just engaging to the reader but rich with the relevant keywords and metadata to guarantee that a machine (or algorithm) can link it with the right end user.

 While the Google Content API leak doesn't give us any 'new' information, it does nothing to dissuade me or countless others from this advice. 

So, what have we learned from the leak? 

  • The Google spokespeople we ignored were lying, so we were right to ignore them.

  • Google is doing everything it can to remove the need for SEO… but even with the unknown sophistication of the Google search algorithm, it's nowhere near that stage

  • Do you still need an SEO strategy? Absolutely

Google will continue to push good content updates, so ensure your content is written with your user base in mind and not the latest trend. If you haven't already, build an SEO strategy as a foundation or framework to ensure all content is engaging and optimised for crawling algorithms.

What’s next, of course, is Generative. For the first time in two decades, there’s a new technology that poses a real threat to the supremacy of Google search. Things will change. But until we understand how users want to use GenAI to engage with corporate or consumer content, it's hard to know for sure how best to optimise it. Watch this space. 

Above all else, make sure your SEO team is pushing the envelope. The leak, if nothing else, told us that the only people getting it wrong are those following Google’s advice.

James Fulford is an associate director in London