The Google Algorithm Leak - and how to use it

The SEO world is abuzz with a leaked document specifically stating (in very technical terms) how the Google Search algorithm ranks websites and displays them in search results. Using information from this article on by Mike King, I’m going to summarize what was in this document and how you can take advantage of the information within to optimize your site-in layman’s terms.

There are over 14,000 data points Google uses to rank a website. It would be ludicrous to list them all, and most you won’t understand. So I’ll summarize Mike’s summary.

How to Rank on Google (positive indicators)

Site Authority/Domain Authority: How does the article/page relate to the overall site? Are you FORBES publishing a recipe by Lady Gaga? A florist posting an article on dog health? How does that relate to your overall service or business? This is a primary factor in determining rank of your content.

Google Search Clickthroughs: weighing the clickthroughs your site gets from search results. Maybe this explains all the “clickbaiting” you’ve seen in the last 5-10 years. They also use it to indicate what most likely is the subject you’re looking for. Gary Ilyes – a Google search developer – says they use clicks as indicators of trends and patterns like if you searched for “Apple” are people searching for the fruit or the company? If it happens to be right after an iPhone announcement came out, most likely people will click on the company link. Clicks are an indicator.

Longest Click/Time on Site: Paired with the click signal, once you’ve clicked through to a site how long are you staying on it? If not long, then Google considers it a lower-quality hit. How does Google know how long they’re on your site? Because you’ve installed Google Analytics or Google Adsense code on your site, so it’s there. If you DO NOT have Analytics on your website, you’re missing out on this signal and others. Not necessarily saying that’s a good or bad thing but… yeah. This content copied from

Last Good Click: The last time you had good traffic to an article or page on your site. When you first publish a scandalous article about a celebrity, for example, your “good clicks” are high – people are clicking through and staying to read it. Over time, the news is old and your click traffic will decrease and so will its rank. Which brings us to…

Freshness: How fresh is your content and when was the last time you updated it? Google will rank fresh content higher. Period. Three dates Google looks for: byline date, syntactic date (specifically stated in URL or title), and semantic date (dates mentioned in the content). Beware though, if you change one of these and it doesn’t match the others, the page could be demoted.

Views from Chrome: Why did Google make its own browser? To get stats from websites where you haven’t installed any of their analytics or ad code. Now they have another way to measure what sites people are visiting, for how long, as well as user experience.

Authors are more important than you think. Google looks to see who is the author of the page. Author=authority. I, personally, believe it’s also going to start demoting content that is obviously AI-generated. Human content and authority is a high-ranking factor in their results. Not just lists and numbers.

Google Filtering and Re-Ranking

Google uses functions called Twiddlers that filter results before it serves them to you. Yes, it’s a gawd-awful name for a filter. Twiddlers can be category filters, a review of your headers as they relate to the search, limiting the number of results from any one site, or any number of other factors. So it’s important to actually GO to google and analyze the results for the terms YOU want to target, then analyze what pages are ranking in the top three and why.

Things that can get you Dinged

So what should you avoid to get demoted in Google? Here’s a list that King compiled from the Google document:

  • Anchor Mismatch – When the link does not match the target site it’s linking to.
  • Search Results Demotion – Bad clickthrough (as stated above).
  • Nav Demotion –  Poor navigation or user experience issues.
  • Exact Match Domains Demotion – In late 2012, Matt Cutts announced that exact match domains (ie. would not rank as high as they used to- due to the fact that people were registering search phrases left and right. Read Matt’s article for more information on this.
  • Product Review Demotion – Google has specific recommendations and guidelines for how to write a product review. Done wrong, it can get your article/post demoted.
  • Location demotions – Google attempts to associate pages with a location and rank them accordingly. Specifically for business sites. So if you don’t have a Google page or indicate where you’re located on your home page, you’re missing this important indicator.
  • Off Topic Demotion – (as stated above) if an article or page has no relevance to the overall site.
  • Porn demotions – Obvious.
  • Link Spam – Don’t link spam other sites, and don’t be all 1998 and get a bunch of link farms to link to you.

Other Surprises

Google might use historical versions of your page to rank it, up to 20 historical pulls. So don’t expect glowing search results after changing it! It might take a while for the other versions to age out.

YOUR HOME PAGE IS KING. Google decides how to value a link based on how much they trust the homepage. Make sure all of who and what your business provides is CLEARLY stated on your home page (and your location, as stated above). Home page is your most important signal to Google.

Font sizes of important words, phrases, and links are important! Because we’re moving (or have moved) to a mobile-first browsing culture, a minimum of a 16px font on your page is incredibly important in the mobile-first index.

Google weighs the top of your content as most important. Google stops indexing after a number of words/paragraphs – put your most important content at top. Especially the content you want indexed. That means, you don’t have to worry about “closing” or “summary” paragraphs as much as you thought.

Shorter content is scored for originality to make sure that you’re not just copying it from somewhere else. It’s fine if you don’t have a 500-word page or post, but make sure the content is fresh and original. This leads me to believe that long-form content has been historically weighted higher because it’s less likely to be plagiarized?

Page Titles are still important to search results, however it should match the content of the page.

Video-First content: If more than 50% of pages on your site contain videos the site is considered “video-focused” and will be treated differently. 

YMYL score: YMYL stands for “Your Money, Your Life” and Google will classify sites YMYL if they contain content that could greatly impact your life, such as Health, Legal, Finance, Safety, Mental Health, Society and Affinity Groups. They will be more critical of your authority and the accuracy of your content on these topics. By emphasizing EEAT guidelines (experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness) in your content, Google assures users receive reliable information in these critical areas.

Google has an indicator for a “small personal site” but there’s no evidence it’s weighing in the ranking. It might in the future, though, as that data point is being stored.

Here today, Gone tomorrow

Remember, the Google algorithm changes. Just because this one document at this point in time has given some key indicators on what they’re looking at, it doesn’t mean it will remain so in 1, 2 or 5 years. But from the perspective of a coder, MANY of these indicators will remain as they will mostly build on this foundation.

I do believe they will start adding filters (Twiddlers is such an ick name) for AI content, and duplicate/stolen content, if they haven’t already done so. This morning I even noticed Mike’s article copied word-for-word on another site, which also ranked high on Google. So there are still loopholes and fixes they need to make.

I hope this article helped put the tech into layman’s terms, and if you need help optimizing your site for the new SEO signals, contact me!