The Google Leak

May 28, 2024It Depends - An SEO Podcast, SEO

In an unprecedented event, a substantial leak of Google’s internal API documentation has surfaced in 2024, shedding light on the elusive mechanics behind the search giant’s ranking algorithms. As SEO professionals, understanding and adapting to these revelations is critical. Here, we address the pressing questions and delve into how this newfound information might shape our SEO strategies.

Our Professional Insights on the 2024 Google Leak

 

What the Leak Reveals

First and foremost, the leak confirms many long-held suspicions about Google’s ranking factors, particularly regarding user signals such as clicks on search engine results pages (SERPs) and subsequent behavior on landing pages. This reinforces the importance of user engagement metrics, a focus area for many SEO experts already.

Evaluating Existing Recommendations

At this point, nothing in the leak fundamentally contradicts our previous recommendations. However, our commitment to continuous improvement means we will scrutinize this new data and adjust our strategies as necessary. Our goal is to integrate any insights that enhance our approach and deliver better outcomes for our clients.

The Weighting of Ranking Signals

One of the enduring mysteries of SEO is the relative weighting of various ranking signals. Unfortunately, this leak does not provide definitive answers. We continue to rely on our expertise and empirical evidence to prioritize SEO tactics effectively, recognizing that the landscape is complex and dynamic.

Implications for Paid Search

While the primary impact is on organic search, there are potential implications for paid search, particularly concerning Quality Score calculations. These insights could offer a more nuanced understanding of how to optimize paid campaigns, though the primary focus remains on organic search enhancements.

Reliability and Risks

Google has confirmed the authenticity of the leaked documents, though they have downplayed their relevance to SEO. This acknowledgment provides a level of reliability, but as with any new information, caution is advised. The greatest risk lies in ignoring these insights and falling behind competitors. However, as always in SEO, the risk of over-optimization or attempting to manipulate the system must be managed.

Adaptability in a Changing Landscape

Google’s algorithms are in a constant state of evolution. While the leak provides valuable insights, it is unlikely to make current systems obsolete overnight. Our approach remains adaptable, ready to pivot as Google continues to refine its algorithms.

Conclusion

The 2024 Google data leak offers a rare glimpse into the inner workings of one of the world’s most influential algorithms. By thoughtfully incorporating these insights, we can enhance our SEO strategies, focusing on user engagement and technical optimization. As the SEO landscape evolves, staying informed and adaptable will be key to maintaining and improving search rankings.

Stay tuned as we continue to analyze the leaked documentation and share our findings. Our commitment to providing cutting-edge SEO strategies remains unwavering, and we look forward to leveraging this new information to benefit our clients.

It Depends – An SEO Podcast: The Google Leak

In this conversation, Jay and Lindsie discuss the recent leak of Google’s API documentation and its implications for SEO. They cover topics such as domain authority, the impact of clicks on rankings, the use of Chrome data, the categorization of links, the existence of a sandbox for new domains, the importance of authorship, and the concept of whitelists. The main takeaway is that building a notable, popular, and well-recognized brand outside of Google search is crucial for improving organic search rankings and traffic.

Takeaways

  • Building a notable, popular, and well-recognized brand outside of Google search is crucial for improving organic search rankings and traffic.
  • Domain authority exists in some form, although it may not align with how it is commonly understood in the SEO world.
  • Clicks and user behavior, such as dwell time and impressions, have an impact on rankings.
  • Chrome data is used by Google for ranking factors, and it provides valuable user behavior information.
  • Links are categorized as low, medium, and high, and the freshness of links from high-quality sources has a bigger impact.
  • There is a sandbox period for new domains where SEO efforts may be muted until trust is established.
  • Authorship or the track record of expertise and authority of a writer can influence rankings.
  • Whitelists exist for certain industries, such as travel, and Google may trust certain sites more for specific types of searches.

 

Transcript

Jay (01:00.838)

Three, two, one, emergency, emergency. This is the most breaking news important podcast episode ever, even though it’s happening in a few days after the event. Hey, Lindsay, what are we talking about? What’s the big deal?

 

Lindsie Nelson (01:17.502)

Hey, Jay. I mean, it is like siren sounds, like this is happening, there’s new information. We had a whole plan for another podcast and threw that all to the wayside and said this is more important. And so we’re gonna jump into a leak of information directly from Google. This is probably the most information we’ve ever had.

 

about how Google ranks sites and we’ll get into what exactly it all means or what we are speculating. I’m going to put a hard note at the beginning that this is a lot of speculation at this point. Information is just starting to come out.

 

And there’s going to be a lot more that we’re gonna understand in the coming time. And we are getting a lot of our information from some highly credible sources in the space.

 

Jay (02:20.198)

Yeah, so, and more important preamble, this is Tuesday, May 28th at 1 p Central Standard Time, the best time zone. And we came back from a long holiday weekend. You know, news from the SEO world was erupting over the weekend. We kind of sorted through it as an SEO team this morning. And we were planning.

 

We were supposed to record a podcast last week and just weren’t really feeling it and pushed it off to today. And good thing we did because then we didn’t have to record another podcast to talk about this.

 

Lindsie Nelson (03:00.82)

We didn’t have to, you know, create another urgent, urgent, we have to talk about this kind of podcast on top of what everything else we were talking about.

 

Jay (03:12.07)

Yeah, but yeah, I said all that because by the time you are listening to this, there will probably be updates to the information. The story will evolve. But I, I think most of the evolution is going to be some of the, the nuance of how this leak happened will probably come out and, and that story will change a bit and we’ll just keep learning more from the leaked documents itself. But I think the.

 

The core information will remain solid whenever you out there might be listening to, what are you listening to? Episode 18 of It Depends, right? Sorry, we’re very structured here.

 

Lindsie Nelson (03:50.476)

Episode 18. We’re distracted by all of this. So let’s get some baseline. J, what happened? Tell us what we mean by a leak. Where was it leaked? What are we talking about? What happened here?

 

Jay (04:11.398)

So as best we can tell, someone at Google lost their job because back in March there was an update to Google’s Google searches content warehouse API documentation that was supposed to be published to an internal git and it went public to GitHub.

 

And then there are, I think there’s probably a few sites that do this, but Hexdocs is, I think the one that they just kind of like scrape GitHub and you know, it was pulled down like two months later. It was in early May that this was, yeah, that this was caught and pulled down. But in that time it had been,

 

Lindsie Nelson (04:59.532)

Yeah, May 7th, I think was the date. Yep.

 

Jay (05:08.294)

you know, kind of captured by other websites. And this is where like the story’s probably going to evolve a bit, but for now, an unnamed source was made aware of this and got the documentation reached out to Rand Fishkin, a long time famous name in the SEO world, founder, co -founder, I forget of, of SEO Moz or Moz now and Spark Toro.

 

and wanted him to be the one to like review this and break it and there’s you know some motivations and stuff like that a lot of it gets into you know proving Rand right on things he’s said over the years blah blah blah blah blah we’ll get into some of that nuance but either way this person reached out to Rand they exchanged some info Rand did some digging and came to the conclusion that like yeah this seems to be legit

 

And then I believe what happened is on Friday, which would be, what was that, the 24th? I forget. Rand and Mike Kane of iPoll Rank collaborated on this and they both ended up releasing articles over the long weekend talking about this and digging into what was found and all that. So that’s kind of like what happened. And then there’s the like,

 

What does any of that mean? I guess, which there’s there anything else we need to talk about first?

 

Lindsie Nelson (06:38.156)

Yeah.

 

Well, I am gonna directly quote Rand here. So we cannot say for certain whether the March leak is of the most recent version of documentation, but we also know that this is absolutely something that is coming from, well, not absolutely. We are almost certain this is coming directly from Google, but we also don’t know if this is actual ranking systems.

 

what we know is details about how Google collects data. That’s the biggest thing we can pull from here.

 

Jay (07:16.486)

Yeah, and the headlines everywhere have been, you know, 14 ,000 ranking factors were leaked or whatever. And I mean, honestly, I don’t really care. I mean, it’s not correct, but the thing to be more concerned about that we’ll get into is this is not like the diagram of how to rank for stuff. You know, if you want to call it a ranking factor leak or something, sure.

 

You’re incorrect, but it’s not really a big deal. But what you do with the information is the more important thing.

 

Lindsie Nelson (07:51.276)

Yeah, and we’ll get into a big piece of what we want to talk about today is what isn’t included in this. So what we don’t fully understand from it, the trust factors, and then really the key pieces of major impacts. And a lot of the things that we’re going to talk about are things that Google has very adamantly denied over the years. And these documents seem to…

 

say the opposite of what Google has told the community for a very long time. And I think that’s the biggest piece of this. A lot of those 14 ,000 attributes are things we know or things that are assumed. It’s not like groundbreaking, but there are a number of things that go against what Google has told us for a very long time. So let’s get into what this doesn’t include. So I think the biggest thing that I wanna note is there is no,

 

weight to anything. There is no like, this thing is more important than that thing. This is a list of 14 ,000 attributes. I mean, you can’t, some of them have been degraded. I think there were some they said that have, that are not being used anymore, but the rest of them, we don’t know which ones are more or less important. So we have to take that with a grain of salt that there isn’t just a.

 

All of these things matter equally.

 

Jay (09:19.654)

Yeah, and when you say attributes, I mean, this is API documentation, so it’s a way for other Google systems, presumably within Google search, but I’m sure other areas of Google might have some levels of access or use for this, whatever. But it’s a way for other systems to communicate with the Google search content warehouse.

 

via this API. So like the attributes are the different like pieces of information that are accessible via this API to put in real layman’s terms. So yeah, it’s like the content warehouse is like presumably a system that is very critical for indexing and ranking web pages. And all of these attributes are presumably factors that influence ranking, but…

 

it’s not at this point 100 % definitive that they are like the ranking factors themselves. Some of them are, some of them aren’t.

 

Lindsie Nelson (10:29.612)

and there are probably things that aren’t included in here. This is not, as you said before, this is not a checklist guide of, you know, any human can just go through this, you know, API documentation and say, now I know how to rank. I think if anything, it’s gonna be a lot of, we just need to continue to do good work and have a strong brand and go from there, because that’s what a lot of this is coming down to.

 

But let’s get back to things that are not included. So talked about weighting other systems, other things that could be integrated within the rank system that just aren’t in this list.

 

Jay (11:13.862)

Yeah, there’s nothing that says this is 100 % of the things Google uses to rank organic results. So there could be more out there.

 

Lindsie Nelson (11:24.204)

This is not a forever thing. So Google changes all the time. And so just because we have a picture in time of a piece of this does not mean this is going to be the story forever. And I think the biggest piece of that is this AI overviews, which we’ve talked about, it’s happening, it’s happened, it’s continuing to evolve. And that isn’t even mentioned in this, at least from what I’ve seen.

 

Jay (11:53.254)

Yeah, and there’s, you know, we’ll get into some more specifics, but you know, this seems recent enough to include SGE, like the timeline should overlap with SGE existing. It is probably older than AI overview as just like nomenclature, but it’s not here. So,

 

Lindsie Nelson (12:10.028)

Right.

 

Jay (12:19.686)

You know, the, the AI overview system could theoretically pull from the like data warehouse and or content warehouse, sorry. And, use that ranking data or use that data to rank what shows up as websites and AI overviews. So it’s not necessarily mutually exclusive, but it’s at least notable that it’s, it’s missing from the documentation.

 

Lindsie Nelson (12:48.3)

Mm -hmm. Anything else that we need to be aware of, of things that are not included, or caveats to this before we get into really the key findings.

 

Jay (12:59.91)

I think that’s a lot if you just take what we said at face value. You know, we left a lot of room for interpretation there. So I am certain there are probably 2000 articles out there that are like, now you can rank any webpage you want because we have this guide straight from Google. So.

 

I think that list of what’s missing is really important context for just like, this is not the solution for SEO. You know, it’s incredibly valuable and interesting information, but it is not a how -to.

 

Lindsie Nelson (13:33.164)

Mm -hmm.

 

Lindsie Nelson (13:39.692)

Right, right. Okay, let’s get into these key findings. And again, the things that we’re gonna dive into are the things that have really been dismissed by Google over the years. People have asked about it or assumed power in these places and Google has regularly said, nope, we don’t do that, it doesn’t exist.

 

And the first one I want to bring up is domain authority. There is something to this and Google has regularly said, no, no, we don’t do that at all. So tell me a little bit about what this indicator means.

 

Jay (14:23.11)

Yeah. And I’ll definitely take the L on this because I’ve, I’ve been a big proponent of like domain authority is just like made up by Moz and doesn’t mean anything. And you know what? I’m, I’m going to stand by that in the sense that like, we don’t, we don’t know how Google measures it. and the way most SEOs use the term domain authority is totally meaningless in terms of like getting high domain authority links from usually pretty crappy websites that have manipulated that.

 

that signal, but whatever. Hilariously Google fashion. They they’ve said over and over, there’s no nothing like domain authority, but no, there’s site authority. Yeah.

 

Lindsie Nelson (15:04.652)

Sy – semantics, right? Like, it’s not domain authority as Moz calls it, but there is a feature called site authority.

 

Jay (15:15.846)

Yeah, and this is, there’s gonna be a bunch of these things that’ll come out of this documentation similar to this. This is just like a high profile one where it is referenced and we don’t really know much else. It is used in some scoring system and you can call domain authority via this API, but we’re not really sure what happens to it after that.

 

But we just, we know that there is some kind of scoring system tied to a domain that Google keeps track of and presumably does something with.

 

Lindsie Nelson (15:55.468)

Well, and from what I read, and I’m reading mostly reporting from smart SEO people, but it doesn’t even indicate that it has to do with links. It’s just that there is this site authority thing that is considered in their quality signals, but it’s not even like that it has to do anything with backlinks theoretically.

 

Jay (16:19.814)

Right. So, you know, domain authority as like a thing you can take advantage of from other websites to boost your rankings. Maybe it exists. Maybe it doesn’t. This doesn’t really give us any clues to that end. But what we do know is, is again, it exists and we can just kind of like speculate from there. Like we’ll talk about whitelists and domain authority.

 

could come into play with like whitelisting certain sites for sensitive searches and things like that, who knows.

 

Lindsie Nelson (16:53.516)

Who knows? All right, next one. Let’s go to clicks impact rank. So this isn’t super surprising. I mean, we’ve had a podcast historically about NavBoost where I think you and Rachel talked about that from the testimony in October of 2023. But what additional information do we have here?

 

Jay (17:19.974)

Yeah. So this is interesting from like two directions. I think one is we touched on this in the nav boost episode, but this is like one of the oldest ranking signals Google has had. They realized this was important in the very early days and it has survived through the years. so it’s, it’s interesting to just get more data showing that they’re still using this stuff after all this time.

 

which kind of speaks to the idea that, you know, this information from this leak is probably going to be valuable for a long time because so many of these things are like institutional to how Google works. But the other interesting thing is it’s not just like what people click on from search results, but as plenty of folks have guessed at or claimed over the years, Google is looking at a lot of different user behavior.

 

So they categorize things like good and bad clicks and longest clicks and impressions. They do this thing called squashed and unsquashed clicks, which tries to like normalize the click behavior. So, you know, if you have like low volume searches, like, you know, pizza place in a small town, you know, local search for a small area, a handful of people could really manipulate the click behavior and get their pizza place.

 

outranking everyone else. So, you know, it looks like this the squashing concept is an attempt to combat that. You know, they’re looking at something like dwell time to see how long you’re on a site. You know, are you immediately going back to the search results, that sort of thing. So all of those things exist and play some factor. So it’s not just is your domain or your headline grabbing people’s attention and getting the clicks, but.

 

what else is happening along the way and our users presumably finding what they were looking for and getting a good experience on your site. We knew some of that existed, or we suspected a lot more of it existed, but now we have more definitive evidence.

 

Lindsie Nelson (19:35.02)

Right, right. It’s just, it’s kind of crazy. I mean, all the times that we’ve speculated about like bounce rate, does it matter? And it’s like, yeah, if people are clicking on your site and immediately going back to search, there’s probably an issue and Google is taking that into account. So again, back to good quality content and information is key. It’s not just about getting the click. It’s about really providing the content that…

 

consumer or user needs when looking for a particular query.

 

Jay (20:11.174)

Yeah. And you know, getting, I don’t know, getting off track a little bit, but like, this is one of those things that some SEOs have just lost their minds about, you know, Google says clicks don’t impact rank. And so it doesn’t, it must be true. And like, you know, you bring up bounce rate and, and people go, that’s a Google analytics metric. Why, why would Google be using data from their own product or whatever? And it’s like,

 

Like, yeah, they probably don’t. I mean, they certainly could. It’s a free product from Google and they have access to the data. So they could use it. But like, yeah, the whole idea that not every site has Google Analytics and maybe people don’t set it up right. So you get misleading information. That doesn’t mean that that’s the only way Google could get bounce rate data, which I think leads into our next big finding.

 

Lindsie Nelson (21:02.86)

Right.

 

Lindsie Nelson (21:06.604)

this one, I feel a little silly that this one is so surprising to me. So Chrome data specifically being used for ranking factors. So the idea that Chrome was created, what was it in 2008, just for the use of click data and consuming that information is pretty crazy to me. Like.

 

essentially they’re using everything from Google Chrome and integrating that into the search.

 

Jay (21:38.278)

Yeah, and we knew that some of this was happening. Like we knew that Core Web Vitals was using data from Chrome to get the real world user behavior or user experience data. We knew that like location data for Chrome and Android especially was used like on the…

 

on a lot of different systems. I mean, on the ad side, on the local side, you know, the maps, everything, like uses location data. And we just, I don’t think we like really thought about what else was possible, or at least folks in the SEO world, we didn’t talk freely about what else was possible. But yeah, Chrome is the most…

 

Lindsie Nelson (22:31.532)

Mm -hmm.

 

Jay (22:34.406)

widely used browser for going on the internet. And most people are logged into their Google accounts, which gives a lot more information in terms of not only like your intent and behavior, but also helping identify possible spam or misuse or manipulation, whatever. But yeah, Google, Google’s in charge of Chrome. I think on the, the Microsoft edge side,

 

It’s called, geez, sorry, I can tell I’m a Mac user. But that uses Chromium and so do a lot of other independent browsers and stuff like that. And Google gets data from them as well. Maybe not as much, but either way, just Chrome itself with, I thought it had like 60 % market share. Don’t quote me on that, but it’s a big number. That’s so, so much user data.

 

Lindsie Nelson (23:05.932)

I think so.

 

Lindsie Nelson (23:17.452)

Mm -hmm.

 

Lindsie Nelson (23:33.804)

so much information.

 

Jay (23:34.278)

that.

 

You know, you can opt out of whatever privacy things or tracking you want, but like if, you know, if Google’s inside your browser, there’s not much you can do to hide your behavior from them. And I don’t even mean that in like necessarily a nefarious way, just, you know, if they’re going to say, what are you looking at? What are you spending time on? What sites do you click on from search? And.

 

maybe find useful and maybe don’t. Like yeah, if you know every click and scroll and mouse over and everything that people are doing, then that’s gonna give you a ton of that information to feed back into your ranking systems.

 

Lindsie Nelson (24:18.7)

Mm -hmm.

 

Do you – this is a total aside. Do you think there will be a reduction in Chrome use after this?

 

Jay (24:29.51)

I don’t know. I find it hard to believe that people are gonna care. I mean, I don’t mean that in like looking down on people or anything like that, but just everyone like willingly signs up to use every major social media platform and Gmail. And I mean, you know, like…

 

Apple takes a different approach to privacy, but they’re still hoarding all of your data and everyone happily uses them. I think we’re just accustomed to trading our privacy for good free products.

 

Lindsie Nelson (25:09.396)

Okay. All right, let’s move on. We have a handful more here. So links, links still matter. Talk to me more about what we know about links.

 

Jay (25:27.686)

Yeah, so I’m expecting we’re going to get some more info as like everyone dives into this documentation deeper, I think. But at least for now, it’s amusing that they categorize links as like low, medium, and high quality. You know, all of the thing about, you know, scoring and page rank and all of these different metrics that we’ve come up with to…

 

give value to links and they just have like these three tiers.

 

Lindsie Nelson (25:58.924)

Like, eh, we’re gonna simplify it, you know. Just three.

 

Jay (26:02.342)

Yeah, and I’m sure there is some complex scoring system that gets you into low, medium, and high, and that’s fine. It’s just that’s how the documentation references it. But probably the most interesting and useful thing to me at least was like freshness of links has a bigger impact. So especially a fresh link from a high quality or that is high quality is more important than other links.

 

Lindsie Nelson (26:08.556)

Maybe.

 

Lindsie Nelson (26:20.908)

Mm.

 

Jay (26:31.846)

And, you know, it sounds like there’s some kind of like long lasting effect of the quality system too, where if you get flagged as low quality, those links just get like ignored and, you know, future links and stuff like that don’t really matter, which actually does line up with something Google has said, you know, people have long…

 

you know, push the toxic backlink thing and stuff like that, which we’ve talked about in Google, it’s just like, no, just ignore those. And at least based on what we’re assuming from this and reading into this, it sounds like that’s what you can do.

 

Lindsie Nelson (27:08.812)

it aligns.

 

Mm -hmm. And as some clarification, we are talking about external links to your site here. We are not talking about internal links. And those also matter from our understanding, but this is specifically about backlinks from other domains and giving value essentially from those links and what we understand from those. Okay. All right. This next one is also interesting and I think feeds into…

 

what our next few episodes are actually gonna be about. And this is that a sandbox exists. Talks to me about what is a sandbox and why do we care about it.

 

Jay (27:52.39)

So anyone that has launched a brand new site has known that this exists. And I got a poll, I’ll see if I can get it for the show notes, no promises, but I know Google has danced around this topic before and I think Matt Cutts was the one that said it if I’m remembering right, where there’s some like six to 12 month period of launching a brand new domain where…

 

it’s going to be harder to rank because of complicated reasons and blah, blah. But Google is like recoiled against the idea of the word sandbox over the years. And yeah, now it turns out there is one where if you have like, it’s based on domain age and then other trust signals that if they are low and or the domain is new.

 

you get put in this sandbox where it seems like no matter what you do, all of your like SEO work gets muted to some degree and it’s going to just be harder to rank until, you know, some threshold is passed where you get out of this and Google is willing to trust you. And this is largely for spam reasons because, you know, a brand new site appears, there’s…

 

There’s plenty of reason for Google to be suspicious that, you know, one, they could just be launching a new site for manipulative purposes related to SEO, but they could also be doing any other number of manipulative things, stealing credit card numbers, for example. You know, that’s lots, lots of brand new sites pop up to just like pretend to be a storefront and things like that. So having some sort of period of time where.

 

Yeah, if you’re just trying to launch a spammy scammy site or something like that, and your hope was to rely on organic traffic to pull off whatever your heist is, you might not wait six months or again, whatever the time period might be. You’re going to get frustrated and move on to something else by then.

 

Lindsie Nelson (30:02.795)

Yeah. And I think an important thing here too is like, if you have a brand, if you have a domain that your business is currently functioning on, don’t just like create a new one or just start over with something without like,

 

proper redirection or real consideration of creating that new domain because there is this sandbox, this little penalty box of like, hey, you’re too young. We’re not gonna give you the credibility that you would necessarily have if you were an age domain. So definitely something to consider and something to think about as you’re launching or migrating or any of those pieces.

 

Jay (30:45.606)

Definitely.

 

Lindsie Nelson (30:47.084)

Okay, two last things. First off is authorship. Talk to me about authorship and how this has impacted.

 

Jay (30:56.71)

Well, and maybe we shouldn’t use the word authorship because Google said authorship was dead. But author is in here. So yeah, there. And again, this this makes sense. Like they’re, you know, not the the way the SEO world has treated it, where like everyone needs to put an author under everything because it’ll make you rank higher just by having it. But I think the original intent of the Google

 

Lindsie Nelson (31:03.436)

Author, sorry, no ship.

 

Jay (31:25.51)

concept was that, you know, some writers have like an established track record of expertise in certain areas and also, you know, like identity is a tricky thing on the internet and so there, you know, it’s maybe an attempt to try and piece together the idea that one person can write on multiple platforms and we can connect the dots across them. So,

 

You know, Google tried doing it for like social networking reasons and for, you know, a lot of different reasons in the past, but it seems like they have kept the idea of just because a certain author published or wrote a piece that it could rank a little bit higher as a result. So likely this comes into play in the, the classic world of EAT, you know, the expertise, authority and trust.

 

Lindsie Nelson (32:13.58)

Mm -hmm.

 

Jay (32:24.774)

experience expertise, authority and trust, I think we’re calling it now. Either way, where, you know, it’s not just having an author on your site is what causes you to rank, but an author with, again, an established track record can rank higher is kind of what we’re taking away from this.

 

Lindsie Nelson (32:45.324)

Okay, last one. I wanna talk about whitelists and you gave a little bit of a nugget as we were talking about domain authority. And I will say too with these whitelists, it’s not everything. So tell me what is Google, what is this documentation telling us about whitelisting?

 

Jay (33:07.654)

Yeah, so the idea of whitelisting goes back to in the early days of COVID. There was, I mean, there was a lot of panic just because there’s this pandemic and there’s lockdowns and all sorts of things. And, you know, we’re doing some crazy stuff to try and fend off the virus. There’s also like protests happening, just stuff was wild.

 

and there was a ton of a ton of people like taking advantage of all of that that kind of chaos and publishing just you know like misinformation in the sense of we know we are lying you know that that term gets used for a lot of different ways than weaponized whatever but i i am talking like you know the covid will make you grow hooves or something like that kind of

 

Lindsie Nelson (33:53.836)

Mm -hmm.

 

Jay (34:06.822)

misinformation. And so there was a person who called themself a whistleblower within Google that published some internal documentation about some ranking systems. And one of them was the concept of a whitelist where for sensitive queries, there was a list of, or for sensitive and in both the, like the nature of the search and the timing, you know, the like breaking news.

 

on a controversial topic. Google had a list of sites that it trusted more to rank to hopefully avoid leading people down some like really dangerous paths. And that was pretty controversial because Google was supposed to be like this neutral arbiter of the web or whatever, which was, I feel like that’s a concept people use when they want to like critique Google by saying you’re not this, but I don’t know that they ever were that whatever.

 

So we knew that Google had this idea of whitelisting and in this latest documentation it came out that they have it specific to the travel industry. I don’t know if you saw any other mentions of it.

 

Lindsie Nelson (35:15.116)

I did, but yeah, I was reading about the travel pieces, but there wasn’t much information about what that means. And I mean, probably just is that it was mentioned and we don’t really know the extent of it. I mean, like the COVID pieces, health things, even financial data makes sense, but the travel was really surprising.

 

Jay (35:38.246)

Yeah, and you know, I think one of the articles will link to a guest at the idea that maybe this is because Google has a like travel tab in search results or maybe that was a tweet from someone either way. I saw someone mentioned that as a possibility and that could make sense because you know, travel is a big area Google’s invested in for like travel planning within Google search but.

 

You know, they still largely send you to a website to book whatever the thing is that you’re, you’re booking. so they, they might want a white list of where they trust to send people for plane, train tickets, car rentals, whatever it might be. there could be any other number of reasons why they, they have a white list specific to travel. they, you know, I, I forget, I know they, from an ad perspective, they obviously have some financial relationships.

 

with different travel vendors, but I don’t know if there’s any, I don’t know if there’s any affiliate, I don’t want to, I don’t want to throw out the idea that there’s affiliate revenue from organic search results or from travel results. I just realized how dangerous that might be. I am not suggesting that Google has any financial stake in where they’re sending people. Strike that from the record, please. But either way it’s, yeah.

 

Lindsie Nelson (36:47.34)

Yeah.

 

Lindsie Nelson (36:53.548)

We would like to not get sued today.

 

Jay (37:04.23)

It’s interesting that it exists for travel and there’s seemingly no mention of that for other industries or types of websites, but it’s there. You know, and again, that, that history back to 2020 is just to point out that like, you know, this isn’t the first instance of white listing for certain types of sites within Google. And there could very well be others out there, but we know about travel right now.

 

Lindsie Nelson (37:32.588)

Okay. All right, I think we’re at the final stretch here where we talk about what’s next, what we should be doing. I wanna quote Rand exactly here to start the conversation. He said, there’s one universal piece of advice I have for marketers seeking to broadly improve their organic search rankings and traffic. It would be, build a notable, popular, well -recognized brand in your space outside of Google search.

 

And I don’t think he’s saying, SDO doesn’t matter or don’t use Google search at all, but rather, this is not everything. It is a part of the puzzle. It is a piece of it. And if you want to build a business, it has to be on a lot of different platforms in a lot of different ways.

 

Jay (38:24.006)

I see I thought he was saying SEO is dead again. Dead, deader, deadest. Yeah.

 

Lindsie Nelson (38:27.212)

stop.

 

Every year it’s a different extreme.

 

Jay (38:35.43)

Well, I mean if you think of everything we just talked about, that some domains are more important than others, that what people are attracted to click on and what sites they they want to stay on, you know, what sites are getting the most links, what…

 

site or what content is written by people who actually like have demonstrated they know what they’re talking about or do their homework on you know their their writing all of these things kind of add up to google is rewarding successful brands you know this this idea that like okay these sites over here are really big and have a lot of resources and do great work.

 

We can’t compete with them, so we’re just gonna like cheat our way through it. That’s like the age old mantra of like that doesn’t work for very long, you know. So I think this documentation, we’re gonna learn a lot from it. We’ve already learned plenty, but there’s tons more to explore. But this doesn’t mean that we’re gonna be able to just like cheat our way through SEO.

 

Lindsie Nelson (39:42.092)

Mm -hmm.

 

Jay (39:58.118)

It means Google has engineered this big complicated system to mostly reward brands that people grow to trust. And that doesn’t mean that can’t be your brand, but you have to do something to earn people’s trust and not just say, I care about ranking for things and that’s going to be my business model.

 

Lindsie Nelson (40:07.18)

Mm -hmm.

 

Lindsie Nelson (40:20.044)

can’t just buy links and assume you’re gonna get great traffic. It’s all more complicated than that and it’s about being better for who needs the information you’re providing. So go out and do good work and that’s kinda where we’re at.

 

and we’re gonna learn more and people are gonna test things and we’re gonna test things. And I’m sure there is a ton more to come out from this. This is still very new in terms of overall reporting and we wanted to share it as kind of a news break, but I think there’s still a lot we’re gonna need to figure out as we get more and more context.

 

Jay (41:00.998)

Yep. And I can’t wait to learn more. Like every, I think every smart person in tech is going to end up weighing in on this at some point and digging into this because this might be one of the biggest SEO things to ever happen.

 

Lindsie Nelson (41:18.956)

Mm -hmm. Yep.

 

Jay (41:21.03)

And it’s tough luck for Google. I mean, they’ve got egg on their face and we’re all going to laugh at them because they’re a giant company that, you know, we’re okay with seeing them screw up like this. But we’re also, you know, it’s not just that they made a blunder, but they made a blunder that reveals a lot of

 

potentially really important secrets about how their their biggest product works and we’re we’re gonna learn a lot and It’ll be a fun ride

 

Lindsie Nelson (42:00.204)

All right, Jay, well, thanks for talking today.

 

Jay (42:04.198)

Yeah, we’ll talk to you later. Bye, everybody.

 

Lindsie Nelson (42:05.42)

Bye.

 

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