Google Search Document Leak ‘Reveals’ Key Ranking Factors

Google Search Document Leak ‘Reveals’ Key Ranking Factors

A significant leak of internal Google documents has provided a rare glimpse into the mechanisms behind Google Search rankings. The documents reveal how Google utilizes various factors, including clicks, links, content, entities, Chrome data, and more to determine search rankings.

The Leak

On March 13, an automated bot named yoshi-code-bot released thousands of documents from Google’s internal Content API Warehouse on GitHub. These documents were shared with Rand Fishkin, co-founder of SparkToro, and Michael King, CEO of iPullRank, for analysis.

Why It Matters

Understanding Google’s ranking algorithms is invaluable for SEO professionals. This leak is poised to be one of the most significant events in the history of SEO, akin to the Yandex Search ranking factors leak in 2023.

Key Insights from the Documents

Current Data

The documents are up-to-date as of March 2024 and include detailed information about 2,596 modules and 14,014 attributes within the API documentation.


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Ranking Features and Weighting

While the documents do not specify the weighting of ranking features, they confirm the existence of numerous factors, including:

  • Twiddlers: Re-ranking functions that adjust information retrieval scores.
  • Demotions: Content can be demoted for reasons such as link mismatches, user dissatisfaction signals, product reviews, location, exact match domains, and explicit content.


Historical Changes

Google maintains a history of every version of every indexed page, though it primarily analyzes the last 20 changes for link evaluation.

Importance of Links

Links remain crucial, with link diversity and relevance being key factors. PageRank is still considered for every document, especially the homepage.

Click Metrics

Google uses various metrics like badClicks, goodClicks, lastLongestClicks, and unsquashedClicks to evaluate successful clicks, emphasizing the importance of creating high-quality content and user experiences.

Content Scoring

Longer documents may be truncated, while shorter content receives scores based on originality. Your Money Your Life (YMYL) content, such as health and news, also receives specific scores.

Implications for SEO

According to King, successful ranking requires driving more qualified traffic through broader queries and earning diverse links. This aligns with the strategy of creating strong content that attracts qualified traffic and enhances user experience.


Additional Findings

  • Brand Importance: Fishkin highlights that building a notable, popular, and well-recognized brand is essential for improving organic search rankings.
  • Entity and Authorship: Google stores author information and evaluates content based on authorship.
  • SiteAuthority: This concept, hinted at in the past, appears to play a role in site-wide ranking impact.
  • Chrome Data: Google uses data from its Chrome browser for ranking.
  • Whitelists: Certain domains related to elections and COVID-19 are whitelisted.
  • Small Sites: Google may adjust rankings for small personal sites or blogs through Twiddlers.


Freshness and Relevance

Google considers freshness by evaluating dates in bylines, URLs, and on-page content. It also compares page embeddings to site embeddings to determine content relevance.

Additional Resources

  • Secrets from the Algorithm: Analysis by Michael King on iPullRank.
  • An Anonymous Source: Rand Fishkin’s insights on SparkToro.



There is debate over whether the documents were leaked or accidentally discovered during a code review. Erfan Azimi, CEO of EA Eagle Digital, claims responsibility for sharing the documents with Fishkin.

This unprecedented leak offers SEO professionals valuable insights into Google’s ranking algorithms, emphasizing the importance of quality content, user experience, and brand recognition.