Google leak of alleged SEO documents shows importance of brand marketing, but don’t ditch best practices

Over the weekend, thousands of alleged Google Search API documents were leaked. The highly technical documents purport to cover Google’s over 14,000 ranking factors, how link value and click behavior are evaluated, and how Google classifies smaller sites. But for the average marketer focused on building a brand, the news may be more exciting than actionable.

Don’t overreact. “The leak is interesting to dig into, but there is too much unknown with the actual leaked information to make any decisions about SEO,” said Lily Ray, vice president of SEO strategy and research at Amsive. “We don’t know whether the attributes listed in the leak are actual ranking factors, or to what extent they are currently used, if at all.

“That said, the information is worth exploring, as it at least reveals some interesting naming conventions Google uses for its internal API documentation, including many buzzwords SEOs have discussed and debated for years.”

Instead of parsing over technical documents, brands should focus on making sure their basic SEO practices are strong, like making sure content matches search intent, including keywords and images, linking internally, and building strong URLs.

Brand matters. That was the biggest takeaway for Rand Fishkin, cofounder and CEO of SparkToro, who said the documents show it’s difficult for small websites to game SEO in order to rise in Google’s ranks. “If there was one universal piece of advice I had 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,’” Fishkin wrote in a blog post.

Some 36% of marketers worldwide are increasing their investment in brand marketing, up from 31% in 2023 and 23% in 2022, according to a December 2023 study from WARC.

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