Why ‘Google leaks’ should turbo-charge SEO strategies

Martina Cataldo, GreenparkWhen ‘Google leaks’ occurred back in May, it might have prompted SEO experts to hit the panic button. The deluge of documents that were shared online gave perhaps the clearest insight ever into the magic behind the search giant’s curtain: how the algorithm works, what’s praised and penalised; ultimately, how Google really ranks content based on page features.

Given the flurry of media commentary that rapidly followed the leaks, it’s safe to assume brand-side marketers as well as SEO providers had the insights at their fingertips. Many marketers likely felt empowered to demand new explanations of SEO performance. Hence the potential panic: the sudden need to explain the ‘inner workings’ of search, and less room to hide poor outcomes of strategies that might not have worked as promised.

But it’s a different story for SEO experts who managed to take a breath and consider the real consequences of the leaks. In essence, the information merely confirms what Google’s mission has always been: to sort the wheat from the chaff.

So, none of the detail should have come as a surprise. The message to the search industry is that lazy content and SEO strategy just won’t cut the mustard.

But there’s more we can learn from Google Leaks.

Google Leaks: the future of search
Simply put, Google Leaks can lead to an uptick in SEO excellence and better outcomes for brands.

A seasoned SEO consultancy will recognise the bulk of the information that was revealed aligns closely with existing Google knowledge and practices: taking an audience-first approach and delivering high-quality brand content. So, the right response to the leaks is more about tweaking your approach than making a knee-jerk reaction.

Much of that means taking time and making effort to ensure you’ve put in place the nuts and bolts of Google’s requirements.

The tech titan is certainly keen to mark down low-effort, quick-win marketing tactics. For example, Google has introduced a Content Effort Score. It’s an attempt to quantify the amount of toil and expertise that goes into each piece of featured content; potentially devised with generative AI in mind.

Beyond that, it’s an attempt to stamp out the sort of ‘input inertia’ that leads to obvious shortcuts such as cut-and-paste content featuring airbrushed publication dates.

Here’s our take on some other key points, all of which lead back to making more effort:

Back to basics – Google’s main purpose is to provide the most relevant and useful answers to users. In that sense, the leaks tell us that mission will continue to prevail. So, analyse your search results pages (SERPs) and consider what your well-placed rivals are doing to succeed. Harness both user search intent and engagement data to support your resulting strategy – and make the content engaging, always taking a quality over quantity approach.

Cutting-edge content – Leaks reconfirmed the importance of user experience and topic relevance to securing high search rankings on results pages. To capitalise, you’ll need to gain a better understanding of your audience, calling on Pulsar, Brandwatch or other front-running social analysis tools. In addition, make effort to understand the wider context of your content with cross-channel research. And make the most of expert content creators’ wit and wisdom: don’t rely on AI-automated work to pass Google’s strict tests.

Take your time – Search is a slow burn channel for higher gains in future – that much was highlighted in the leaked documents. Ranking on Google takes care, time and effort. Long gone are the days of copying existing, generic content and updating a few phrases. You’ll need to reinvent recipe card, style tips and other tired formats. Be original with text and images, offer something unique, and prove how your brand can add value in relation to all of your relevant themes.

No need to cry over leaked links
As ever, a methodical test-and-learn approach to optimising your search strategy will reap rewards. In the sense that the leaks have given us more aspects of SEO to pilot, review and tweak, the events of May are very helpful.

The final thing to say about the leaks is that the documents involved contain information seemingly up to date at the end of March. That means it’s already more than three months since the details were posted. It would be surprising if Google had not nailed down any consequences of the leaks in that period, with further rules devised – if not implemented – as a result.

All in all, the best position for SEO experts to take in response to this episode and any future leaks is the old anti-anxiety mantra: “Keep calm and carry on.” Better still, step back and work out how to use the insights to your advantage – leaving behind competitors that can’t, or won’t, make the effort to improve.

Martina Cataldo is SEO director at Greenpark

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