5 Learnings for Website Owners from Google Search Documents

  • by Ilona K.
5 Learnings for Website Owners from Google Search Documents

Table of contents

  1. Key Success Factors
  2. Search Algorithm Insights
  3. What it means for you

A collection of over 2,500 internal Google documents became available to the public last week, giving a sneak peek into how Google ranks websites in search. How can you use this information to improve your website’s search performance?

The world of online search was taken by surprise when a huge selection of Google documents – many related to the way the search algorithm works – became available to public. 

First reported by Rand Fishkin, a founder of SparkToro marketing platform, the documents provided an unprecedented opportunity to better understand the factors Google uses to rank web pages. 

Of course, neither the trove of nearly 2,600 documents, nor Google representatives explain which factors are valid, which are currently in use, how exactly they are being used and how they are weighted to determine a final ranking. 

Nevertheless, website owners can find valuable insights for their web development, SEO strategies and measurement approaches in the summary of those documents. Especially since they disclose a number of ranking factors that SEOs long suspected, yet Google never officially acknowledged. Let’s take a look into key learnings.

Source: Unsplash

Key Success Factors

Those elements are closely associated with better results in organic search rankings.

  • Content expertise. Google gives preference to content created by experts – it can identify an author and treat them as entities. It then looks at the author information associated with content and tries to determine whether an entity is the author of the document.

Tip: make sure you include high-quality, informative and authoritative content created by subject matter experts in your website’s content strategy.

  • Strong brand. Google can identify entities like brands (brand names, their official websites, associated social accounts, etc.) – and prioritise stronger entities.

Tip: don’t just focus on your website – build your online brand presence across social profiles, Wikipedia, reviews platforms etc. And when it comes to your website – make sure you protect your brand online with a pre-emptive domain name strategy.

  • Good clicks. Perhaps the most coveted ranking factor, click data is used by Google to determine user engagement. Elements like backClicks, goodClicks, lastLongestClicks and unsquashedClicks are proof of that. Another  module called ChromeInTotal shows that Google uses data from its Chrome browser for ranking.

Tip: use free Google tools to track your website’s organic performance and focus on improving your content to make it resonate with your audience and be easy to digest.

  • Backlinks. Another ever-disputed ranking factor, backlinks are still important as a ranking factor. Google values link diversity, relevancy and authority over the quantity. The search engine also uses something called “siteAuthority” as a ranking factor, but there is little detail to how it is determined. 

Tip: include some proven link building tactics into your overall SEO strategy to give your website an authority boost.

  • Domain history. Google stores domain registration information in the RegistrationInfo module. Additionally, it keeps a copy of every version of every page it has ever indexed. 

Tip: when planning to buy or grow a domain, make sure you check its domain history and familiarise yourself with risks coming with a domain with negative history.

Source: Unsplash

Search Algorithm Insights

These elements are giving a better understanding of how Google search algorithm works.

  • Freshness. Google looks at dates in the byline (bylineDate), URL (syntacticDate) and on-page content (semanticDate) to understand how fresh your content is.
  • Topic match. Google has modules like siteRadius and siteFocusCore to understand whether a piece of content matches the core topic of the website. 
  • Whitelists. Some modules show that Google uses whitelists to rank some sites consistently high for specific topics or keywords. 
  • Small sites. With a feature called smallPersonalSite, Google can identify a small business or a personal blog and make exceptions for those – however, it’s unclear whether towards a more positive or negative outcome. 
  • Demoting factors. Google can demote content for a variety of reasons, such as mismatch between a link and the final website, negative product reviews, adult content, mismatch between user and business location, and other signals indicating user dissatisfaction.

What it means for you

We all look for a silver bullet when it comes to efficient online strategy. Getting access to a vast amount of Google documents may seem to be one of those. However, to ensure sustainable growth for your business online, the best approach is to take the hype around the leak with a pinch of salt and focus on:

  1. Embracing those factors holistically – since we don’t know how Google weights each factor, it’s risky to focus on one or two.
  2. Improving user experience – as many factors directly point at Google prioritising websites with fresh, informative, authoritative and engaging content.
  3. Building brand foundations online – with a great domain name and presence across multiple other platforms, such as social media and review sites. 

On a lookout for tips to grow your web presence? Visit it.com Domains blog and follow us on social media.

Ilona K.
Ilona K.
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