Reevaluating Tactics Following Google API “Leak”

  • June 10, 2024
  • SEO
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At this week’s MozCon industry conference, Rand Fishkin, the outspoken former CEO of Moz and founder of SparkToro, shared his insights on how SEOs and marketers might need to adjust their strategies in light of the recent Google API leaks.

In a packed session with Dr. Pete Meyers, Fishkin outlined specific ways he believes the leaked information, although unverified, could impact current best practices in SEO.

Fishkin strongly contends that the leaks reveal contradictions to Google’s public statements about its systems.

“Google has been unkind and unfair. They have been abusive about this,” Fishkin remarked, though he acknowledges these are his interpretations based on the leaks.

Regarding Google’s perceived lack of transparency, Fishkin commented:

“Google has repeatedly stated that they don’t use clicks for ranking. I’ve always interpreted this, perhaps generously, as not using direct click data for direct ranking evaluations. In truth, even that interpretation may have been too charitable.”

“Documents and testimony, such as Andrew Navick’s last year, appear to confirm much of what we’ve observed.”

He added:

“They have lied through either omission or misinformation.”

Fishkin’s Recommendations

Fishkin speculated but also provided concrete examples of how SEO strategies could evolve if his interpretations of the leaks hold true. His suggestions, while not directives, include the following:

1. Invest In Author/Entity Authority

Noting the emphasis on authorship and entity signals in the leaked code, Fishkin recommended that brands prioritize hiring writers with established reputational authority already recognized by Google.

Regarding his new approach, Fishkin stated:

“We’re planning to hire a content marketer, essentially a part-time content person, to ensure SparkToro’s blog has new posts weekly.”

“The authorship and entity details suggested we should look for someone who already has a notable profile.”

2. Supplement Link-building With Public Relations

Fishkin indicated that the leaks suggest Google may devalue links to sites without sufficient brand awareness or search volume. He recommended supplementing traditional link-building with broader brand-building efforts such as PR and advertising to increase branded search demand.

Fishkin explained:

“If you acquire a large number of links in a short period with no other activity, it appears manipulative.”

“For significant brands, organic media mentions should accompany link acquisition.”

3. Embrace Geographic Nuance

Given references to geographic signals throughout the leaked code, Fishkin advised against adopting a one-size-fits-all global strategy. What works well in large markets like the US may not in smaller regions where Google has different data requirements.

Fishkin advised:

“Consider SEO strategies that are geographically specific, even for web search results.”

4. Rediscover Experimentation

Fishkin hopes the leaks reignite curiosity and skepticism within the SEO community. He emphasized the importance of experimentation to discover what actually drives results, rather than blindly following Google’s public statements.

On the necessity of testing, Fishkin stated:

“We’ve repeatedly seen the value of experimentation. Recent revelations remind us not to take Google’s statements at face value.”

He encouraged practitioners to go beyond Google’s statements and engage in testing to uncover what drives success.

Referring to an unexplained metric found in the leaks, Fishkin suggested:

“Ideally, by next MozCon, someone will uncover and explain the significance of the Keto score.”

A Wake-up Call?

Fishkin characterized the leaks as a pivotal moment for the industry, prompting it to question Google’s narratives more rigorously. While some found his directness energizing, others were taken aback by his bluntness.

Regardless of opinions on Fishkin’s delivery, the leaks have certainly prompted a deeper scrutiny of Google’s processes. For those ready to delve into the technicalities and experiment, Fishkin suggests substantial opportunities await beyond the conventional wisdom.

A Word Of Caution Regarding The Google API Leak

Doubts persist regarding the nature and significance of the leak. Evidence indicates it may be related to Google’s public Document AI Warehouse API and not the ranking system’s inner workings. The information also seems to be over five years old.

While Fishkin’s proposed changes are intriguing, they should be viewed critically due to ongoing debates about the leak’s validity. This highlights the importance of thoroughly vetting sources when interpreting insider information about search engines.

As discussions around the Google “leak” continue, it is crucial to avoid confirmation bias—objectively assess the data rather than viewing it through pre-existing theories.


Featured Image: Taken by the author at MozCon, June 2024.

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