After the Knee Jerk: Our SEO Experts React to Google’s Algo Leak

So the dust is starting to settle after documents describing Google’s search algorithm workings exploded onto the SEO scene. What are the biggest takeaways? 

Below, JDM’s SEO experts dish up their reactions on the biggest surprises, the most significant revelations, and how SEOs need to adjust their strategies in the wake of the leak.

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Director of SEO Kelly Ayres:

The technical data shows us what we already know: For most small and medium businesses and newer creators/publishers, SEO is likely to show poor returns until you’ve established credibility, navigational demand, and a strong reputation among a sizable audience. 

What was surprising is that user intent relative to search data will almost always outweigh content and backlink strategies - if 99 out of 100 people searching for Disney click on the streaming service login vs. the theme park, Google will prioritize Disney+ above Mickey and Minnie.

Other notable information from the leak: 

  • Google creates whitelists for Travel, Covid, and Politics
  • Human ratings from the Quality Rating Guidelines (QRGs are used in the search systems
  • Google uses click data to determine how to weight links in rankings
  • Brand matters more than anything else
  • E-E-A-T might not matter as directly 
  • Content and links are secondary when user intention around navigation are present
  • PageRank, anchors, and text-matching have been steadily declining in rankings clout

Sr. SEO Manager Gabrielle Hopper: 

When looking at SEO strategies from a holistic point of view, which is our approach at JDM, there isn't much from the leak that is too shocking. A few call-outs under advisement include the true importance of click data and E-E-A-T. From a content perspective, this is a good reminder of how important keyword and intent matching is for websites and the content on their pages.

Overall, though, the basics still apply: if your website doesn't deliver what I'm looking for the moment I land, I'm bouncing. (I bet there's a lot of CTR audits going on right now.)

SEO Manager Sabrina Burner:

My main takeaway: take everything Google says about this leak with a grain of salt!

That said, one interesting callout was that Google generates vector representations of pages and websites and compares them to assess how much a page deviates from the site's main topic. Specifically, the siteFocusScore, which measures how consistently a site focuses on a single topic, reminding and reinforcing the importance of user intent.

SEO Manager Joe DeWitt:

It’s reassuring to see that Google cares about “successful clicks.” My focus with clients is always to create content that keeps people engaged and gives a next step. I’m happy that Google will notice if a page gets a lot of clicks AND a lot of bounces. Big day for the quality community! (Sorry, quantity….) 

Sr. SEO Specialist Jhana Guzman-Scholder: 

I was surprised to see that product reviews can affect content being demoted. Since product reviews can be manipulated both positively and negatively, this is one aspect I wouldn’t expect to be relied on all that heavily by Google. 

SEO Manager Amber Soworowski: 

Now that the initial freak-out of the leak is over, I think it will be important to keep this top of mind: the foundation isn’t cracking and breaking beneath our little SEO feet.

My big takeaway is that everything we’ve been striving to perfect for our clients still matters. Clicks, links, engagement, titles(!), and regularly posting + updating content all matter. These all help drive home our efforts to be the authority in the space - and authority DEFINITELY still matters. 



Overall, the best way to move forward is to test, measure, analyze, and rely on trusted sources who are reporting their findings. We’ll be posting regularly to share updates on the SEO scene, so stay tuned!

 

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