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Google Unofficially Responds to Alleged Data Leak

May 30, 2024

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Google’s refusal to comment on specific elements within the alleged Google data leak to protect its ranking system further divides the SEO community. 

While the SEO community awaits an official reply from Google, opposing camps are appearing and debating whether the data leaked in the Google Search ranking documents is true, if it was a leak, and if so, why hasn’t Google commented?

The wait is over, albeit not officially!

Google responds

While Google has yet to officially respond to the controversial search algorithm documentation leak, Google told SearchEngineLand: 

  • “There are a lot of assumptions being published based on the data leak that are being taken out of context, that are incomplete and added that search ranking signals are constantly changing.”

Google also said:

  • “This is not to say Google’s core rankings principles change; they do not, but the specific and individual signals that go into Google rankings do change.”

A Google spokesperson sent Barry Schwartz, contributing editor to Search Engine Land

the following statement:

  • “We would caution against making inaccurate assumptions about Search based on out-of-context, outdated, or incomplete information. We’ve shared extensive information about how Search works and the types of factors that our systems weigh while also working to protect the integrity of our results from manipulation.”

Google, however, won’t comment on which parts of the leaked data are accurate or invalid, which are presently in play, or how Google is using them. 

Google won’t get into specifics

Google’s refusal to comment on specifics isn’t a surprise because, with ranking algorithms, Google never gets specific.   

A Google spokesperson told SEL:

  • “If they did comment, spammers and/or bad actors can use it to manipulate its rankings.”

Further adding:

  • “It would be incorrect to assume that this data leak is comprehensive, fully relevant, or even provides up-to-date information on its search rankings.”

Did (as many SEOs are saying) Google lie?

It’s too early to say for sure; however, the leaked data contains ranking signal details contradicting what Google has historically told us. 

That said, SEL reports that Google’s statement approached the subject: 

  • “What is in the document may have never been used, been tested for a period of time, may have changed over the years, or may be used.”

The SEO community falls into three camps when it comes to what Google tells us:

  • Google always tells the truth.
  • Google sometimes tells the truth.
  • Google lies continuously.

Whichever camp you identify with, seasoned SEOs mainly advise running your own tests to see what does and doesn’t work in SEO.  

SEO authority figures are not buying it was a leak

Many in the SEO community conclude that the leak wasn’t a leak, given it’s five years old, didn’t contain ranking algorithm secrets, and told us nothing new. 

SEJ (Search Engine Journal) swiftly backed that up, stating there were indications it wasn’t an algorithm data dump.

Their take on the alleged leak: 

  • “At this point in time, there is no hard evidence that this leaked data is actually from Google Search… and not related in any way to how websites are ranked in Google Search.”

What people are saying 

Trevor Stolber (twenty-year search marketing expert) posted his thoughts on the alleged data leak, saying he remains open-minded:

No smoking gun!

Brett Tabke, the founder of PubCon search marketing conference and WebmasterWorld, also the guy who gave us the acronym SERPs (search engine results page) and is considered by many to be the father of today’s SEO, gave his thoughts on the supposed data leak via a private Facebook post.

SEJ writer Roger Montti reported Brett’s observations:

  • This is not a leak
  • There is zero in it that’s directly algorithm-related, but rather, they are API calls.
  • He found nothing that points to how any of the data could be used as part of a ranking algorithm.

Google data leak lacks facts

Many quickly reported the apparent leak of Google Search documents as the mother of all leaks that would change the SEO landscape as we know it (I was one).

But now it seems much of it was smoke and mirrors and not the Google algorithm data dump many expected it was. 

The truth is, a Googler did not even leak it, and rather than containing algorithm secrets, many SEOs now agree that the documents say nothing much we didn’t already know or suspected all along.

Terry O'Toole

Terry O'Toole

Terry is a seasoned content marketing specialist with over six years of experience writing content that helps small businesses navigate where small businesses meet marketing - SEO, Social Media Marketing, etc. Terry has a proven track record of creating top-performing content in search results. When he is not writing content, Terry can be found on his boat in Italy or chilling in his villa in Spain.

SEO Power Plays

Read by 10,000+ world-class SEOs, CEOs, Founders, & Marketers. Strategy breakdown: monday.com's 77% traffic boost 🚀 + Industry news and expert tidbits every Wednesday 🔍 + in-depth SEO strategy tips every Sunday ✨