Google search leak and surviving stormy seas ahead

You can’t help but notice that in the name of SEO, most web pages on the internet have become cookie-cutter templates of each other, says Assembly's Mohamed Siddique

Google search leak

Recently, in a rather strange occurrence, thousands of documents, which appear to come from Google’s internal Content API Warehouse, were released in early March on Github by an automated code bot.

It wasn’t till weeks later that the online community caught wind of this leak and began combing through it for nuggets of information to try and crack the algorithm behind Google Search.

For nearly 2 decades, Google has dominated and shaped the internet into what it is today.

The influence of Google Search extends beyond mere convenience — it’s an integral part of our daily lives. It shapes how we perceive and interact with the world.

Need a recipe? Google it. Looking for a local plumber? Google it. This dependency has made Google an almost indispensable tool in modern life, guiding decisions big and small.

Ranking in Google Search has become an art form – where SEOs try to navigate the organic minefield to see how it ticks. And much to SEOs detriment, it’s often treated as the illegitimate child of marketing.

Let’s be honest here: organic Search is what powers the internet. People don’t come to Google Search looking for shopping ads or wonderfully worded snippets with the tiny ‘ad’ notice tacked to a corner.

Every day, billions of people visit Google to look for answers, find information, or simply learn something new. And they’re looking for this information for free.

This has allowed Google to build an ad empire deeply ingrained into our daily lives. But, you can’t help but notice that in the name of SEO, most web pages on the internet have become cookie-cutter templates of each other.

Thanks to the Google search leak, we get to see inside the belly of the beast and how the internet is catalogued, giving us a glimpse into what Google might consider worthy of the coveted page 1 search rank.

The company is understandably protective of its algorithm, and anytime there’s even a hint of abuse, big G stands ready to take definitive action.

How will Google react to the search leak

Having said that, we’re yet to see how Google will react to this leak and how it will impact marketing as a whole.

But one thing for sure is that they will do everything in their power to not let webmasters “abuse” any information that’s been leaked – whether they come out with an all-new set of ranking signals or simply change the weightage of each signal.

So, how do you stay relevant during this time and not become a statistic in the wake of any changes that Google might implement? Here are five things to keep in mind:

1. Stop optimising for an algorithm

This might go counter to what most SEOs would suggest, but oftentimes, we get too caught up in making sure all the boxes are ticked without really paying attention to the glaring fact that our information just isn’t providing any real value. This comes back to the point that a lot of web content today is geared towards an algorithm rather than the general user who will be reading your blog or looking through your products.

While the details are murky on whether Google uses Chrome or Click data, one thing for sure is that if the user is not interacting positively with your page or is clicking back, it’s not beyond the imagination that any decent algorithm would be able to pick up on this. So, no matter how SEO-optimised your page might be, if visitors are clicking off, your ranking for that page will eventually drop.

2. Watch out for the funnel

More often than not, you might be a brand spending 1000s of dollars on advertising spend to bring in potential customers to your virtual storefront. As a marketer, you become so engrossed in ROAS, CPA & CAC. But, an easy opportunity to take advantage of is to optimise your customer journey and make sure your website is designed with conversion goals in mind.

A jump from 1% to 2% in conversion rates will double your revenue even if all other factors remain the same. Ensure that your page is enticing & easily navigable for the user, and this will result in a massive bottom line at the end of the day.

3. Housekeeping is important

Imagine you own a physical clothing store and you just spent a lot of money on posters, pamphlets and radio ads to get people to visit your store. But upon entering the store, customers are finding that the walls are dirty and the shelves are dusty. Not a good look, is it?

Your website is like your physical storefront, and it needs regular maintenance so it doesn’t leave the wrong first impression. Make sure your navigation menus aren’t too cluttered, people can easily find your pages, and your website loads at a decent enough speed. Above all, try to minimise 404 pages—because that just destroys the customer journey.

A well-maintained website sends subconscious signals that your store is trustworthy and authoritative. Moreover, search engines are really fond of websites that are responsive and have minimal technical errors.

4. Invest in brand-building

Oftentimes, when a new brand enters the market, they get too caught up in running conversion campaigns or hiring an SEO agency for ranking on top spots for non-brand keywords. Truth is – no one knows your brand and hence, no one really trusts you. What incentive are you giving customers to shop with you compared to your competitors?

Awareness campaigns are your salvation here and even seasoned brands with lots of brand authority have an always-on awareness campaign running to inform users of their latest products, trends or social causes. Best of all, these campaigns also boost your brand searches organically and give more authority to your site.

There are many ways to run awareness campaigns, but if you’re looking for an industry-leading example, look no further than how Nike runs their social-impact campaigns.

What is amazing here is that Nike’s upper-funnel campaigns make no effort to sell you their goods. They’re simply focused on everyday people engaging in physical activity and overcoming their barriers.

5. Utilise your CRM data to build customer loyalty

With CPC costs rising across all platforms and customers wanting lower prices, it’s no wonder that marketing is usually the biggest chunk of your monthly cost.

But, you might be sitting on a goldmine of previous customers who might just be ready to buy their next handbag or summer wear.

Every industry has a customer LTV (life-time value) and return rate. If you’re selling shoes, it might be every 2-3 years, depending on how well your product is made. If it’s travel, it might be during seasonal periods or school holidays.

A strong CRM is built in such a way that it sends a recurring email at just the right time when your customer is looking to re-buy again. This form of marketing is highly effective, with an unmatched ROI.

It goes without saying that marketing, when done correctly, can influence your bottom line and organic visibility. As Google’s API leak suggests, SEO rankings go beyond just technical or on-page optimisations.

There is an element of user interactions (via Chrome data) that Google is looking at for organic rankings.

Manipulating search rankings is nothing new, but Google search has come a long way, and there’s no denying that putting the user at the center of that experience is where search is ultimately headed.

By Mohamed Siddique, SEO Lead, Assembly