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Diggity Marketing SEO News Roundup — June 2024


This month’s roundup takes a few more shots than usual at Google. The finger-pointing is coming from many different directions. We’ve gathered the top leaks, accusations, and breakdowns to help you make sense of this huge event in the search history, and Google’s reaction.

In the top stories, you’ll learn why there may be one last hope for sites hit by the September Helpful content update. Then, you’ll get a breakdown of the huge Google leaks that SEOs have been discussing, and the statement that Google released.

After that, you’ll get all the other top stories of the month, including more leak analysis and a deep dive into why one commentator says Google “ruined the internet.” You’ll also learn about the death of the 2010s web, some guides to prepare for the next update, and other top news.

There’s still hope for September HCU-impacted sites

Marie Haynes brings you a big prediction for the next Helpful Content Update. She claims that the sites that have suffered the most are about to get a break and start recovering. Her confidence partly comes from comments made by Danny Sullivan and John Mueller.

First, Danny Sullivan went further than most Google representatives ever have in describing how a site can recover. In a long Twitter thread, he describes how publishers can make content that deserves to rank. He emphasizes the importance of having multiple traffic streams, and other details. However, Marie focused on one statement in particular

“It Might Be the Next Core Update Will Help”

As we covered in last month’s roundup, almost no sites have recovered from the penalties they received from the previous HCUs. Marie agrees, pointing out she’s seen no report of someone recovering, either.

In addition to Danny’s notes, Marie provides a thread from John Mueller. In this thread, John says the Google team is working on how sites can/will improve in Search for the next update. Site recovery (at least for sites that obey the rules) may be possible once the update is out.

Unfortunately, there is no news on when to expect that update. As soon as it’s announced, we’ll cover it in the roundup as a top story. For now, let’s look at the biggest leak ever to hit SEO.

An Anonymous Source Shared Thousands of Leaked Google Search API Documents With Me; Everyone in SEO Should See Them

Rand Fishkin analyzes the massive trove of Google docs he and Michael King received from an anonymous source.

As he reports, the leaked documents arrived in his inbox on May 5th. They came from a source claiming insider access to a massive leak of documents from inside Google’s Search division. The source claimed the documents had been vetted by former Google employees who provided even more insider information.

Massive leak of documents from inside Google’s Search

The leak was big news for several reasons. First, it confirmed what many heterodox SEOs had been claiming: Google wasn’t always straightforward about how its system really worked. The leaks contradicted many company statements. According to the leaks…

  • Click-centric user signals are really used
  • Subdomains really are considered separately in rankings
  • There is a sandbox for new websites
  • Domain age is considered

The leaker made a number of other surprising claims, including that Chrome was motivated by the desire for more clickstream data and that Google massively uses Chrome data to fight spam.

Rand did his own fact-checking and contacted several former Google employees off the record. None of them could verify that they had seen the documents during their time at Google. All statements agreed that the documents looked legitimate and matched internal documentation.

Rand shared the information with colleague Michael King. Michael provided his own deeply detailed analysis, though both of them are withholding some of their discoveries for their upcoming conference.

Check out the complete write-up to learn why Rand took on this leak, what evidence he has found that its real, and what other lessons he took from it. Now, you can learn how Google has responded to these leaks.

Google Confirms Search Leak but Urges Caution

Barry Schwartz brings you this response from Google. As he points out, more than 32 hours passed before Google had anything to say. The statement that was finally released was sent to people in this form

“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.”

While this statement is not itself a confirmation of the accuracy of the docs, it says something that rather than denying them, Google has chosen to warn website owners that the information may be complete and out-of-date.

Barry went in search of more details, but he got the same story from nearly every Google rep he contacted. They claim that, by policy, they do not discuss ranking signals. To Barry, this is as good as saying the leaks are not fake as some have claimed.

google data leak

Google reps appeared to heavily push the characterization of the data as “out-of-context.” This did not deter many SEOs. One was quoted as saying in the responses that “all raw data will always lack context.” Many other SEOs Barry quoted had similar things to say.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much more to share about Google’s response. They have not made the choice to release any further information. If this leak has changed the game for them, we won’t likely be able to tell until the next big update.

However, if Google won’t do much to tamp down on the wild speculation, some experienced SEOs are. In the next piece, you’ll learn why one writer thinks that people are getting a little too excited about the information they have.

Google Documents Leaked & SEOs Are Making Some Wild Assumptions

Patrick Stox responds to some of the wilder chatter coming from the leak. He makes the argument that a lot of the responses have been overblown.

Gael Breton said about google leak

First, he addresses the claim by many on social media that ranking factors leaked as part of this document dump. However, as Patrick points out, nothing found in the leaks so far includes code or weights that could be used to game ranking. He points out that a lot of the data may not apply to ranking at all, but instead other factors like

  • Crawling
  • Indexing
  • Personalization
  • Testing
  • Feedback

Patrick seems to think many commenters are just seeing what they want to see from the raw data. He provides longer descriptions for several areas where he thinks the SEO community has really overstated what the data reveals.

For example, he discusses the Sandbox. In the first piece, Rand seems to argue that the data indicates the existence of the sandbox. Patrick thinks this has been misinterpreted. As he explains the segment from the link

“The document has a field called hostAge and refers to a sandbox, but it specifically says it’s used “to sandbox fresh spam in serving time.” To me, that doesn’t confirm the existence of a sandbox in the way that SEOs see it where new sites can’t rank. To me, it reads like a spam protection measure”.

He also takes issue with SEOs claiming that the leak proves authors are a ranking factor. There is a lot of info about authors in the leaked docs, but we already know Google uses authors for many functions, and none of the leaked data connects authors to leaking.

Check out the full piece for some pushback on the earliest claims from the leaks. For now, you’re caught up on the leak and almost everyone’s reactions to it. This leak isn’t the only source of Google’s grief, though. Adam Conover has accused Google of ruining the internet.

How Google RUINED the Internet

Site owners may recognize Adam from his comedy series Adam Ruins Everything (2015), where he took on ways people had created a worse world with various bad policies and decisions. His rants targeted subjects like airport security, car dealerships, and video game ratings.

In this video from his active YouTube Channel, he turns his sights on Google. He starts off by arguing that Google once delivered strong results but is now dominated by much worse results. He goes beyond that to claim that nearly all search engines are bad (but it is ultimately Google’s fault).

In the video, Adam charts Google’s early history and some of the changes that have happened since Google first adopted the slogan “Don’t be evil.” He mainly focuses on the work Google has done to absorb many of its competitors and engage in alleged monopolistic practices to end the need to grow.

Truthfully, anyone in the SEO industry will be very familiar with the events that he breathlessly describes. This video was made for a wide audience of Google users, and this information is new for many of them.

Adam ultimately argues that anti-trust enforcement should be the reaction to the decline in quality that he describes in his video. Check out the complete video for a well-researched outsider’s look into search.

Next, you’ll get some insights from a mildly gloomy study. It looks at how much of the internet has died since the year we were all bopping to Daft Punk’s Get Lucky.

When Online Content Disappears: 38% of Webpages That Existed in 2013 Are No Longer Accessible a Decade Later

This multi-author study by Pew Research finds that nearly 40% of all pages that existed in 2013 are no longer accessible. The researchers called the trend “digital decay” and found it almost everywhere they looked online. For example, they found

digital decay

  • 23% of news webpages contain at least one broken link, as do 21% of webpages from government sites
  • 54% of Wikipedia pages contain at least one link in their “References” section that points to a page that no longer exists.
  • Nearly one in five tweets are no longer publicly visible on the site months after being posted.

They chased trends on many different sites, including government and news websites, finding that dead links were common on both.

They discovered some interesting behavior on Twitter’s (X) sites in particular. They tracked the life of each tweet to find out the current “survival rate” of every published tweet. They found

  • 1% of tweets are removed within one hour
  • 3% within a day
  • 10% within a week
  • 15% within a month

Check out the complete study for a pretty interesting breakdown of how fast links break even in the places where they matter most. This might also serve as a good reminder to back up your favorite web content.

Coming up next is some action advice. Google has hinted one factor may play a heavy role in the next update. I recommend some steps you can take before Google kills your site.

Do THIS before the Next Google Update KILLS your Site…

Did you ever get the feeling that 90% of your growth or demise happens with Google updates? I argue that they do, and not only that, there are signals that you can follow to have a better idea of whether you’re growing or shrinking this update—and how to position yourself for the best outcome.

First, I introduce you to what I call the “Update Specific Ranking Factors.” These are factors that I believe matter the most to how you perform in an update. I provide examples of how I defined these terms and my actions.

For example, I provide an E.E.A.T. checklist you can follow to get ready. It will help you prepare with check-off tasks like

  • Gain your competitor’s trust signals
  • Match how their about pages are built
  • Look at what links they have
  • Match directories and review aggregates

I also demonstrate how major changes in ranking happen only during updates for many niches. This may be because evaluating websites constantly is cost-prohibitive. Google likely relies on old information for many ranking matters until the next update arrives.

Another factor I think plays a huge role in your update results is momentum. The steadiness of your flow of content and links appears to play a role, and the consequences matter most around update time.

Check out my complete video for more tips on how to prepare for an update. For the final piece of the roundup, you’ll examine when that update might be.

June 1st Google Search Ranking Algorithm Volatility

As several pieces here have covered, there is a Google algorithm update around the corner. In the first piece, you learned why it might bring salvation for sites struck by the HCU. In my video, you learned why it might leave you in worse condition if you aren’t prepared.

Google Search Ranking Algorithm Volatility

The big question is: When is the big update?

This short piece by Barry Schwartz may be an early omen. In it, he tracked a large amount of volatility that landed on Jun 1st. As he points out, there has been a lot of volatility lately. It could be early tests, and some SEOs seem happy about the results.

One SEO quote for the article claimed, “My global site’s traffic sources all seem to be normal. However, Friday had 129.8%, and so far today, after 18 hours, 158.8%—a flying start to June!”

Maybe good things are coming for your site, too? You can learn about it in a future roundup when we know more.


Article by

Matt Diggity

Matt is the founder of Diggity Marketing, LeadSpring, The Search Initiative, The Affiliate Lab, and the Chiang Mai SEO Conference. He actually does SEO too.

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