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Our Four-Part Series for Google’s API Documents Leak

This is the first in our four-part series about the Google API documents leak.

Table of Contents for Google API Documents Leak

In this four-part blog series, we share:

7 Caveats Small Business Owners Need to Know About SEO and the Google API Documents Leak
12 Things Our Agency Emphasizes About SEO and Small Businesses that Seem To Be Right on the Money in Light of the Google API Documents Leak
• What Our Agency Believes We Should Emphasize MORE About SEO and Small Businesses After the Google Documents Leak
• What Surprised Our Agency MOST About SEO for Small Businesses After the Google Documents Leak

7 Caveats Small Business Owners Need to Know About Google’s Leaked API Documents

Before we uncover the attributes behind the leaked documents, here are 7 caveats small business owners should know.

1. Incomplete Contents in the API Documents.

Although the Google leaked documents contain 14,004(!) attributes that Google tracks, these documents are likely incomplete in terms of all the factors and systems that impact search engine optimization (SEO). For example, we don’t see obvious mentions of Google Business Profile attributes. Google likely uses other systems besides this one to define its search return pages.

2. Some API Documents Described SEO and Chrome, and Some Did Not.

Not all of the 14,0004 attributes in the documents are about Chrome and search engine return pages (SERPs).

Small business owners should understand that some of the documents’ attributes describe characteristics of other Google products, such as YouTube.

3. Attributes vs Algorithm Factors.

An attribute is a feature Google tracks; it is not necessarily an algorithm factor.

It’s likened to an ingredient. Just because something is in your pantry, it doesn’t mean you used it in a recipe today.

We can’t be sure that an ingredient (attribute) is in the ultimate algorithm “recipe.”

4. Relative Importance and Weights of the Algorithm Attributes.

Although tracked attributes and algorithm factors are not necessarily the same thing, many of the attributes in the API documents do indeed appear to be factors that Google tweaks to one extent or another for the search algorithm.

However, we don’t know the comparative weights of each attribute.

Continuing the recipe analogy, the algorithm may include flour and salt, but we don’t know the relative proportions of each. Does the algorithm include a “pinch” of an attribute or several pounds?

5. Twiddling.

Furthermore, as we have long known, Google changes its algorithm at least five times daily and regularly makes more major changes.

Additionally, we now discovered that Google uses a “twiddler” to tweak factors up and down. This is a new word for SEOs. Perhaps because marketing needs more jargon. Not.

6. Still the Flavor of the Day?

The documents seem to have been used for search as recently as March 2024. But this is just one moment in time.

We don’t know what’s changed since the leak. Has Google altered the recipe? The ingredients?

For example, we know that Google has had three major ranking updates since this time. The March spam update and a CORE update that incorporated the so-called “helpful, people-first” content update. These March updates devastated many small businesses.  Additionally, in late June, Google launched another spam update.

Moreover, the leaked Google API documents noted that some attributes are already “deprecated”—no longer being tracked (aka removed from the recipe) or are scheduled to be deprecated.

7. More Attribute Updates to Come.

Finally, 14,004 documents are a LOT to review. Moreover, most SEOs focus on enterprise businesses. We will be culling through insights for weeks to come and shedding light on how small businesses may be impacted.

Next up:

Part 2: 12 Things Our Agency Emphasizes About SEO and Small Businesses That Appear To Be Right on the Money in Light of the Google API Documents Leak

What Is the Google API Documents Leak?

Bot “Oops” and What The Google Documents Leak Includes

On March 13, 2024, an automated bot accidentally put 2,596 modules of confidential documents about “attributes” that Google tracks for various Google products on Google’s public repository, called GitHub.

This included information for Chrome’s search engine optimization (SEO), YouTube, and more.

Around May 7, Erfan Azimi, CEO of AE Eagle Digital, stumbled upon these documents and couldn’t believe what he saw. Was this real? Were the modules fakes?

Decoding the Google Leaked Documents

Erfan brought these to the attention of Rand Fishkin, the founder of Moz, who has moved on from his SEO endeavors. In turn, Rand shared these with confidante Michael King on May 24. Mike King is the CEO and founder of iPullRank, an SEO company for enterprise businesses.

Together, Rand and Mike poured over the documents. They had two objectives: 1) to verify that the documents were “real” and 2) to identify what the contents might mean for SEO.

On May 27, 2024, Rand publicly shared information about the leaked documents and linked his article to an iPullRank webinar on the same topic.

Google Validates the Documentation Is Real

On May 29, Google validated that the documents were indeed real but lacked “context.” They cautioned against assumptions.

Nancy Burgess

Nancy Burgess is the owner of Nancy Burgess Strategic Marketing, a marketing consulting firm and online agency. In that role, she integrates her corporate success as a digital marketer along with her marketing agency experience in marketing communications and branding to help businesses prosper. Nancy's specialties are search engine optimization (SEO) and content creation. She graduated from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, holds a master's degree, and also multiple marketing certificates from DePaul University's graduate school. She is a frequent presenter on SEO strategies and has worked in digital marketing since the late 1990s. As someone who can strategize AND execute, Nancy offers digital and traditional marketing services to SMBs. Agency value without agency fees. Along with SEO and content strategies, Nancy's agency offers website design, marketing automation, integrated marketing strategies, and branding to her clients.