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Takeaways From the Recently Leaked Google Search Documents

Written by Gary Honold on . Posted in .
Home > Blog > Takeaways From the Recently Leaked Google Search Documents

Key takeaways:

  • Google’s leaked ranking documents are essential for law firms to know and apply to their website.
  • There’s more evidence than ever that content quality and truly helpful resources are essential to ranking well.
  • We break down exactly what law firm websites need to do to update their website to align better with these leaks.
  • Array Digital’s promise of transparency and providing exceptional content has allowed us to keep our sites ranking well.

In May 2024, Google’s ranking algorithm was leaked. If accurate, it would provide a huge insight into how Google ranks content, and in an increasingly difficult and competitive field to rank, your law firm should be interested in what this means for your SEO. Even if the information is outdated, as it likely will be due to the speed of technology growth, there are several important aspects that your law firm can utilize from these documents and implement for your website.

Continue reading to see some of the factors the content on your site should be doing. Is your current agency not being transparent with your content or following best SEO practices? Looking for a change? Consider scheduling a consultation with Array Digital to see how our professionals can help your law firm.

Why care about leaked Google documents?

This image shows a young woman, dressed in a dark blue long-sleeve shirt and wearing glasses, seated at a glass table in a modern office setting with a panoramic view of a densely built city in the background. She is intently looking at her laptop screen which displays a Google search page with the word "Search" in the query box. Beside the laptop are a classic analog alarm clock showing ten past ten and a white ceramic mug, likely containing coffee or tea. The setup reflects a professional environment with a focus on digital information search, appropriate for discussions about internet technology or online research.

Leaked information from Google could provide critical insight into how the search engine’s ranking algorithm works. The algorithm determines which websites and what content is placed higher in the search results where people are more likely to click on it.

Here’s what happened.

Documents that seem to have come from Google’s internal Content API Warehouse were released by a bot known as Yoshi-code-bot. The documents were shared with the SparkToro co-founder, Rand Fishkin. The data shared seems to be accurate as of March 2024 and shows what ranking features exist, though it doesn’t speak about how ranking features are weighted.

But what does this all mean to you as an attorney?

These documents are certainly not complete. We also do not know which ranking factors are the most important or which are the most significant. However, in all situations, this content is insightful and can provide details on how organizations — including law firms — can improve.

What the Google leak says about SEO ranking factors

Remember, these are no absolutes — we do not know exactly how effective they are. We know that Google wants value in everything it offers to searchers, including law firm websites.

The data from the leak provides us with insight into PageRank — a value that Google assigns to a webpage that helps to determine which position on the search engine results page that website should sit. A website that offers more credible, valuable content should be positioned higher in the search results.

The Google leak provides us with specific insight into some of the core factors the search engine uses to determine the ranking of website pages. These elements of PageRank seem to have shifted slightly over the years. We know from the leaked documents about a few of those updates. Here are examples:

  • PageRank_NS: This factor, which focuses on document understanding and clustering, was included in the leak. This component assesses the relevance of pages within a content cluster and helps the search engine categorize low-quality pages.
  • SiteAuthority: This variant focuses on measuring the website’s authority or importance. It’s critical to ranking as an attorney. It looks at overall quality through content quality, user engagement, and link profiles.
  • Host NSR: This variant shows the importance of high-quality content in every area of your website, not just one or two pages. The quality and relevance of various sections of the website are considered.
  • NavBoost: This variant helps determine importance based on the website’s navigation. For example, can people easily move from the home page to the contact page?
  • NSR: This is one of the most important components — a variant that uses machine learning to understand the context of the content on the page, including the semantics behind the text. In short, it means keyword stuffing hurts ranking, but tools like maps and reviews help.

Value Propositions Leaked

This is, by all means, not the full list of updates and leaked information, but it does show the value of several things:

  • Link building
  • Successful clicks (which showcase a good user experience)
  • Branding within the content
  • Authority
  • Authorship

As a law firm website, these are the most critical areas to focus on from a ranking perspective.

Related Article: A Lawyer’s Guide to E-E-A-T: An Introduction

What this leak means for your law firm’s website

Don’t worry. For most attorneys (especially those working with Array Digital), quality content is always the objective. You will not have to completely update your site (unless you haven’t been working with us!).

Now that the history and importance of the leaked documents are available to you, you may be wondering what it really means to you as an attorney.

If you have a website, it matters to you.

The biggest impact on law firm websites is likely building a brand through your content and showcasing your authority and authorship. 

Here is our warning: If you have been utilizing AI content as the backbone of your site, you likely have seen traffic fall. It’s not that Google hates AI, but instead, AI isn’t providing the authority that a law firm website needs.

The dip in your traffic is likely due to the Helpful Content Update that took place in August 2023, with several iterations up until March 2024. It aligned ranking factors with originality and readability for humans. If your content is written for humans by humans, it will end up higher in the search engines for a more sustainable period of time.

Align content with your brand

To show authority, brand the content on your website by doing the following:

  • Incorporate content that’s more like what you would talk to a client about in person. It’s real. It’s authentic.
  • Google is ranking content higher that’s more direct and shorter.

Ensure your website features consistent branding for your law firm, including cohesive language and overall style.

How Array Digital conquers Google’s Core updates

 This image captures a professional setting where a man and a woman are engaged in a focused discussion. The man, dressed in a navy blue suit and tan pants, is holding a notebook and a pen, evidently taking notes or presenting a point. The woman, in a light beige blazer, listens intently. They are seated close to each other on a couch, with a glimpse of a patterned floor in the background, suggesting a relaxed yet formal meeting environment. This setting is suitable for topics related to business discussions, consultations, or strategic planning sessions.

Our team at Array Digital is already working with clients to create custom strategies that align brands with search engine results. We offer transparency in what we do, why we do it, and what the outcome will be.

Through our years as SEO practitioners, we have discovered several tactics that help our clients’ websites thrive after numerous Google algorithm updates. Here are our tips.

You need authorship. Period.

Your content needs to have an author. Trust built through authorship is a ranking factor.

By putting your name on your website content, you’re signaling to Google that the information on that page comes from a trustworthy and experienced resource.

We can soothe attorneys’ fears about misinformation or breaking ABA marketing rules. Because we specifically provide content for attorneys, we know how to write content that’s accurate and clear. At Array Digital, we write your content but don’t publish it until you approve it. There’s no risk to your firm.

SEO Tactics That Are Detrimental to Your Law Firm’s Site

This Google leak means we also know what’s harmful. Some SEO tactics actually hurt websites. This isn’t new to the content we create at Array Digital. Here are key concerns:

  • Keyword cannibalization (trying to rank each page for too many keywords, leading to one page detracting from the success of another)
  • Low content quality, including content that’s just regurgitated from other websites
  • Duplicate content, which includes content on multiple pages that are too similar

When a client first comes to us, we often see these problems:

  • Keyword cannibalization
  • Misspellings
  • Content without an author
  • Content that does not answer questions
  • A general lack of strategy

We work with our clients to determine what problems exist and how to fix them. That could mean merging pages to keep them from battling each other in the search engines. It may include redirecting pages or writing brand new content that is more brand specific.

Many of our clients went from having websites that failed to perform to getting qualified leads in just a few months.

“The entire team at Array Digital is amazing! They are incredibly knowledgeable and very quick to respond to their clients’ needs or concerns. If you are looking for a professional team to handle your website, I definitely recommend them!!!” — Donna T.

“Kevin and his team at Array Digital are the proverbial Pros from Dover. I was a guest on his podcast, and he made it easy and conversational. His digital marketing team is also top-notch — they’re growing firms by leaps and bounds. In the digital age, digital marketing is no longer optional, particularly in certain fields like PI law, criminal/traffic law, and family law, which are volume practices. Kevin and Array Digital are uniquely positioned to help firms practice in the 21st century of tech.” — Rob B.

Get noticed in the SERPs: Create quality content

You’re ready to take on Google’s updates. Let’s do it together. Contact Array Digital now by calling 757-333-3021 or using our contact form.

Written By Gary Honold
President / CMO
I am a digital marketer and SEO manager with 30+ years’ experience driving web traffic, leads, and conversions for clients in highly competitive markets.

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