Episode 11: Google Leak & AI Overviews

Podcast Episode Notes


Here are some of the biggest takeaways from this episode:

  • 1. Google Algorithm Leak Insights:

    • Summary of the Leak: On May 27th, Rand Fishkin of SparkToro and Mike King of iPullRank published articles detailing a significant Google algorithm leak. The leak exposed 14,000 ranking factors, revealing discrepancies between Google’s public statements and internal practices.
    • Key Findings:
      • NavBoost System: Uses click-driven data to influence rankings.
      • Emphasis on User Experience: Focus on metrics like content relevance and backlink quality.
      • Contradictory Information: Domain authority and Chrome data use were revealed as factors, contrary to previous Google statements.
    • Actionable Steps:
      • Stay informed by reading detailed summaries and analyzing the documentation.
      • Implement a “test for yourself” mindset, focusing on recognized strategies that move the needle in content marketing.
      • Continue to build a recognizable brand, optimize user engagement, integrate SEO with other marketing activities, and provide quality link-building.

    2. Building a Recognizable Brand:

    • Importance of Brand Familiarity: Content needs to be discovered to achieve marketing goals. Creating campaigns to introduce your brand to new audiences and personas is essential.
    • User Engagement: Optimize your content for user experience by providing direct answers, reducing ads, and ensuring fast page load times.

    3. SEO and Marketing Integration:

    • Holistic Approach: SEO should be integrated into all marketing activities, not siloed. It should be a key component of campaign structures to ensure discoverability and effectiveness.
    • Link Building Strategy: Focus on quality, authoritative, and relevant links. Have a strategic plan for internal and external linking to enhance user experience and rankings.

    4. AI Overviews:

    • Understanding AI Overviews: These are snippets generated by Google’s AI, appearing at the top of search results. They provide quick answers to queries, often above organic results.
    • Current Status: Google has stepped back on AI overviews for certain industries due to concerns about accuracy and ethical implications.
    • Actionable Steps:
      • Be direct and authoritative in your content to be cited in AI overviews.
      • Monitor analytics daily to track changes and understand the impact of AI overviews on your content.

Mentioned Tools & Resources:

These are the tools and resources that were mentioned in the podcast episode:

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Episode Transcript

¬†Ashley Segura: Welcome back to content in the kitchen. I’m your host, Ashley Sagura, the co-founder and CMO of ContentYum. In today’s episode, we’re diving into some hot off the press tea within the search industry. We’ll be discussing the recent Google algorithm leak, as well as new AI overviews which are appearing in search and break down what all of this means for us as content marketers and brands. Grab your favorite snack, grab some tea. It is gonna get juicy, and let’s get cooking.

Okay. So let’s dive in first with this whole Google algorithm leak. There has been so much published about this leak and the leak alone has been published. So I’m going to try and summarize the findings, make it a bit easier to understand, basically give you the spark notes version of the leak and what we know from it and what some SEO takeaways are, as well as.

How you should be focusing this within your content and like pivoting strategies, or not pivoting strategies, like what all of this looks like and summarize it as best as I possibly can. So let’s start from the very beginning. On May 27th, Rand Fishkin of SparkToro and Mike King of iPullRank published articles on their websites¬†¬†

Really great tool. Definitely recommend checking out SparkToro. Okay, so Rand and Mike published articles on their sites basically releasing items from this Google algorithm leak and basically telling the whole world, hey, Look what happened. There has been a leak that has to do with Google’s algorithm.

Come take a look at our findings. So the 411 on the leak and how it happened, basically the documentation was accidentally published publicly. Fun times at Google. And then was fixed on May 7th, but automated documentation was still live. Dan Petrovic of Dejan marketing independently discovered the exposed repo and was studying it for weeks prior to May 27th, when 

Most of the world found out about this. So both Rand and Mike published really detailed posts explaining the specifics of the leak. Hats off to you both. This was Memorial weekend. And while most of us were barbecuing or playing in the water or being with friends and family, they were literally analyzing Dozens and dozens of pages, 14, 000 ranking factors, like they analyzed so much and spent the whole weekend going into this to be able to release it to all of us and let us know, Hey, this is what happened.

This is the information that we have, which. Basically, by the time Monday came around, the internet was in chaos, like everyone was going to Mike’s article, reading everything that they could, getting into the documentation, getting their hands on it, and trying to make sense of everything, and that’s because there was a lot of things that didn’t make sense based on what we’ve been told.

Let’s get into the specifics of this leaked information. So the leak exposed a bunch of different ranking factors. Also showed adjustments to existing ones and overall impacts on search results. Some of the biggest findings were that there are specific systems like NavBoost that use click driven data to influence rankings. Some of the other big findings were the increased emphasis on user experience, metrics, content relevance, and backlink quality, which, you know, that kind of echoes a lot of what we’ve seen since the whole helpful content update and everything that Google has been telling us.

So that part, that kind of made a little bit of sense, but then it gets tricky because. Domain authority was stated within the leaked docs and the use of click data, the use of click data with the whole NavBoost. So in 2016, we were told by we, as in SEOs, the internet, we’re told by a Google search employee that the company, Google does not have a website authority score.

So domain authority is not a ranking factor. Interesting. And then Google has also explicitly denied using Chrome data in search rankings, which the leak revealed is not so much the case. So the leak showed that Google considers click rate data from its Chrome web browser, website size, and a factor called domain authority as a measure of a website’s importance or relevance on a particular subject to guide rankings.

Thank you, NYPost, for summarizing that. So through the 14, 000 ranking features that were released in this link, it was made really clear that Google’s public statements, Are a little bit contradictory compared to actual internal practices and what they’re doing. And as SEOs, as content marketers, as business owners, we obviously want to abide by the book that we’re given from Google and the information that we’re given from Google.

To try and get those page one rankings to try and get targeted traffic to our website. That is our goal with the content that we’re producing, whether it’s conversions, engagement, lead gen, there’s hundreds of different marketing goals that you can try and accomplish from your content.

But it all leads back to your content needs to be discovered for any of those goals to happen. So these ranking factors are Really contradictory to what we’ve been told we should or shouldn’t do in the past from Google. So basically the SEO community is upset, like in so many different ways you have the side of the SEO community that still doesn’t believe the leak and is like down the conspiracy rabbit hole, which, skepticism, a safe level of it, is goodood to have in every single industry. And then you have the other side of SEOs who are like studying this, like the Bible and are literally taking everything that they’re finding and now implementing brand new strategies and like diving all in on these strategies. And then you have the other SEOs and content marketers who are like, okay, let’s step back and look at this from a bigger picture.

What is this information telling us? And what can we safely and very carefully do to make changes? Let’s not throw out our entire strategy that we’ve had or as an SEO, like everything that we’ve been doing for the past decade. Let’s not throw that out, but let’s get strategic here and let’s test things.

So basically the whole SEO community is Very much up in a roar of what to do. On May 29th, Google did come out and confirm that the leak is in fact real. Obviously. And there’s an article on the verge about it. The verge has been covering quite a lot of this. and even with Google confirming it, there’s still some conspiracy theorists that are like, this leak isn’t real or this information.

Is it real? How can we trust that? Everything that’s been published is factual and that this isn’t just a rabbit hole that Mike or Rand is trying to make us go down. It’s a lot. So let’s get back to the facts and you know what we do now and what we need to do. So as far as immediate actions.

There’s a lot of different ways that you can jump into this and a lot of different perspectives, as I shared, but really, the safest thing that you can do is to continue to stay informed and read detailed leaked information literally. This is being covered by industries around the world. This is not just a SEO community thing.

This is being covered by news industries. There’s so much information. There’s a lot of great summaries on it. And then of course there’s the documentation itself. If you really want to go down that rabbit hole and see for yourself what was actually leaked. I suggest that you implement a test for yourself kind of mindset right now and focus on the things that we do know for sure move the needle within content arching.

And some of these were echoed within the leak, like building a recognizable brand. If people don’t know who your brand is, it will be more difficult for them to discover your content. It will also be more difficult for them to trust your content, to trust what you have to say, to trust that when you say that my product really is the best,that they’re going to actually believe you because they haven’t really heard of you or they don’t have brand familiarity. So creating content campaigns, introducing your brand to new audiences, new personas, building out those persona profiles and identifying how you need to present your brand to them.

And taking the time to warm them up to who you are and what you have to offer is still so important. And that’s really traditional marketing one on one. That’s really solid. The backbones of good content marketing, then there’s optimizing user engagement for UX and UI efforts. This is, back in the days of conversion rate optimization, I feel like we don’t talk about that enough these days.

Now it’s all just UX, which, essentially, are very similar. So your content needs provide a really great user experience. What does that mean? It honestly means a lot of things and it can really vary depending upon the content type and the content medium. But an example for that is if someone is looking for how to bake a cake. And you give them a blog post with instructions on how to bake a cake and you present the instructions as this is step one. This is step two.

Here are all the ingredients that you’re going to need. Here are some different variations of how to bake a cake. Say you don’t have an oven or you want to do this in a Dutch oven or I don’t know, insert variations here, an idea. You’re providing the information that they’re actually looking for.

You’re not burying it with 500 words of where cake was invented or how cake was invented or your favorite type of cake. You’re giving them the exact answer, making the user experience very fluid. Another thing that affects user experience is your ads. How many ads do you have? How many pop ups are coming as soon as I land on your page before I can even get the information or another way that user experience could be affected.

Page load times. If your site is not loading fast, I’m out. I am literally going to jump on my pogo stick and bounce right outside of your page and go right back to Google and click on the next result. And hopefully their site’s going to load a lot faster for me as a user. So optimizing your content for user engagement is still absolutely vital, not just for rankings, but for users to engage with your content and for you to provide helpful content.

Then there’s integrating SEO with all of your other marketing activities. So SEO doesn’t just sit over here in this dark corner and you think about it every once in a while, or you have a single person to do SEO and you just cross your fingers and hope it works. No, SEO is a part of your entire marketing strategy.

It needs to be implemented together and it needs to tie together with your campaigns. So what that means from a content marketing perspective. Content marketing is not just blog posts and it’s not just optimizing blog posts. If you’re launching a brand new product, or if you’re trying to do a lead gen campaign, SEO is going to play a huge role in that because you need people to discover this.

You need people who are searching for this information to be able to discover your content. So that’s where SEO is a huge part of this puzzle. But a lot of times brands are siloing the idea of SEO and not thinking about it when they’re basically mapping out a campaign structure, SEO needs to be top on that campaign structure needs to be just as important as the words that are going to go on a page or that social graphic or that video that you’ve been dying to create.

It needs to be just as important as all those elements. And then there’s providing quality, authoritative and relevant link building. So that’s definitely something that is leak echoed quite a bit is that link building is still important, but you need to have a plan with it. We’re not just throwing links out there and crossing our fingers and hoping for the best.

There needs to be an actual strategy behind link building and where you’re going to get your backlinks from what even your internal linking strategies looks like and what kind of path you’re giving your user, which again, echoes user experience. You also want to select the right format for your content to meet user search intent.

Ifyour user is searching for a bit of information that is very short and to the point these are going to be food related. I love food. It’s easy. You love food, too. So when we want to know what oven temperature to bake something at, we’re going to go to Google and say What temperature do I need to air fry chicken wings at?

And Google is going to populate a bunch of articles or AI overviews, which we’ll get to in a second. And it’ll say one article may say 425 degrees and then we’ll say 400, but then you’ll have one that like buries that information three fourths of the way down the page. I have to keep scrolling to find that if there’s no jump to buttons to get me to the information that I’m actually searching for within your content, I’m out and you’ve just lost me as a user.

And then finally develop real expertise within your niche and feature expert authors. That can be you. If you are the expert for your brand, then hats off to you. Start producing content, start telling the world how much of an expert you are. And not by just saying Hey, look at me. I am an expert. I am the numero uno, but no, by producing a bunch of content that’s relevant to your expertise, you want to build up a bunch of different pillar pieces of content that Echo the point that you were trying to make, aka the topic within your niche.

So I’ll use myself as an example. I’m a content marketer. I love doing content marketing. I’ve been doing content marketing for 14 years. I produce content about content marketing. I interview other content marketers to figure out what are they doing? What are their strategies? I interview other brands to see how do they approach content marketing?

They’re not content marketers. They’re brand owners. How are they identifying content marketing? I have all of these conversations and produce a variety of content, from video to graphics, to infographics, to images, to this podcast on content marketing to help establish that, hey, not only do I know content marketing, but I’m talking to other content marketing experts.

This is how you can develop authority online. So those are. Just a few of the many things that you can really take away and implement into your strategy. And for those who are like, cool, thanks. I’ve already been told that a thousand times since the helpful content update, there’s still a lot of you that aren’t actually implementing this.

And it’s as simple as get a heat mapping tool. Figure out on your newest pieces of content or even the ones from last year, where are people dropping off? Identify why do you think they’re dropping off? Do some good old traditional marketing, put on that detective hat and figure out what is the user pattern with your content?

What is their experience actually like? What are they doing? Really take a step back and think as an industry, as a whole, and even as brands trying to do this marketing for themselves, the one man, woman bands, we’re getting so lost in the technical sauce right now because of all the algorithm updates.

And then we have this giant leak thrown at us and summer is about to happen. Ain’t no one taking any time off anytime soon with everything that’s happening. We’re getting so lost in all of this that we’re forgetting the traditional aspects of what makes marketing work. What makes your content actually convert?

And it really comes down to understanding what your user wants. That’s gonna be user intent, what they’re doing with your content. Once they find it, where are the drop offs? Why are they dropping off? Is it your internal linking strategy? Is it how you display the content? Are you looking at the competitor data to figure out their current top 10 ranking articles?

How are they positioned? What do they look like? What information do they include? Really focus on getting back to the basics and implementing a strategy that identifies the true user behavior with your content. Okay, that’s all I’m gonna say about the leak for now. I’m sure we’ll have another episode on it and I’ll see who I can get on so we can dive into the really technical aspects of it.

But from a content marketing perspective I hope you enjoyed it andcan feel a little bit clearer and a bit more confident with the information from the leak. But again, I definitely recommend like I did at the very beginning, take a look at all of the articles for yourself. Check out Rand’s site. Check out Mike King’s article.

It’s a fantastic article. And there’s been a lot of great resources since then, but there’s also still a lot of information, even from the YouTube section of the leak that has still yet to be analyzed. And I know people are going to be diving into that. So more on the leak later, but for now, red alerts away and focus on traditional marketing.

Now let’s talk about AI overviews. So AI overviews are snippets and summaries that are generated by Google’s AI that appear at the top of search results, which is really fun. They provide quick, concise answers to user queries and these overviews are integrated directly into the search engine results page, often above organic results, AKA above us.

We’re working so hard just to get to that page one. This definitely has an impact onmarketing SEO, content, branding, all of it. This has a big impact. Since the big talk of AI overviews at the, middle of May when it was a bit more chaotic and scary. Google has stepped back quite a bit on the AI overviews that are populating based on types of queries.

Aleyda Solis has published a lot of great information on. different types of industries that are less likely to have AI overviews populate for them. I will link to that in the show notes. I’ll also be linking to all of the references from the Google leak in the show notes.

So don’t worry about having to go run to Google and search all of this. All of the articles will be in here. But there’s been some interesting findings like publishing and sports are less likely to have AI overview answers, but then that has also changed. And so it depends on your location and what you’re seeing, but everyone’s seen something a little bit different on AI overviews.

I spent most of yesterday trying to populate AI overviews on my desktop and my phone so that I can take screenshots and get started. I was struggling to find them, which is a good sign that Google kind of got a big red flag from the industry. Big thanks to Lily Ray and a lot of the other SEOs who alerted Google that, Hey, a lot of the information that AI overviews is populating is either incorrect or unethical.

What it’s populating like some of these, you can Google and see some of the search results that were populating an AI overviews. And it was bad. It was really bad, like dangerously bad. And so thankfully, Google is stepping back on this quite a bit. So what do you need to do now? And how freaked out should you be about AI overuse?

¬†Google has published a lot of different tools throughout its lifetime. A lot of them never stuck. They never worked out in the long run. Will AI overviews stick? Will it become a thing years from now? Will we still have it? I don’t know. I don’t have that crystal ball, with AI being so mainstream. I’m sure a variation of it will, and we should be prepared for that to be a reality at some point from a search engine perspective.

but I think there’s going to be a lot of variations until we get to what is quote unquote the norm for this. So do you need to freak out? No. If you want your article to be cited within this AI overview, if you want the answer to come from your piece of content, you need to be really direct with that answer.

You cannot be burying that answer down the page. If someone is searching for a very specific question, You need to deliver that answer and then provide additional information and make sure you’re addressing all of the other questions that are related to that specific question, basically being very authoritative and helpful at the same time.

Do you see how this is like checking all of the boxes like it’s the helpful content updates, the Google March core update, the Google leaks and what we’re finding out from there. And then this whole AI overviews, like. There’s a lot of unique strategies that you can come up with in angles that you can go to, but at the core of all of this is delivering very helpful information with your content and not burying the answers, not burying the lead is we would call it in journalism.

Everything with AI, it’s new. It doesn’t mean it’s permanent, especially when it comes to AI overviews. So even though a lot of us are freaking out right now, my advice is to just breathe, focus on the strategies that I just talked about and keep track of your analytics. Like you better be looking at your analytics every single day, monitor any kind of changes in it.

Try and trace back to what could have caused those changes. If you’re ever confused, put that user hat on, go on to Google, go to page one, type in that keyword, type in that query, see what’s currently ranking and see how it compares to what you have. There’s a lot of great tools that will do that for you, but sometimes the best is to just be a user yourself.

So that’s all from me again, I will link a ton of articles and references that I mentioned throughout this episode in the show notes. I definitely recommend read them all or if nothing else copy and paste them, throw them into chat and get the summary because this is important information. And this is a really important time in SEO to be aware of what’s going on.

That is all for me this time. Tune in next week as we have a brand new episode. Thank you.