What's in the leak of Google's internal search documents?

A trove of internal Google documents leaked this week, offering insight into how the search engine ranks websites. Mia Sato describes it as "an unprecedented look into Google's inner workings" even if it doesn't quite expose the secrets of the "algorithm" that SEO experts would most like to see. Most significantly, Sato writes, the documents suggest that the company has lied about how it assesses and ranks content.

Over the years, Google spokespeople have repeatedly denied that user clicks factor into ranking websites, for example — but the leaked documents make note of several types of clicks users make and indicate they feed into ranking pages in search. Testimony from the antitrust suit by the US Department of Justice previously revealed a ranking factor called Navboost that uses searchers' clicks to elevate content in search.

"To me, the larger, meta takeaway is that even more of Google's public statements about what they collect and how their search engine works have strong evidence against them," Rand Fishkin, a veteran of the search engine optimization (SEO) industry, told The Verge via email.

CNET concludes likewise.

The massive leak of API documentation seems to confirm what search engine optimization experts had been speculating about for years, despite that speculation often being denied by Google. For example, this leaked documentation appears to indicate that click-through rate affects ranking, that subdomains have their own rankings, that newer websites are thrown into a separate "sandbox" until they start ranking higher in Search and that the age of a domain is a consideration in ranking.

The documents were first leaked to SEO expert Rand Fishkin, co-founder of SparkToro and Snack Bar Studio, by Erfan Azimi, CEO of EA Eagle Digital, a digital marketing agency. Documents were also leaked to Mike King of iPullRank.

Google was never under any obligation to be truthful about any of this, but it's good to be informed that the public counterparts to these documents are largely PR.