Google’s Cat Out Of The Bag

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In what can only be considered a devastating leak of information from Google HQ in Mountain View, a confirmed but as yet publicly anonymous executive from Google has leaked papers detailing some of the key fundamentals to Google’s link value calculation system. The announcement by Google earlier today details some of the contents of this information as they work hard to minimize the effect that this will have on their algorithm as SEO’s around the world scramble get their hands on it. The news, first leaked by SEO-guru Danny Sullivan on Search Engine Land, comes as a shock of sorts and leaves SEO’s scratching their heads figuring out what to do. There has been startled reaction from the community but first – let’s cover a few of the key points (we’ll provide a link to more thorough information below).

The leaked information confirmed and illuminated the following information:

  • The PageRank we see in the green bar has no bearing on how a site will rank. This information is generated internally based on user expectations and not as a ranking factor.
  • The weighing of factors occurs in the following order: Google’s internal PageRank, position on page, number of links on the page, anchor text, relevancy. I found it VERY interesting that trust is not yet a calculation on link worth though this may be an omission in the information provided.
  • Reciprocal linking is detectable and while it is not penalized, no value is given for the links. A limitation outlined in this is the Google apparently has little ability to to detect legitimate linking sites that happen to link to each other.
  • Paid links are not detectable. There is currently no architecture for the automatic detection of paid links. Google relies on reporting by SEO’s and webmasters.
  • There’s a lot more in there – this is just what I’ve gleaned at the time of this writing. There’s a link below to the documents themselves.

I had a chance to have a very brief chat with Matt Cutts (quality control guru from Google) who has told us he will be responding on his blog once more information on the leak becomes available (and I’m sure when he’s given the OK by the Gods of Google to talk). His response to this leak was, “… this is obviously an issue we are going to have to deal with quickly. We expect SEO’s to take quick advantage of this information and a strategy is being developed to deal with this and make adjustments to the algorithm shortly.” You can monitor Matt’s comments on his blog and a big thanks to him for taking a moment out of his understandably hectic schedule to answer a couple questions for me.

On the other side of the coin sit the SEO’s. While we’re all obviously reading all the information we can on the leak – we do so with some concern. In an email from Rand Fishkin from SEOmoz he noted, “You might think this is a great opportunity for SEO’s but it’s not – in fact this is one of the worst things that could happen. All the information we’re all reading will be invalid by the time we could employ the tactics and we’re about to head into a period of significant instability in regards to Google’s rankings . Not only do we have to fear for the rankings we’ve worked hard to attain over the years – we also have to deal with rankings that will be in a constant state of flux over the next few months. Clients are NOT going to be happy.” Good call Rand and you can monitor his comments on the subject on their blog at

This is obviously an issue you’re going to want to research this issue – there’s a lot more about this and links to the documents on the cnet site at Well, the article is actually about Google’s April Fool’s Day joke but we think ours was fun too. 🙂 Enjoy the day. 😉

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