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What Google’s Search Document Leak Means for Local Bank SEO

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By Brian Devine

On May 27, over 2,500 documents from Google’s internal API were shared by long-time SEO industry veteran Rand Fishkin, who published his own analysis of the documents. These documents are densely technical and reveal some of the inner workings of Google’s search algorithm, specifically the type of data that Google collects from websites and user behavior originating from their search results page. Google has since confirmed the veracity of these documents.

Whether you’re a bank marketer trying to understand how this information can impact your local SEO strategy or you simply need to provide answers to your higher-ups who are asking what this all means, I’m going to provide you with insights, my reasoned opinions (based on 10 years of experience), and what actions you can take based on this inside information.

Important things to know about the google doc leak

Important Things To Know

This leak does not reveal how  Google’s search algorithm works. Rather, it gives us a good indication of what kind of data Google collects, which can therefore impact your search rankings.

The leaked information contradicts public statements Google representatives have made in the past when it comes to what data impacts search results, including clicks, Google Chrome data, and user behavior.

The document does not reveal how these signals are weighted (if at all) in Google’s algorithm, nor do SEO experts suddenly have all the answers (though I wouldn’t be surprised if less reputable marketing agencies start acting like they do).

Take everything with a grain of salt. Regardless of Google’s history of truthfulness on the matter, they cautioned in an email to The Verge “against making inaccurate assumptions about Search based on out-of-context, outdated, or incomplete information,” and I have to say I agree.

While this information is valuable, turning your entire SEO strategy upside down based on what is found here could spell trouble. Rather, I suggest identifying actionable insights that align with long-standing SEO best practices.

Remember: Correlation vs Causation

One More Thing: Correlation vs. Causation

Google has historically been cagey about giving answers or revealing what directly impacts search results. Whether it’s in an effort to guide best practices, protect proprietary information, or other nebulous reasoning, it’s not surprising that Google will be selective when it comes to revealing the inner workings of their search engine, even if it means denying truthful assumptions based on semantic arguments.

With that in mind, I suggest remembering that their tracking of this type of data does not guarantee a causal effect on search rankings. It does, however, indicate correlation.

For example, Google has in the past said that dwell time does not directly impact search results, despite case studies by SEO experts indicating otherwise. The information revealed in this leak shows that such data (or something similar) IS gathered by Google.

Perhaps that means dwell time does directly impact search results, or it could mean that dwell time simply correlates with another metric that Google does care about, such as how users engage with content on a page and is therefore something they observe as they make changes to their constantly evolving algorithm.

Regardless of how Google uses the data, dwell time is still a valuable metric to track as you optimize your website, and improved dwell time on pages can correlate to ranking improvement.

Top Revelations from Google’s Document Leak

While the documents are still being analyzed, some important insights have been discovered and agreed upon by SEO experts to be valuable revelations.

  1. Click Stream Data: While Google has historically denied that click data makes an impact on search rankings, the document reveals that they heavily track clicks (and categorize their individual value) using a system called NavBoost.
  2. Site Authority: Google has repeatedly denied in the past that they use ‘Domain Authority,’ a metric created by Rand Fishkin’s Moz which attempts to score a website and predict how likely it is to rank in the search engine.As it turns out, the document reveals they have a metric called SiteAuthority which is computed and applied. How impactful it is or how it is weighted is unknown, but this does seem to indicate that Moz’s Domain Authority is a valuable metric when it comes to indicating ranking potential.
  3. Branding: One of the biggest takeaways seems to be the advantage that large brands receive in search. The larger and more popular a brand, the less it seems they need to play by Google’s rules in order to rank for search terms, even outside that brand’s specialty. This means medium and small businesses have an uphill (but not impossible) climb when it comes to competing against larger brands.
Actionable Insights From The Google Doc Leak

Actions You Can Implement in Your Bank SEO Strategy Today

The information revealed in the document will continue to be parsed and analyzed for a long time, some key insights have already been made, revealing actions you can implement in your local SEO strategy today.

User Behavior Drives Everything:

First and foremost is user behavior. I put this at the top because I believe it aligns with Google’s long-term goals when it comes to organic search, which is returning the most valuable information to a person’s search query. As such, it makes sense that they would consider user engagement and behavior (possibly collected from Chrome data as the leak indicates) to play a role in search rankings.

  • Search Intent:
    How users interact with search results can play a role in rankings. A result that gets more clicks from users in the results can outrank other pages, even if those other pages have better domain authority or content. Considering what people are looking for when they search for a keyword and doing your best to match their intent and return information that they want should always be part of your SEO strategy.
  • Clicks:
    We’ve learned that click signals are tracked, but it’s more about what type of clicks you get. Users who land on your website and leave immediately (called a POGO Click) sends a negative signal to Google. Likewise, someone clicking into your website and staying provides better signals to Google. You can decrease POGO Clicks and increase good clicks by putting the most important information high on your web page. Understand that when someone lands on your page, you often have just a few seconds to capture and keep them there. Do so with clear calls to action and high-value information that they are looking for.
  • Engagement:
    You don’t need to think about content as just copy. Engaging content can include valuable graphics or interactive elements like a mortgage calculator. The more you can encourage users to engage with content on your site and provide them with valuable engagement actions, the more relevant Google will find the SEO optimized keywords tied to that page.

Evaluate Your Title Tags

One of the smaller but still impactful revelations from the leak is Google’s continued weight towards title tags. We’ve learned:

  • Title tag length appears to be an SEO myth.
  • How well a title tag directly matches a search query can have a positive impact on rankings.

Caveat: While this indicates that you can ‘optimize’ your title tags with extremely long-tail keywords in an attempt to match search queries, you should still remember that the title tag has one of the biggest impacts on clicks from the search results page, and if your title tag appears overly optimized, this can appear spammy and deter clicks.

Find a middle ground: You can still optimize title tags for search queries, but keep in mind that once you’re ranking for a search result, you still need to convince people to click on your website, and an inviting title tag is one of the best ways to do so.

Short Content Quality over Long Content Quantity

A long-term practice in SEO is writing long-term content for long-term content’s sake. The idea is that long-form content is needed to provide sufficient keyword insertion and full coverage of a topic in order to rank effectively. An attribute found in the Google leak titled ‘OriginalContentScore’ indicates that shorter content is graded on originality. Likewise, thin content can include long content that is unoriginal or doesn’t provide direct answers. This follows in line with Google’s recent helpful content update, which impacted spammy websites that targeted user search queries without providing direct answers. You’re better off answering a user question in an original, thoughtful way than providing long-form text without any direct answers.


It’s revealed that Google stores author information as a search item. If you’re currently publishing blog content or articles without author bylines, consider having real people at your bank author blog posts. This can build authority (EEAT) for the post, and if you have the same person author other similar posts, Google can see them as subject matter experts, further enhancing the authoritativeness of your content.

Content Freshness and Date of Post

Google cares about how relevant and ‘fresh’ your content is and looks at the date a page was posted when factoring search results. Ensuring your blog or article content has a specific publish date in the byline as well as a matching date in the structured data sitemap is crucial. Mismatching dates from your URL or title compared to the actual page date can lower your content’s effectiveness.

Font Size Matters

Old-school SEO optimized content by bolding terms and making certain terms larger. This lost relevance over the years, but the leak indicates that larger fonts for some terms can be helpful when compared to average weighted font size. If used sparingly and effectively, enlarging certain keywords in your content can have a positive impact.

Write Gold Standard Content

Create Gold Standard Content (And Promote It)

Gold Standard Content is a term indicated in the leak and can be tied to Google’s use of real people when grading some search documents. If you focus on creating gold standard content—content so superb that Google’s team of quality raters deem it extra helpful—then it’s possible this content can not only rank better but improve the overall authoritativeness of your site.

Focus on a niche topic that members of your bank can speak on authoritatively, have them author a blog post that seeks to answer questions real people ask and is highly original, and then promote that content to build brand awareness. You may be on your way to achieving Gold Standard Content and putting your bank above the competition.

Final Thoughts

The SEO industry is constantly evolving and will continue to do so. Ten years ago, Google’s Panda update shook search results and changed how we approached SEO. At the time, many SEO practitioners responded by believing Google had made SEO impossible when in reality it just required them to adjust how they approached their strategy.

While we don’t know everything that will be revealed in this document or how it will play out long-term, we do know that there are meaningful insights we can act on today within our own SEO strategies.

If you’re curious about the actionable items I described here today, want to know more about the Google leak, or are interested in a bank marketing agency that can sift through information like this to find actions that drive real results, then reach out to us at Bank Bound today and we’ll work with you to improve your local Bank SEO.

About BankBound SEO Services

BankBound is a marketing agency specialized in digital marketing solutions for financial institutions. Our expertise in all-things digital coupled with our knowledge and ties to the banking industry make us a uniquely valuable resource to growing your digital presence.

Our team is made up of a wide-range of digital marketing experts with varied experience including experts in SEO who know the ins and outs of local organic presence. We use this SEO expertise to make insights from big SEO trends (such as the Google document leak) and how they impact smaller institutions across the local banking landscape.

Visit our about page to learn more about BankBounds Digital Marketing Services and the experts that make up our team.

Briane Devine, Author and Marketer