May was a challenging month for Google. The launch of AI Overviews didn’t go as planned, and a set of Search API documents were leaked, revealing over 14,000 top-secret factors used in their search algorithms.

Several industry experts like Mike King, Rand Fishkin and Danny Goodwin have provided helpful recaps, but these can be highly technical. Here’s a TLDR; a simplified summary of their key points and actionable steps for publishers.

Biggest Takeaways For Publishers

1. Brand Mentions are as Good as Links

Backlinks (ie links pointing to your site from other websites) have long been a crucial SEO factor, based on the theory that people link to content they love, indicating high quality. The API leak confirms that backlinks still matter, but brand mentions are now equally important. Increased brand mentions signal popularity, just like backlinks. For publishers, having a strong presence across various digital channels, like social media, email marketing, and online communities, can help increase the amount of people who know about and talk about your brand.

Actionable Steps:

  • Build a strong presence across digital channels outside of Google Search (social media, email marketing, online communities).
  • Enhance brand recognition.
  • Create quality, engaging content that establishes your brand’s authority and trustworthiness.

2. Monitor your Clickstream Data

The leak revealed that Chrome clickstream data is the most powerful ranking signal. Clickstream data includes user navigation details, such as pages visited, time spent, next destinations, and exit speed. Clickstream data is measured any time a URL loads in a browser, from any referring source.

Actionable Steps:

  • Create content that attracts and retains users.
  • Use tools like SimilarWeb or Google Analytics to analyze user interaction.
  • Monitor metrics like bounce rate, time on page, and click-through rates.

3. All Traffic Matters

Metrics from all traffic types impact organic search rankings. Great content and exceptional user experience reflect positively in metrics, which Google rewards. Conversely, low-quality traffic can harm rankings. Google uses a variety of measurements, including badClicks, goodClicks, lastLongestClicks and unsquashedClicks to determine value of a webpage.

Actionable Steps:

  • Focus on attracting high-quality traffic.
  • Avoid buying low-quality traffic that results in short sessions.

4. Google Systems are Connected

The leak introduced a factor called “glue,” which integrates signals from other Google platforms (YouTube, Google Maps, Google Reviews) into the organic ranking system.

Actionable Steps:

  • Maintain a presence on relevant Google platforms.
  • Create helpful videos on YouTube and embed them in your articles.

5. SEO Basics of the Past are Still Relevant

Factors like Pagerank, backlinks, authorship, entities, meta data, HTML title tags, page speed, and structured data remain important.

Actionable Steps:


Focus on Quality and User Experience, and Signals Will Follow

To succeed in Google’s organic search index, publishers must focus on delivering value to their customers through high-quality products, services, content, and experiences. Google’s advanced algorithms evaluate how users interact with your content and consider signals from other platforms where your brand is present.

When people value your business, they will contribute links, reviews, and brand mentions. They will engage with your site, share your content, and visit regularly. These signals help Google determine your placement in search results, reflecting the value of your brand.

Building a valuable brand leads to better search rankings, as Google measures data from all these interactions to decide who ranks at the top.