By Kaitie Frank
18 Jun 2024

Insights From Mike King’s Q+A at SMX Advanced


To wrap up SMX Advanced 2024, Danny Goodwin hosted a Q&A with Mike King, one of the SEO professionals who first informed us about the leaked Google documents. He and Rand Fishkin broke the news of the leaked documents over X. 

Here are the takeaways. 

The Biggest Surprise of the Google Leak

A viewer asked one of the first questions: “Is there anything that wasn’t in the API list that really surprised you?”

King replied that two things surprised him: 

  1. There was nothing related to disavow 
  2. There was nothing about how mentions are used, similar to links. 

He explained:

“It's really like mentions are, tied back to the knowledge graph and entities and so on and how they can resolve the presence of an entity on a page, but, you know, downstream, they may use that in a variety of different ways.”

King also said that the disavow attributes might be in a separate system. However, he hasn’t seen anything related to those in the way he expected. 

How Does the Leak Change SEO Practices?

Since the leak, many SEOs (and Google) have claimed that it does not change SEO practices. This is significant because the attributes hold no weight; therefore, we cannot be sure how much each attribute affects the algorithm. 

However, King states that this leak can majorly change SEO practices. He explains that this is an opportunity for SEOs to be more experimental in their strategies, opting for out-of-the-box solutions now that the community knows what the algorithm looks for. 

“There are frankly things in here that I'd never considered that Google might be using as features that they're considering.”

Additionally, King says that now we know Google looks at clicks, we have further verification that SEO and user experience need to work together. 

“For SEO, of course, you can do a UX without SEO, but I don't think you should be doing SEO without UX because you've gotta do things to present information in such a way that it's going to be sticky for the user. They create more of those longer clicks. There's more opportunity for them to stay on the page.”

Lastly, King explains that this leak justifies the need for uber-focused content. 

“I also think that content needs to be even more focused. I think historically, in SEO for the purpose of link building, we've all been going towards lifestyle content, no matter what your subject area is, because that's more appealing to more people. But you run the risk of creating content that's so far outside of your core topic area that it's so diluted that it's not really going to work as well based on what we've learned from how Google is measuring different things.”

What Is the Site Authority Attribute?

For years, Google has claimed that it does not use domain authority as a signal for its algorithm. The big leak may have proved otherwise, as King discovered a site authority attribute in the documents. Multiple attributes, including homepage and page rank signals, point to what could be considered a “domain authority-type” signal. 

King states:

“I think it's just a clear signal or a series of clear signals that Google does look at things at the site level, which they've said that they don't. And so the site authority measures, metrics, ranking factors, or whatever you want to call them. That one doesn't have a clear definition next to it, but it is clear that they are doing something at the site level, right?”

King explains that the homepage attribute is associated with every URL page, which may explain why some new pages with no link equity still rank well. King states that this is another reason why sites can’t offer obscure lifestyle content in the hopes of getting links. 

“So that's what I'm saying, where I was talking about the idea of, you know, we just do a bunch of lifestyle content to get links. If those topics are too far in physical distance when they map those in multidimensional space. Google's going to say like, okay, well, you're not an expert on this topic. Cause you don't talk about this at all.”

King advises trying this approach only if you can create a topic cluster with several pages dedicated to the topic so that the topic stays manageable. 

Links + Link Building

One of the biggest questions was about knowledge surrounding links, link building, and how Google uses that strategy in its algorithm. The leaked documents shed light on this matter, explaining that pages sit on indexing tiers, impacting the links' value. 

“I've long said that I thought it was more about relevance because Google is looking for parody on both sides of the link, but what we've learned is it's all of that plus where you sit in the index.”

King goes on to explain that the index is made up of a variety of layers:

  • The top layer consists of pages that get the most traffic and clicks;
  • The secondary layer is made up of pages that are fast but not as fast as those in the top tier;
  • The third layer is like the graveyard of the index.

Pages in the top tier are, therefore, more valuable, which means links from those pages are more beneficial. King advises building links to these pages is better than getting a high volume of links. 

“That's not to say that you can't get there through volume, because obviously, we've all seen it. But, you know, why not work smarter rather than harder? Like, why don't we just build five high-value links that get a lot of traffic and are highly relevant instead of building a hundred links that no one goes to, and it's going to take forever for Google to re-index or discover anyway, and so you're not going to get the impact that you're looking for.”

Based on this information, future link building strategies should be based on relevance, value, and indexing tier, considering high-value links over high-volume. 

How Can Small Business Succeed?

Unfortunately, King did not discover any attributes that favor small sites. While there is an attribute that helps Google distinguish between large and small sites, there is no definition for this attribute. King does, however, have advice for small businesses:

“Now, if I was a small site, I would work on building the brand up because you know, all these big signals that we're talking about, whether it's a Navboost, which is clicks or strong content being highly relevant and having all the other elements to it that yield a better UX, and even links, like those are all things that work for brands.”

He also advises focusing on less competitive keywords and advertising in various channels to create better brand awareness.

Trust Between Google and the SEO Community

King was asked if the leak had broken trust between Google and the SEO community. King replied:

“Yeah, I think it does. I think that it would be great if the SEO community were treated with more respect and got more direct access… What I want is more of what they did when they had that webmaster central conference, where they brought the actual engineers to tell us what they were actually doing. We can ask them direct questions.”

Should SEOs Change What We Report On?

One of the last questions from the Q+A focused on KPIs. The viewer asked, “Should this change anything about what we report to clients in terms of KPIs?”

King replied:

“It does for me. I think we need to report on the click-through rates. Once we've established what the thresholds need to be on a position level, that needs to be brought into the reporting so that people understand, like, hey, you're at risk of losing this position based on what the user reaction is to it.”

Overall, the leak has prompted a reevaluation of traditional SEO practices. Considering the potential for innovative approaches that align with Google's evolving algorithm is exciting. SEO professionals must adapt and capitalize on the newfound understanding of Google's ranking factors as we move forward.

Learn more about this presentation and others at 

Kaitie Frank

Kaitie is a copywriter and content writer for Page One Power who specializes in SEO-optimized content. She has written for various niches and prides herself in knowing random tidbits of information. In addition to putting words to paper, she indulges in physical fitness and telling her cat why he is, in fact, a good boy.