Google Search’s 3 Pillars of Ranking Via DOJ Documents


The SEO community is buzzing about some recent U.S. Department of Justice documents released that hint at some ranking concepts at Google. One slide is named “The 3 Pillars of Ranking” and discuss body, anchors and user interactions.

The slide says The 3 Pillars of Ranking:

  • Body: What the document says about itself
  • Anchors: What the Web says about the document
  • User-interactions: What users say about the document

Then there is this footnote that says “we may use “clicks” as a stand-in for “user-interactions” in some places. User-interactions include clicks, attention on a result, swipes on carousels and entering a new query.”

3 Pillars Google Ranking

Cyrus Shepard seemed to be the first to spot these and posted a Twitter thread on them, here they are:

Danny Goodwin dove in a bit more and published a story named 7 must-see Google Search ranking documents in antitrust trial exhibits on Search Engine Land.

A lot of folks are using this as evidence that Google uses click data directly in its search ranking algorithm. Technically, this doesn’t prove that, it just says that Google does use it for feedback on how well the algorithms are working. In this slide Goodwin pulled out, it shows how Google shows results in the search results, then takes the interaction back to learn from it. Is that learning real-time in that the algorithm immediately changes the results based on click data? Seems not. But that learning does influence future ranking and algorithmic changes. Maybe I am wrong, I am wrong a lot.

Google How Search Does Work Png

One document that Goodwin showed me also is this email chain internally within the search team about how they are focused on making sure the ad team does not influence the free/organic listings. Danny Sullivan, Paul Haahr and Pandu Nayak, and others are all in this chain. It doesn’t talk about rankings but it did make me feel like Google’s search team is focused on keeping ad influence out of the organic results.

Forum discussion at X.



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