Why Your Brand is the Key to SEO Success


A graphic showing dice rising up and down on pedestals representing revealed search metrics from Google's API leak

On May 28, 2024, the SEO community experienced a seismic shift when Google’s internal API documentation leaked online. The leak provided unprecedented insight into the inner workings of Google's search engine algorithm, confirming long-held suspicions and shedding light on new strategies for digital marketers and SEOs to use. Chief among these various revelations was the unparalleled importance of branding in SEO.

What Information Leaked

The leak comprised over 2,500 pages of API documentation with 14,014 attributes and offered a detailed view of Google's data collection methods and ranking mechanisms. These documents were then shared with SEO expert and SparkToro Founder Rand Fiskin who reviewed the documents along with iPullRank CEO Mike King. 

Both worked with anonymous Google sources to confirm the leak's legitimacy until Google later confirmed the documents in question were real, making this event the biggest leak in SEO history.



Key discoveries from Fiskin and King’s reviews include:

  • Google uses click data to determine how to weight links in rankings and has named and described features for measuring different kinds of clicks 
  • Google uses Chrome browser clickstreams to help determine the most popular/important URLs on a site, which go into the calculation of which to include in the sitelinks feature
  • Google uses more human quality raters than what has been previously indicated 
  • Content and links are secondary when user intention around navigation (and the patterns that intent creates) are present
  • Classic ranking factors like pagerank, anchors and text-matching have shifted in importance, but page titles are still quite important

Rand and Mike’s articles (linked above) do an excellent job of breaking down all the details but the key revelation that this article will cover is just how important brand notoriety is to a site’s ability to rank. 

Understanding Branding, Entities and Google 

In the past, we’ve talked about the rise of commoditization and how in order to stand out, companies need to invest in their brand experience. When done well branding can be a powerful business solution, resulting in more buy-in, more loyalty, and more resonance both on and offline. 

According to the leaked documents, Google has various processes that help it identify and prioritize entities. Entities are pieces of information in Google’s database that help define a concept that is singular, unique, well-defined, and distinguishable. That includes brands and everything associated with them (i.e. websites, social channels, authors, CEOs, etc.). 

This process of categorizing and prioritizing entities helps Google to match topics together. And for companies that are very intentional and smart about how they build their authority (creating good customer experiences in their respective niches), Google rewards them with higher rankings and more features in search engine result pages (SERPs). 

This idea of branding as an important tool for SEO has long been a topic in the SEO community. However, it had been mostly speculative until this leak.

Brands like SparkToro and Datos have previously noted the impact of branding on SEO. Their research found that for many product reviews and informational queries, the top Google results are dominated by a small group of large media brands like BuzzFeed, Rolling Stone, Forbes, etc. rather than niche experts or independent sites dedicated to those topics. 

SEO software and research company Moz has also shed some light on the power branding has on search, noting how well-established brands are featured more often in rich snippets and links in SERPs. They’ve created a dedicated Brand Authority metric to help track brand power online and its effect on SEO. 

We even see the importance of branding on online visibility hinted at in Google’s own Quality Rater Guidelines and how they use dominant interpretation to decide what searchers most often expect to show up when they search for a specific keyword. The most famous example being what do searchers expect to see when they search for the term “apple”. Is it the fruit or the brand? (Most commonly, it’s the brand.)

Google's diagram breaking down the how it differentiates searches for the term "apple."

Each of these studies and examples indicates what many have long suspected: Google rewards the branding efforts of those who take the time to build them. 

Why Google Cares About Branding

Google’s mission is “to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.” So when a brand builds its authority through sharing expertise and positive experiences, users are more likely to engage with that brand. That helpfulness and those experiences signal to Google your brand valued and trusted. 

Google’s mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Google aims to be a trusted source of information on all things. So by presenting a brand as an authority, Google is hoping to build its own trust as a referral source. It’s a symbiotic relationship. 

In essence, when a company builds its brand effectively, it builds authority in its space as a trusted source of information. Google then rewards that brand with the hopes that featuring it will offer the searcher the information that they are looking for and that the user will have a positive browsing experience. If this happens successfully then Google is also able to build its own trust and authority with users. 

What Should Brands Do with this Information?

Once companies understand the critical role their brand plays in online visibility, they should take steps to leverage their brand online to increase that visibility. Here are some initial considerations to do just that: 

  1. Improve Brand Recognition: Invest in strategies that increase your brand’s visibility and recognition. This includes traditional advertising, engaging social media campaigns, and impactful content marketing. The latter is especially important. 
  2. Leverage Social Proof: Use customer reviews, testimonials, and case studies to build trust and authority in your brand. Social proof can significantly enhance your brand’s reputation and build brand advocates.
  3. Engage with Your Audience: Foster meaningful interactions with your audience across various platforms. Engage in conversations, respond to comments, and provide valuable insights to build a loyal community.
  4. Consistent Branding Across Channels: Ensure your branding is consistent across all digital touchpoints—your website, social media profiles, email campaigns and offline marketing efforts. 
  5. Quality Content Creation: While content and links remain important, the leak highlights that user intent and engagement signals are increasingly critical. Produce high-quality relevant content that is helpful to your target audience and inspires engagement.
  6. Take it offline: Provide users with a good experience (product, service, etc.) wherever they interact with you so that way there is a positive impression of your brand in general, which builds and solidifies trust.


The recent Google document leak has confirmed what many in the industry have long suspected: branding is a cornerstone of modern SEO success. For marketers, the key takeaway is clear: prioritize building a strong brand presence across your marketing channels. Remember that your brand is a representation of your experience, expertise, authority, and trust (E-E-A-T), so make sure that the experience you build is for your audience and not just for a search engine.

A Few More Insights

If you’re looking for a way to enhance your brand’s digital footprint, contact us. For more insights into a brand’s digital presence, explore these other articles from branding experts:

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