What We Learned About Google Search From The Ongoing Antitrust Lawsuit

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The ongoing antitrust lawsuit against Google has unearthed a trove of documents that provide an unprecedented look into the inner workings of Google Search. These documents reveal the complexities of search ranking, the importance of user interaction data, and the continuous evolution of Google’s search algorithms.

The Three Pillars of Ranking

One of the key takeaways from the released documents is Google’s emphasis on the “three pillars of ranking”: the body of a document, anchors from the web, and user interactions. Google acknowledges the use of “clicks” as a proxy for user interactions, which also include attention on a result, swipes on carousels, and new queries. This insight confirms long-held beliefs in the SEO community about the significance of user behavior in search rankings, much like the strategies discussed in “How to Use Topical Maps to Plan a Successful Content Strategy.”

User Interaction Signals

The documents detail how Google interprets various user interaction signals, such as reading, clicking, scrolling, and mouse hovers. These interactions help Google understand the relevance and quality of search results. The company uses this data for training, evaluation, controlled experiments, and personalization, rather than as direct ranking signals due to their noisy nature. For those curious about the impact of such signals, the article “Negative SEO Tactics That Work in 2023” may offer some insights.

The Illusion of Understanding Documents

A striking admission from the documents is Google’s statement, “We do not understand documents. We fake it.” This candid revelation explains that Google’s “understanding” of documents is largely based on observing user reactions to them. If a document elicits positive reactions, it’s deemed good; if not, it’s likely bad. This user-centric approach is the “magic” behind Google’s search results, akin to the principles discussed in “SEO Keyword Clustering Using Google Sheets.”

Learning from Users

The documents also highlight the importance of learning from users to improve search results. Google’s search engine operates on the principle of induction, where each searcher benefits from past users’ responses and contributes to future users’ experiences. This cycle of interaction and learning is crucial for Google to maintain the illusion of understanding and to serve users effectively, a concept that is explored in “The SEO Avalanche Technique: The Strategic Zero Budget Path to Dominating Search Rankings.”

The Role of Clicks in Rankings

Despite Google’s public statements downplaying the role of clicks in rankings, the documents suggest that clicks and other user behaviors are indeed used in search algorithms. However, the association between user behavior and search result quality is complex, and Google requires significant traffic to draw reliable conclusions, as discussed in “How to Use Tangential SEO.”

The Challenge of Live Traffic Evaluations

The documents acknowledge the limitations of live traffic evaluations, noting that clicks are difficult to interpret and that individual examples are not always indicative of search result quality. This complexity underscores the challenges Google faces in using user behavior to inform its search rankings, similar to the challenges of “Content Refresh Strategies.”

The Future of Search: Machine Learning and NLP

The lawsuit documents also touch on the role of machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) in search rankings. Google’s use of technologies like BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) has led to significant improvements in understanding queries, documents, and user intents, a topic further elaborated in “Schema Markup: An Essential SEO Element.”

Mobile vs. Desktop Ranking

Another area of focus in the documents is the difference between mobile and desktop search ranking. As mobile traffic began to surpass desktop, Google explored separate ranking signals or evaluations to reflect the different intents of mobile queries, which can be crucial for businesses, as detailed in “Google My Business Profile Experiment.”

Keeping Search Knowledge Confidential

The documents reveal Google’s cautious approach to sharing information about its search workings. The company advises keeping such discussions on a “need-to-know” basis to prevent manipulation by SEOs, competitors, and others, a cautionary tale echoed in “Why Using Topical Map Generators Are a Bad Idea.”


The antitrust lawsuit documents offer a rare glimpse into the factors that influence Google Search rankings. They confirm the significance of user interaction data and the ongoing development of Google’s search algorithms. As the lawsuit progresses, more insights may emerge, further demystifying the complex world of search engine optimization, and perhaps leading many to consider how to “Increase Web Rankings in Dubai Like a Pro.”

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