The Beginner’s Guide to Google’s RankBrain

Since RankBrain came into existence in 2015, the way websites and content producers engaged with search engines has been altered significantly, reflecting the future of digital media and marketing. What Google considers to be the third most important ranking signal, innovatively utilizes machine-learning to produce the most relevant results for search queries.

Understanding how the RankBrain algorithm works gives businesses and website content producers an idea of how to adapt SEO strategies to ensure their content is included in search results as the most relevant match to what information the searcher hoped to find.

Turning words into concepts: the mechanics behind RankBrain

What sets Google’s RankBrain apart from its competitors is that is based on an interpretation model which uses personal details of the searcher, such as their location, to figure out what it is exactly that the searcher is actually looking for and thus produces the best results. This use of artificial intelligence has launched the Google search engine a good distance above the rest. Previously, Google’s search engine algorithm had been completely hand-coded. Experiments done by Google engineers, showed that RankBrain formulated results faster than the engineers by ten percent.

RankBrain works by ordering the value of links and content of websites which are returned by the search query. It then analyses how searchers engage with the results. If the algorithm finds that the previous system was satisfying user’s needs more effectively, it reverts back. Its purpose is thus twofold – interpreting keywords and meeting searcher’s needs.

Google goes beyond matching queries to data from websites and actually anticipates what the user needs to find out, making searching smart and simple. To do this, RankBrain needs to calculate and process a wide range of data over some time to train it how to think like the searcher, thereby inferring a good match for unknown searches. This is useful because an incredible 15 percent of searches are brand new and have not been searched before. The increasing use of voice technologies will make this number even higher, as people communicate in highly varied ways.

When Google cannot match a query, it tries to fit the keyword into phrases that are likely to match the search, hoping to be providing the desired results. Nevertheless, many experts feel as though RankBrain is the third most important algorithm because its effect is seen only when the engine cannot match the query, that is, if the query has not been made before. Thus, content and links remain a priority.

Making the most of RankBrain to improve SEO

Know what RankBrain is looking at

RankBrain is concerned with understanding UX (user experience) signals, particularly, organic click through rates, which excludes adverts; dwell time; bounce rate, which is the percentage of visitors who leave a website after viewing only one page, and pogo-sticking, which is similar to bounce rate, except visitors immediately exit the site, most likely because it lacked relevance to their search.

Move beyond traditional SEO

The digital realm is continuously progressing through uncharted terrain which means navigating towards increased traffic requires endless learning. Before, SEO experts would hastily suggest websites focus on hyperlinks, keywords and deep content in order to feature in search results. With RankBrain, it is necessary to take this even further.

Rather than just hoping that content will match the searcher’s queries, effective SEO needs to consider what prospective searchers would need to find out from their query. To produce effective content, websites need to consider the searcher’s needs.

Build your reputation

Websites would now need to be a bit more particular about what its intentions are and what information and service they hope to provide. SEO is essential to websites because it builds a relationship with search engines, positioning itself as a reliable resource for both the search engine which prides itself of accuracy, and the searcher who has needs to satisfy.

RankBrain makes it easier for websites to become associated with specific aspects of the field in which it operates. With effective SEO, a website could potentially become the go-to resource for previously unknown queries.

Use keywords more efficiently

Although it was once the foundation of SEO practice, keywords are a stepping stone in the path to effective online content. Long tail keywords or the ‘one keyword, one page’ was once a tried and trusted method of ranking in search results, but is increasingly being reconsidered since the release of Google’s Hummingbird in 2012. RankBrain, which is part of the Hummingbird algorithm, makes the practice of creating separate pages for different variations of the same keyword outdated as good SEO would now combine related phrases using natural-sounding content.

Having content that encapsulates general concepts behind keywords is more effective that distinguishing small differences, for example, having two separate pages for ‘Android’ and ‘Android IOS’. This bodes well for content creators as it makes crafting flowing and fluent-sounding content that is designed to be read and enjoyed by humans not just SEO, improving the quality of information on websites.

In lieu of long tail keywords, it is recommended that sites use medium tail keywords instead, as RankBrain will rank the page amongst similar keywords.

Producing specialized over generalized content

Good SEO practice has always called for informative content that sticks to the point, but now, more than ever, creating comprehensive and sharp content is vital.

Rankbrain makes spam occur less frequently which improves users experience on the internet immensely. This also means attempts to gain ranking in search results by solely using keywords is less effective. Instead of aiming for content to match searchers queries, content producers should aim to provide information that precisely answers whatever query their target readers would search for. Anticipating what searchers would enter into the engine is useful as RankBrain will try to find a match that best answers the query.

RankBrain is changing the world of digital content and marketing but the change is for the better. Google’s continuous updates and improvements don’t make it more difficult for websites to rank in engines, but provides the opportunity for companies to produce better quality and more specialized content, building a network of information that is much easier to access. Adapting SEO practices to suit the new developments and innovations is thus vital to keep your business or website on top of its game.