RankBrain and SEO: AI Meets Search
Google and it’s Search Engine Algorithms have always been The Testament for the world of SEO. With each new update, Google kept changing things in order to get free of any SEO manipulation and black hat techniques. And yes, it’s time again for one of these new updates. But there is something very unique and special about this update.
They call it “RankBrain”. As audacious as it sounds, it truly does live up to the name. RankBrain is an artificial intelligence technology that will enable Google to process and analyze it’s search results in a way it’s never been done before. Now I know what you must be thinking. “AI and SEO? Sounds pretty fancy.” And to be really honest, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t. This is some next level stuff that will definitely revolutionize SEO.
So let’s get down to it.
What is RankBrain?
RankBrain is an algorithm that Google announced, back in October 2015. They actually announced it through a release on Bloomberg. It uses machine learning to better understand the “language” present on the internet. It will be able to naturally detect the way of expressing things used by humans. Now if it understands the language better, it will also understand your search query better. And since it understands the query better, it is ever more likely to present the most related results. But what’s more unique and by far the most interesting about this, is that it’ll be able to understand the query even if the user distorts the query into asymmetric or irregular parts which might not be even be logical or maybe out of context.
Now to be pretty honest with you, in pure scientific terms, there is still a huge gap between machine learning and artificial intelligence. And I am not saying they are two totally different things. The thing we have to understand is that we are still very far away from achieving actual AI but machine learning can be looked at as a stepping stone for AI. And just for the sake of emphasizing Google’s achievement, I’d like to point out that’s a pretty big “stepping stone” that Google achieved and RankBrain is rightly being likened to Artificial Intelligence.
“Machine Learning is a process that provides computers with the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed for that particular task”
Now let me explain that a bit in simpler terms….
Imagine you have two different sets of data. One data set contains a set of mobiles and another contains it’s prices. Now a simple pattern for us to observe regarding the data would be: the better the phone the higher the price. But when we start to dig in a bit and analyze everything bit by bit, scrutinizing every specification of the phone, then this becomes a complicated problem. Machine Learning algorithms are able to take a problem like that and solve it relatively easily.
Now coming back to RankBrain, it is meant to give Google the ability to learn about search queries that are at first unfamiliar to it. In their coverage, Bloomberg cited a search query example: “What’s the title of the consumer at the highest level of a food chain?” In this phrase, Google says that RankBrain presumably would understand that the term consumer is meant not as a buyer, but as a consumer in the food chain. With RankBrain, Google not only understands the proper context for the word, but permanently learns the context and can successfully use it in the future.
What’s the use of RankBrain?
Everyday at Google, there are millions of new search queries coming in. And a major chunk of them are not very well crafted and remain undefined to the algorithm. There might be instances when Google doesn’t have enough data to provide a relevant answer. These types of reasons lead to a scenario where a lot of search queries don’t get relevant search results which is not very suitable for the user.
So Google came up with RankBrain, which can make better decisions even with a limited amount of data. RankBrain has the ability to continuously learn and improve itself. So even if at a time, the algorithm comes up with bad results for a particular user query, Rankbrain can learn from its mistakes and ultimately start giving better search results for that particular query.
If you’re wondering how RankBrain is going to know whether it gave the right answer to a search query, there are certain parameters that Rankbrain can easily analyze to get that information such as click through rate, bounce rate, time spent on a website, etc. Unlike previous versions, RankBrain will not only presenting suggestions but will also be on the lookout to improve results as time goes on. Hence, user feedback will now be more than ever fundamental for determining whether a query is suitable or not.
Major Effects of RankBrain
Change in User Behaviour
With RankBrain, search results will start getting better and better and the user will get what they’re looking for very easily, so essentially they might not need to look below the top 2-4 spots on the first page of Google. Thus, getting your webpage to those first 3 positions on the first page of search results – be it a local listing, or a knowledge graph listing, etc –through organic methods ( not paid since they will always have that yellow “Ad” label added to them) will get more traffic and clicks from users now more than ever.
That top trio of search results will accumulate more clicks than any other ranked page because users will start getting more and more satisfied with the results of the top 3 spots and they will develop a habit of not going beyond those.
Ultimately the key point to take from this is that getting your rankings to the first page of Google should no longer be your goal. You should start aiming for those top 3 results to get maximum benefits.
The Race for the Top SERP rankings will get tougher
The competition within search will get larger with RankBrain, as what it is essentially doing is giving maximum priority to relevant search results. People who were playing the algorithm to get better rankings will no longer be able to do that. Any page which offers mediocre information about the search keyword will get demoted and more comprehensive articles, which have a higher amount of details, will replace them.
”Only the best shall survive”
While all other low level content will start pushing down and eventually fade out of the race. Search Engines have always been tricky and RankBrain has certainly carried on the reputation.
RankBrain could be the start of Spam Abolition
RankBrain might only be a start, but we can be pretty sure that machine learning will play a major part in all Google processes. In the past few years, Google has been pretty strict regarding spam activities so it’s quite a surprise that Google hasn’t used its newly forged sword of machine learning to get rid of these activities. However, with RankBrain working in full flow it’s only a matter of time when the people sitting in Google HQ take the call.
My guess is that the next update will certainly bring major changes to the search algorithms which would deal strongly with fighting spam, loophole and other black hat techniques.
RankBrain and SEO
While RankBrain does bring astonishing changes to the whole search engine dynamics, it doesn’t mean you can’t handle it. As long as there are search engines are there, SEO will thrive too. RankBrain’s main change has been regarding how the search engines will perceive the user query. As an SEO person, you have to think beyond the usual single keyword optimization.
This means that RankBrain majorly focuses on not being literally stuck to some individual keyword to keyword optimization. Now you have to think like the user and create your content around the whole concept of that keyword. Create pages and content that prioritize on a whole keyword phrase or long tail keywords and the things related to that keyword instead of just going all guns blazing on a focus keyword.
Here’s a simple example. Suppose you have a blog on coupons. In the past, SEO for this would include doing keyword research. You then find out that the phrase “amazon coupons” has around 25K average monthly searches, and then you make sure that one of your content pieces is really focused on that keyword phrase. Then, you find another keyword and carry out the same procedure.
Here’s how things will be done differently in RankBrain. Keyword research will remain the first step as always. This time, rather than cooking up a small content piece that focuses just on amazon coupons, you’re will have to create a comprehensive content piece which will cover all websites from Amazon to eBay.
Follow the below steps to get the right idea:
- Use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool to get all the related keywords around your topic and make a general list.
Next up, google these keywords and then scroll down to the search suggestions part where you can find more broad field keyword phrases related to your topic.
- With the help of these keywords and phrases, optimize your content to get the best impression on RankBrain.
The old-school mantra of not over-stuffing keywords still applies here so make sure you use a balanced profile of keywords.
I’ll admit, these things might be a little complicated, especially if your plan involves integrating this with all your clients. But there is no running away from RankBrain, that’s for sure. In the end it all comes down bringing together SEO fundamentals and latest practices. Get them up and running… and your webpages will remain at the top spots in search rankings.
What can we do to make RankBrain work for us?
Yes, RankBrain still has some mystery surrounding it, but we can already start laying out our plans from the info we already have.
Prioritize on what’s best for the users of your website which will bring Google’s goals in sync with yours, and with that, your results in Google search will start to improve as well.