Google RankBrain: What it is and Why it is important
Over a year ago, in October 2015, Google announced they are going to use machine learning techniques of artificial intelligence in research. The topic raised a lot of questions and led to confusion about what Google RankBrain is, what it means for search marketing, and what brands should do about it. Today, a year and a half later after the dust settled, we learned (everything) we could and decided to share that knowledge with you. We intend to answer all remaining questions you might have and eliminate all uncertainties.
What is RankBrain?
First and foremost, let’s settle this dilemma: RankBrain is NOT an ‘update’ to the search algorithm. In fact, it is the third most useful search ranking signal, right after content and links. The actual list includes 200 different ranking factors. So what actually is RankBrain? Google RankBrain is a machine learning AI (artificial intelligence) system used to assist the processing of Google search queries.
How Does RankBrain Work?
Google’s main goal is to provide its users with the most useful and relevant results for each query entered. In order to complete that goal, Google has to understand the search queries and to be able to match them with the appropriate content, even when the words of the search query are very different. In the past, Google’s algorithm was focused on matching user searches to the same webpage wording. Now, Google’s decided to take a slightly more sophisticated approach in trying to understand that actual context and search intent, and use it to deliver improved search results. That is why Google created RankBrain.
RankBrain’s main purpose, according to Google, is to interpret queries that are very complex or just haven’t been seen before. Therefore, it converts the innumerable search words and keywords from Google Search, into quantitative figures that machines can understand and decipher. Instead of being pre-programmed and scripted, by using mathematical processes called vectors, plus additional advanced semantic processes, RankBrain learns people’s search patterns inference and then applies those interpretations to future search results.
Simply put, RankBrain is a system that aims to better understand search queries and give them meaning by identifying the real “user intent” and returning the best and most fitting results to the user.
Why is RankBrain important?
There are more than two trillion searches entered in Google yearly. And most of those searches are not limited to short phrases or a couple of words, but rather use full sentences such as, “What’s the best place to eat pizza in Napoli? These searches cannot be effectively processed with an ordinary search algorithm. That’s why Google created RankBrain – a technology that studies and learns from the study – to learn from the search query and give more comprehensive results. RankBrain avoids simply matching all words in the query and returning exact or filtering the nearest results related to the query.
At first, RankBrain processed around 15% of the searches, but now it is used to help with every search query. Besides being able to process queries better and more accurately than before, there are several other ways in which RankBrain impacts search engines. In addition to faster query processing and increased optimization for search results, RankBrain is more relevant and user-friendly. RankBrain is effective by learning from searches and drawing from offline phrases to understand more complex and long-tail keywords.
How Does RankBrain Influence SEO?
It is well known that keywords play a crucial role in your website’s SEO, especially when you are creating content. So far, Google’s algorithm was able to identify the keywords in the page content and use them as a ranking factor. Now, Google has learned to identify great content, and keywords alone are not enough to get you high ranking. With RankBrain as part of the ranking equation, great content is more important than ever, and if you don’t provide great user experience, you lower your changes of ranking success.
The search ranking algorithm has also undergone major changes with the emergence of RankBrain. Before RankBrain, the algorithm produced constant search rankings until the next update. Now, we see constant updates of the ranking algorithm with fluctuating results to ensure better accuracy. Therefore, website owners, SEO consultants and content creators need to increase their versatility in content creation and keyword choice.
RankBrain employs AI technology to understand the user’s search intent and to determine what the user really wants. So instead of creating pages focused on a single keyword, it’s better to create content that targets the main keyword or phrase with related keywords and synonyms.
It is safe to conclude that RankBrain is changing the search landscape while helping users find what they are looking for easier and faster. From an SEO perspective, we can say that RankBrain is not something you can specifically optimize for in terms of ranking factors. RankBrain is a little bit different. According to Gary Illyes from Google, the only way to optimize your website for RankBrain is to simply optimize for natural language. And that might be a good thing because website owners will create web pages optimized for people, not machines, yielding quality results for users.