What on earth is Google RankBrain and has it changed SEO forever?

3 min read

Google RankBrain and How It Affects SEO

Do you know what Google RankBrain is all about? If not, you definitely should, because it’s one of most important factors that is affecting your overall SEO success.

RankBrain is a critical piece of the pie which impacts your site’s ranking power. If you check out Search Engine Land’s Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors, you can see all the signals (over 200!) which determine where your site lands on a search engine results page (SERP). Other signals like a site’s response time, mobile optimisation, backlinks, and server architecture will all come together toward how your site ranks.

Let’s get to the bottom of what RankBrain is all about – and how it contributes toward ranking power within this SEO Periodic Table.

What Is RankBrain and How Does It Work?

At its heart, RankBrain is a powerful tool which is used by Google to improve overall search engine results. It’s an automated system which employs machine learning to develop better ways to return more relevant results to users.

Machine learning in this context means that the system is designed to learn how to do things on its own over time. This isn’t quite as scary as a self-aware artificial intelligence, so no need to worry about the machines taking over! As mentioned, this is another of the many signals Google uses to determine your site’s ranking ability on SERPs.

RankBrain’s Timeline

RankBrain was first announced in October 2015. Most marketing experts believe that the algorithm was already collecting data in the Spring of 2015, but Google kept hush-hush about it until their official announcement in October.

During these times, RankBrain was processing about 15 per cent of Google queries. By June 2016, however, the system was fully integrated for all searches.


Improving Specific Queries for Better Search Results

RankBrain provides Google Hummingbird, the current page ranking algorithm, with more information about highly specific user queries. As you probably already know, context and relevance now play a big part in how Google connects user queries to the best possible pages.

RankBrain takes that a step further by paying attention to more unique search engine queries – particularly these two:

1. Long-Tail Searches

2. Unique Searches

Both of these often connect to each other with Google reporting 15 per cent or fewer daily searches as truly unique. These are the searches that PageRank pays attention to with the eventual goal being to help connect unique or long-tail queries to more relevant results through adaptive learning.

How RankBrain Contributes to Google PageRank

Many digital marketers mistakenly believe that PageRank, Google’s page ranking system, is no longer important. The truth is that PageRank is still the overall score a website can have as determined by the 200+ factors mentioned on the Periodic Table. The only difference is that Google no longer publishes that information for people to see.

RankBrain is one of many signals which are all calculated to determine the PageRank (PR) score. And it’s this score which determines how high on the SERPs your page will inevitably land.

The most startling component of RankBrain, which officially went live for all searches in June 2016, is how important it is for ranking. While Google won’t directly reveal their ranking factors, most experts say the top three criteria for search engine ranking include the following:

1. Content: Unique, relevant content with keywords that relate to what users are trying to find.

2. Links: Relevant links to other content which improves the overall ranking power.

3. PageRank: It’s that important!

As you can see, with a #3 slot on the list of criteria, PageRank is something you need to pay attention to in your own SEO practices.

How to Successfully Incorporate RankBrain into Your SEO Strategy

The simplest way to explain RankBrain is that it learns how to contextually connect searches to give people more relevant results using a variety of keyword searches. This “variety” is the important term when it comes to your own digital marketing strategy.

Rather than focusing on just one keyword or keyword string, you should instead try to add multiple keyword variations that are based on SEO trends and related search terms. Knowing what types of variations to include is often easier said than done. To help you better predict the best words to focus on, Google’s AdWords Keyword Planner is a great tool.

The Power of Relevant, Quality Content

As always, the quality of your content should always trump every other factor of your search engine optimisation and digital marketing strategy. Never sacrifice the quality and readability of your content for keyword stuffing or unnatural keyword placement.

RankBrain is an adaptive system which is learning as it goes. That means that you should always make sure to pay attention to current SEO trends and keyword usage – and include those changes in your own content. As always, your content will rank better when it answers what users are searching for on Google. By keeping this principle in mind while factoring in components like RankBrain, you’ll keep your site poised to stay competitive in its ranking power into the future.

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