RankBrain is Google’s new artificial intelligence ranking update, which the company has revealed on the 26th of October 2015, but which had been already silently at work for several months, improving our search results. Google uses over 200 different ranking factors when determining the order of the websites in the search engine results page (SERP) and RankBrain has been described by Google as the third most important.
RankBrain introduces a new method of search ranking that is likely to have an impact on the future of content marketing. It follows then that whether you’re an online marketer, business owner, website manager, or blogger, understanding RankBrain and knowing how to use it to your advantage is important.
What Is RankBrain
In the last few years, Google has become better at recognizing synonyms and basic concepts and, consequently, at answering more complicated search queries with a higher degree of accuracy. Google has achieved this not only by constantly introducing algorithm improvements, but also by relying on manual human work to correlate words and expressions that are synonymous and closely related to each other. However, there is still plenty of room for improvement, and the sheer volume of new queries that Google receives every day calls in for a more effective approach, that is, for RankBrain.
Unlike the algorithm updates that Google introduced in the past, RankBrain is endowed with artificial intelligence, which empowers it to understand search queries better and look beyond grammar into the semantics of the words used to discover what searchers actually want. Many of the search queries Google gets every day are inaccurate, mistaken, or simply clumsy. What’s more, about 450 million queries (around 15% of all the queries Google gets every day) are new – Google has not dealt with them before. Often, these can be complicated long-tail, niche queries.
RankBrain deals with all of these, helping to direct Google searchers to the right websites and pages. When RankBrain sees a keyword phrase Google isn’t familiar with, it guesses what other phrases have a similar meaning and provides more accurate results.
Why RankBrain Is Important
RankBrain comes with several impressive capabilities that refine the Google search experience. RankBrain can learn how users search Google and what they search for, and reformulate a clumsy or awkward search query in more precise language. At the same time, RankBrain can answer search questions that are poorly written or not very clear with a higher degree of accuracy. Last but not least, RankBrain can suggest the best-quality content on the search engine results page.
It’s important to understand that RankBrain isn’t replacing other ranking factors or working against them. RankBrain works in conjunction with all the 200 other ranking factors. This is in fact why the introduction of RankBrain hasn’t caused any major upheavals in the search world. It has not changed in the least the way we use Google, and has actually gone unnoticed until Google began talking about it, several months after it had been turned on.
How to Use RankBrain to Your Advantage
Through RankBrain, Google makes a strong statement that the word-for-word match of the keywords to the information is not critical. From the point of view of search engine optimization, it is still important to use keywords in your titles, tags, and content that match the keywords your audience is using when searching Google. But at the same time, it’s now crucial to get to the bottom of what your audience is actually seeking.
Today, when mobile traffic has surpassed desktop traffic, many people are using Google on their smartphones and tablets while they are on-the-go, and this often means that they carry out quick searches omitting some keywords and mistyping others. Someone searching for an affordable dentist on their mobile device while they are on their way home after a busy day at work probably won’t take the time to write the long-tail keyword that would bring them the best results, but merely toss together a few keywords like “dentist cheap Bronx”.
Optimizing a dentist’s website for the exact phrase “dentist cheap Bronx” isn’t the best SEO approach, especially since using those specific words would considerably affect the quality of the content. By contrast, a mix of keyword phrases and useful and relevant information about the dentist’s practice should be used to convince Google that the dental services are affordable and available in Bronx.
With RankBrain and other algorithms like Hummingbird, Google is now smart enough not to get lost in the grammar and the phrasing of the keywords. For searchers this is great news, because it means results that are more accurate than ever.
RankBrain and Schema Markup
RankBrain also brings into focus schema markup and its undeniable usefulness. One of the latest evolutions of SEO, schema markup tells Google what your data means. It’s essentially a semantic vocabulary or code that you add to your website to make it easier for Google and other search engines to return more informative results for users. For example, schema markup can tell Google to display a business’s list of upcoming events in the SERP, or specific pages from that website, helping searchers get to the information they want with fewer clicks.
Schema markup can help RankBrain retrieve information about your website more effectively. If you don’t use schema markup already, you should start doing so. You can use schema markup by accessing the Google Structured Data Markup Helper. Kissmetrics has published a great article on Schema markup and how to use it.
RankBrain Makes Content More Important Than Ever
RankBrain doesn’t force website owners to make any SEO changes like other algorithm updates have done in the past. However, it makes Google more human and more accurate than ever, and highlights once again that it’s the quality and the relevancy of the content that makes the difference between low and high ranking websites. RankBrain rewards good on-page SEO practices that provide honest content for real people.
While keywords can help optimize your content, your focus should be from now on the usefulness and the relevancy of your content for your audience. This includes content posted on your blog, website, or social media pages. Investing in serious keyword research is still important in order to understand what exactly your audience is searching for, but at the same time you have to look beyond the keywords themselves and into the real intent of the search.
Monitoring the activity on your Facebook, Twitter, and other social pages, the comments you receive on your blog, as well as your customer support queries and the questions asked most frequently through the contact form on your website can help you better understand what people are seeking. This in turn can inform your content marketing efforts. In addition to monitoring the channels already mentioned, you may also want to use online, as well as offline, research to determine the most important questions your content should be answering. Carrying out surveys and polling customers are two cost-effective ways to do this.
In conclusion, rather than focusing on creating content for specific categories, it can be more effective to focus on the questions people are asking and, even more importantly, on the answers they expect to get. By doing so, you will take full advantage of the new capabilities that RankBrain has added to Google, and retain and even improve your position in the SERPs.