RankBrain is Google’s new artificial intelligence ranking update. Google revealed it on October 26, 2015, but by then the update had been silently at work for several months already. Google uses over 200 different ranking factors to determine 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. Whether you’re an online marketer, business owner, blogger, understanding RankBrain and knowing how to use it to your advantage is important.
What Is RankBrain?
In the last few years, Google search has become better at recognizing synonyms and basic concepts. As a result, it can now answer sophisticated search queries with a higher accuracy.
Google has achieved this not only through constant algorithm improvements but also by relying on 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. The sheer volume of new queries that Google receives every day calls for a more effective approach. Enter RankBrain.
How It Works
Unlike Google’s previous algorithm updates, RankBrain is endowed with artificial intelligence. It can understand search queries better and look beyond grammar into the semantics of the words 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 daily queries) are new – Google has not dealt with them before. Often, these are complicated long-tail, niche queries.
RankBrain deals with all of these, helping to direct Google searchers to the right 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. It can learn how users search Google and what they search for. It can then reformulate a clumsy or awkward search query using more precise language.
At the same time, RankBrain can answer accurately search questions that are poorly written or not very clear.
Last but not least, RankBrain can suggest the best-quality content on the search results page.
It’s important to understand that RankBrain isn’t replacing other ranking factors or working against them. On the contrary — it works in conjunction with all the 200 other ranking factors.
This is 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. In fact, RankBrain has gone unnoticed until Google started talking about it.
How to Use RankBrain to Your Advantage
Through RankBrain, Google makes a strong statement that word-for-word keyword matching for searches 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 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 search on-the-go. This often means that they carry out quick searches, omitting some keywords and mistyping others.
Someone searching for an affordable dentist on their way home after a busy day at work won’t take the time to write the long-tail keyword that would bring them the best results. Rather, they would simply 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. More so since using those specific words could affect the quality of the content.
By contrast, a mix of keyword phrases and useful and relevant information about the dentist’s practice could 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 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. In this way, it could help 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 it by accessing the Google Structured Data Markup Helper. Kissmetrics have published a great article on Schema markup.
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 humane and more accurate than ever. Also, it highlights once more that it’s the quality and the relevancy of the content that makes the difference between low and high ranking websites. Ultimately, RankBrain rewards good on-page SEO practices that provide honest content for real people.
While keywords can help you optimize your content, your focus from now should be 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. However, you have to look beyond the keywords themselves. Look at the real intent of the search.
The Bottom Line
To better understand your audience, monitor the activity on your Facebook, Twitter, and other social pages. Read the comments you receive on your blog and any customer support queries you get. Also, keep track of the questions sent most frequently through the contact form on your website. This in turn can inform your content marketing efforts.
In addition, you may also want to use online and 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 topics, focus on the questions people are asking and the answers they expect to get. By doing so, you will take full advantage of the new capabilities that RankBrain has added to Google. You will not only keep your ranking, but improve it.