What is Rankbrain?

What is Rankbrain?

Although you may have never even heard of Rankbrain, chances are you come into contact with it on a daily basis. Rankbrain is a system that was introduced by Google in 2015 and is now one of the most influential algorithmic component affecting which results are displayed when you search in Google. The search engine giant is on a constant quest to improve the quality of the search results it provides and Rankbrain is a major new part of this. So if you have any interest in SEO it’s worth a look. In order to figure out how to get in front of more potential customers, businesses would do well to spend a little time getting their heads around it. Let’s take a look at what it is and how it could affect you.

A simple explanation of Rankbrain

What makes Rankbrain different is that it learns, rather than just following a set of rules programmed into it. It’s always challenging trying to decode exactly what Google does when deciding which results to display and in what order, Rankbrain is no different. Google doesn’t want to spell out exactly how it works because that would have the potential to destroy all the work they’ve done creating this new system in the first place. They don’t want to reveal how it works to competitors or potentially enable people to game the system.

What do we know about Rankbrain?

Rankbrain is an artificial intelligence, that works by machine learning. This normally involves showing a computer a load of inputs (what people type when they search) and training it to give the right outputs (what they are actually looking for). So the aim is it assists Google in delivering relevant results. Perhaps you’ve never really given much thought to how Google works, but in this day and age it would be safe to assume a computer programme would be involved, so there’s nothing unusual in that. However, what makes Rankbrain interesting is that it learns how to provide more relevant search results, it doesn’t just follow a set of simple rules.

How Rankbrain works

A computer that teaches itself how to work, sounds a little scary doesn’t it? Well don’t worry, it’s not likely to take over the world just yet… or maybe it already has, since Google say that Rankbrain is one of the top three factors governing the delivery of search results. What it’s doing is taking what people type into the search box, their ‘search query’, and trying to understand exactly what they want in order to deliver the best results possible. Google actually gave an example to help explain this. Imagine if you typed:

“What’s the title of the consumer at the highest level of a food chain?”

The answer to the question is “apex predator” but how does Google know to provide information about this type of animal when the word isn’t in the search query? The person who makes this search is looking for an answer to a question, but this question could be asked in a lot of different ways. For example, they could also have searched for “what do you call the creature at the top of the food web”, or many other variations.

Rankbrain looks at the different ways people use language when they search in Google for all kinds of things in order to understand their meaning and deliver the results they want. Since there are billions of searches being made every day, some sort of machine learning is the only way to improve search results. Even with the resources of Google, it would be too difficult to manually programme responses to every possible query.

What does Rankbrain mean for my business?

The more genuinely useful content on your website, the more Rankbrain is going to favour your website in the search results. By trying to understand more about natural language, Rankbrain will naturally guide users towards websites with the best written content. If someone searches “I need help selling chocolate”, Rankbrain would deliver results with pages titled along the lines of “How to sell chocolate online” and so on. So whatever industry your business operates within, whether it’s cleaning, marketing, manufacturing or fitness, the more good quality written content you have on your website the more chance you have of appearing in the results of the many weird and wonderful search queries people use.

This shows the continuous shift away from dodgy SEO tactics like keyword stuffing, and towards rewarding useful content. These are obviously what Google, and searchers will both want, so as usual, it comes down to creating content that humans and Google like. Rankbrain is better at understanding what written language really means because it is starting to work out the meaning of content. So searching for “why won’t people buy my chocolate” would hopefully get you a page about how to sell chocolate.

Where as someone who also uses the words “buy” and “chocolate” may be looking to make a purchase, which is essentially the opposite meaning. But of course you still need to give Google something to go on. You’re going to need a reasonable amount of good quality content so it can understand what you do. After all, Rankbrain isn’t psychic. We think.

Content, content, content

So there hasn’t been a radical change here. Good SEO is going to require good content. Which isn’t news. Content marketing has always been a vital part of SEO, from frequently writing blog posts, to crafting detailed service pages, offering education guides and using relevant language. But now that Google has indicated that Rankbrain is amongst the top three factors affecting search results, it’s more important than ever before. Of course it’s not just about making sure you do content marketing, it’s also about doing it well. As well as continuing to do other SEO work, like link building and making on-page improvements.

We completely understand if you aren’t sure where to go next with your content marketing. How are you supposed to throw down thousands of words about every single aspect of your business? Well you can think about what your potential customers might find interesting or useful and get it up on your website. Each bit of good content is like a piece of bait on a fishing rod, the more bait you have, the more chance you have of catching a decent fish. You can create one piece of content for one specific product that you offer, just as a fisherman would have a special fly for a specific type of fish.

Of course, not everyone has the time or inclination to spend hours writing and proofing content, so if you need a little help do get in touch. We’ve always maintained that content marketing is a key piece of the SEO puzzle and have helped many clients with writing, proofing and publishing on a huge range of different subjects. We can take the reigns and do all your content for you, or just do the techy parts, like keyword research and website publishing. Give our friendly team of content creators a call if you’d like to learn more!

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