Google’s RankBrain is the heralding machine learning to search results that is changing how SEO strategy must be approached.
As we move closer to the Singularity, the incremental improvements of artificial intelligence (AI) are manifesting in larger ways. Google’s latest addition to its search algorithm is proving just that.
Called RankBrain, Google’s machine-based AI system is able to teach itself to process complex search results better.
Since its launch in late 2015, it has become the third-highest signal behind links and content out of more than two hundred Google uses to help determine how to rank web pages.
The rise of the intelligent machine is significant, not least for businesses concerned with Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
What Does RankBrain Do Exactly?
You’re planning a big trip and want to circle the globe but are worried the costs could get out of control. You search for “what’s the best way to travel around the world on a budget?” Well, that exact phrase may not be found on the pages you would like to find. The inconsistency occurs because the search words and the hoped-for results have a complex relationship. Enter RankBrain. Google’s AI system interprets searches, particularly complex, multi-word, “long-tail” queries in order to deliver the best search results for its inquirer.
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RankBrain has built upon years of human work making connections between words, which culminated in Google’s Knowledge Graph, a database of facts and the relationship they have with each other. With more than 300 billion searches a day, RankBrain was created to deal with the 15 percent of search queries roughly 450 million per day that Google has never seen before.
It does this all offline, being fed historical searches it uses to learn and make predictions from. The complex searches it processes help it learn for future, more complex searches. Google has ushered in a new wave of machine-based efficiency on a massive scale.
How Can Your Business Benefit From RankBrain?
The purpose for RankBrain, apart from it reducing the reliance on humans for making complex connections, is to help Google produce relevant results for complicated and vague search terms. As RankBrain produces more relevant search results, the number of results consumers will need to search through will diminish.
Ranking on the first page may not be enough if the top four results solve that a consumer’s pain point. For businesses, RankBrain should remind that a comprehensive SEO strategy is not a luxury.
A Complete SEO Strategy Requires the Union of Both Technical and Qualitative Components
With RankBrain altering the search results landscape, the quality of your website, being both the technical components and the on-page content, is tantamount to your business’s success. It is reasonable to assume that as RankBrain’s intelligence grows more complicated website metrics will be introduced into Google’s search ranking algorithm.
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Click-through rates, time on page, browse rates, pages shares, and other forms of engagement are measures ripe for meaningful inclusion to better hone quality search results. Ironically what an AI driven search algorithm is calling for in SEO, and marketing in general is a human-first approach.
The New Rules of SEO Are Being Adopted From the Rules for Creating Enduring business Value
And if it wasn’t clear already black-hatting techniques, spamming and poorly produced content won’t cut it, even in the short-term. Links and content are the only two signals that Google places above RankBrain in determining page ranks. What RankBrain represents is the importance of value behind these two signals. In order for that to happen, your content must be targeted to a specific audience with a call-to-share. This means knowing your audience through keyword research and basic persona development.
Once this is understood, the content you craft should be personal, direct and natural sounding. People search informally, not thinking about how to phrase searches in an optimal way, which is what RankBrain was designed to solve. The web pages RankBrain rates highly, therefore, will be those that accurately answer in a conversational tone and are echoed through social platforms and other websites. Again, we now have the robots to thank for helping us connect more as humans.
RankBrain represents a growing trend toward the need for an adopted SEO strategy that includes integrated content marketing and social media components. As the demand for quality grows businesses must approach their digital marketing holistically, not as disparate parts. Branding, content, web design, social and SEO are important tools that Google will continue to find quantitative metrics it can use to rank your website by. It’s time to bow to the machines to teach us we’re humans first, and so are our customers.
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Pierce Csurgo is a writer, content strategist, and editorial consultant. He is the Content Director at Awkward Media, a Toronto-based digital marketing agency focused on developing and managing content, SEO and social strategies for clients. He posts regularly on Awkward Media’s blog and personally at Thinking Is The Best Way To Travel. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.