RankBrain: Maximizing Machine Learning

On October 26, 2015, Google confirmed that it has invested in machine learning to improve the quality of results delivered by its search engine. Machine learning pertains to a computer’s ability to learn new things automatically by using the information it has to adapt to unique experiences. This takes human intervention out of the equation and automates the process.

What’s It For

This is a significant development for the search engine since the team had to code the algorithm manually. While human programming wasn’t removed entirely after RankBrain was rolled out, it lessened the burden on the developers by allowing the algorithm to make the necessary improvements on itself.

These are the two primary uses of Google’s RankBrain:

  • Identifying User Intent Google’s old algorithm without RankBrain relied on matching search terms in users’ queries to keywords found in each website’s content. However, it posed a problem when people typed in key phrases that the search engine hasn’t encountered before.
    With RankBrain, Google goes deeper than what’s on the surface of a search and aims to understand user intent. The search engine now compares unknown keywords to its database of indexed ones to establish a connection that may be relevant to the searcher.
  • Measuring User Satisfaction Even though Google has become quite adept at understanding user intent for each query through RankBrain, at the end of the day, it’s still an educated guess based on data that the search engine already has and information that it received. That’s why another process that the algorithm does is to measure user satisfaction.

It does so by assessing searchers’ behavior upon delivering a set of results. If a large portion of users enjoyed content from a particular page in the SERPs for a given query, the algorithm would automatically boost its ranking. On the other hand, if it doesn’t provide you with the information you need, Google replaces it the next time someone searches for the same term and evaluates its performance.
RankBrain monitors how users interact with the SERPs. Some user experience metrics it tracks are organic click-through rate or CTR, dwell time, bounce rate, and pogo-sticking, which happens when searchers go back and forth the results pages in their quest to find the right answers to their queries.

What Were Its Effects

RankBrain was a massive improvement for the search algorithm and changed how websites do their SEO. From content writing to optimizing each page, webmasters had to cater to the increased sophistication of the search engine. Of course, it did pave the way for more natural-sounding and conversational articles instead of the use of forced keywords that don’t blend seamlessly into the content.

At the time that it rolled out, RankBrain immediately became a critical ranking signal; placing as the third most important after high-quality content and having a robust link profile. Nonetheless, these elements work with several other factors in boosting your page’s rank.

What It Means for You

The importance of context has become more prevalent with RankBrain and its integration in the core algorithm. As mentioned above, it definitely changed SEO. It doesn’t necessarily mean more work for you; just a few improvements and tweaks on determining user intent, keyword research, and domain authority.

Here are three critical concepts that emerged after RankBrain:

  • Ranking for Each Query Depends on Different Rankings Signals Before RankBrain, webmasters had to make sure that their web pages are optimized for each ranking signal such as content quality and depth, keyword matching as well as link diversity and authority. Now, though, you need to identify what kind of content would best answer your visitors’ queries.
    For instance, a query about the details on a natural disaster would rely more on the freshness of the content rather than the links that it acquired. Another example would be for a specific topic such as Australian music history, where content depth and domain authority would be more critical factors.
  • Your Pages’ Rankings Influence Your Domain Authority The ultimate goal of your SEO strategy should be to cement your status as a reliable and trustworthy source of information for your industry. With RankBrain, you must build up your reputation in providing a specific experience; meaning, you must work on the rankings signals for each page based on the topics you’re covering.
  • Optimizing One Keyword Per Page is No Longer a Valuable Practice Before, webmasters had to ensure that they write a blog post for each of their target keywords to rank. RankBrain has rendered this practice ineffective since it emphasizes user intent and the context of your articles. One tip is to use synonyms for your search terms to make your message clear to Google.