Part 1 of 3: Google RankBrain – What does it mean for SEO?
While we’re not yet at the point where they take over and annihilate humankind, Artificial Intelligence just may be getting closer. Google recently announced the creation of RankBrain, a machine-learning artificial intelligence program that helps their algorithm determine search results. Machine-learning means that it can learn things itself, as opposed to being taught by a human or following code. Google is saying that RankBrain is the third most important “signal” they use to determine page ranks.
What are these signals?
Google has been vague as to the number of signals they use. They’ve said they have hundreds of signals, and also implied there are thousands of signals. Signals can be anything from the placement of a word on a page, to whether it’s bolded or italicized. Google won’t say what the first and second most important signals are, though. The algorithm is complex and regularly changes, up to 600 times a year.
What does it do?
RankBrain is given bunches of old search phrases and results, and learns to make connections between them. That way, search results can better reflect the true intention of the searcher if the parameters are vague. The example that Google presented was the search for “What’s the title of the consumer at the highest level of a food chain?” The word consumer can be confusing in this instance because it’s more commonly used to refer to someone who is shopping. However, it can also mean someone who is “consuming” something. RankBrain was able to make the connection between the alternate meaning of “consumer” and “food chain” to provide appropriate results. It can see patterns between searches that don’t seem to be related at all and figures out how they’re connected.
What does it mean?
A great SEO campaign has always been based on choosing the best keywords to get your content to the top of search results pages. If your keywords weren’t the ones that your target audience is searching for, then your campaign would fail. Google had an algorithm that would determine search results rankings that was unchanging, save for periodic updates. Now, with RankBrain, that algorithm is constantly changing. Your SEO campaign must be flexible and adaptable to the results that RankBrain is helping generate. Failure to adapt may result in the failure of the campaign; it’s that simple.
So what should we do?
If you are already following good SEO practices, there isn’t a lot you should do. RankBrain, theoretically, will begin better rewarding high-quality SEO campaigns and strategies compared to weaker strategies. In the past, a spam strategy would still get decent results, much to the frustration of those who focus on great content and well-run webpages. With RankBrain, those spammy results should drop away.
The bottom line is, if you’re following good SEO practices, RankBrain should help your potential consumers find your content. If not, you’d better start focusing on good content and great user-experiences on your pages, otherwise you are going to have difficulty going forward.
For Part 2 of this 3 part series, we’ll talk more about Google’s algorithm and what you need to know to help your SEO campaigns.