You may have heard about Google’s new artificial intelligence (AI) system, RankBrain. Before visions of Skynet start coming to mind, we’d like to confirm that it’s not exactly that. RankBrain is actually Google’s latest effort to help better process search results. In short, it helps with the output of the “correct” answer when users input more long-tail and complicated questions. RankBrain is not a new system for ranking but now part of Google’s overall search algorithm. RankBrain does not “learn” in real-time (yet!), but rather, it is given historical data offline, where it learns to make future predictions and continues to “learn”.
We all know about Google Hummingbird and how it is also part of Google’s overall search algorithm. Think about RankBrain as being a new part of the Hummingbird algorithm. RankBrain is so closely related to Hummingbird as its main purpose is to interpret searches, mostly questions. Even though the query may not contain the actual keyword or phrase, it’s RankBrain’s job to figure out what the intention of the search is – in other words, reading between the lines.
RankBrain is new and definitely important. Note that Google has deemed it the THIRD most important ranking signal. While they will not reveal the top two factors, it is a big deal that their emphasis on RankBrain is so public. While the thought of RankBrain completely changing SEO can be frightening, the reality is that organic SEO has been changing for some time now.
SEOs are probably very worried and/or intrigued about how RankBrain will affect organic optimization. Although we don’t have any definitive proof or information of RankBrain’s affect on SEO yet, the bottom line is still to optimize content and websites for the human user experience. That means writing naturally and staying away from rigid goals of keyword usage. It involves thinking about topics and concepts in an all encompassing manner, instead of just piecemeal, as it is done with traditional keywords.
If you have any thoughts, questions, or predictions about RankBrain, be sure to let us know!