Rankbrain – it is one of the most misunderstood parts of Google’s search algorithm, so we wanted to write an easy to understand guide to help you better understand how it works and what you need to ensure you are included!
What Is RankBrain?
The official definition “RankBrain is an artificial intelligence (AI) component of Google’s Hummingbird search algorithm. RanBrain uses machine learning to filter results and improve the way web pages are positioned in the search engine results pages (SERP).
Yes, a little confusing right? Basically, RankBrain is using this artificial intelligence component to find phrases or terms that are similar in nature to what a search user has typed in and returning those results. It better understands “user intent” and will return results that it feels the searcher wants.
What Is An Example?
Imagine you are searching for dog toys. Here are some examples of what you may want to search for:
“best dog toys”
“what are the best dog toys”
“dog toys that are good”
“recommended dog toys”
Basically, all of the above search terms are basically the “same query” – the user wants to know what the best dog toys are – it is just being said in a few different ways.
This is what RankBrain is – it will take all those variations in how searches are done – and use its own AI component to narrow it down to determine exactly what you want.
Basically, you want a list a of the best dog toys – and if you do a search for the above queries you will see that generally speaking all the search results returned are very similar – this is RankBrain in action.
So Keyword Research Doesn’t Matter Anymore?
Absolutely NOT! Keyword research is still important, but it should be done in a different way which we will outline below. While you cannot exactly “optimize” for RankBrain, you can do a couple of things to improve your post from a content perspective to better engage your reader and tell Google what your post is about.
STEP 1: Google Adwords Planner
You will still want to take a peak at the search volume for your core “keywords or phrases” – but you will also want to take it a step further and look for multiple opportunities of how you can incorporate variations of your core phrase into your content.
Back to the dog toys example – when we put “dog toys” as a search term in Google Adwords Planner we get the results as shown in the image below.
In using this feature your goal is to find related terms that mean the same thing. We recommend you filter these results by competition and/or average monthly searches and also look at the Ad Group Ideas tab for more suggestions.
So in the results below we can talk about “durable dog toys” or “best tug toys for dogs” in a post – these terms may even inspire a post about “dog toys for strong dogs”. These results should give you inspiration for new posts and allow you to find related phrases to best optimize your post for.
STEP 2: Search For Your Chosen Keywords
So know you will take the terms that appeal to you for a post topic and head over to Google Search and enter those to see what you get.
When I enter “durable dog toys” I can see a list of posts, but on the bottom I get the following at the bottom of the screen:
So know we have even more terms to consider for our post that will help with RankBrain!
Terms like “indestructible dog toys” and “durable dog toys for power chewers” are related to “durable dog toys” so if someone types in any of those RankBrain may see the user intent as “Someone who needs to find toys for strong dogs”.
While there is no specific evidence that RankBrain is what returns these related searches results, but it could give your post an edge up in how RankBrain returns results. We often use these related searches terms in our SEO related activities and we have seen it boost our organic reach.
So That Is All To Ranking For RankBrain?
Not exactly – there is no “way to rank for RankBrain” so to speak. Google is going to be the one to determine your page relevance and the keywords and phrases are just a small part of the factors that come into play.
Below are other signals that RankBrain uses to determine the value of your page to a user:
Freshness – this has been rumored to be critical to the search results. Google does not want to return outdated information to their users. If you have older posts update the content to keep it current.
Domain Authority – because Google wants to make sure it is delivering good content and not spammy results they will look at your websites authority.
Engagement – this has been said to be a critical marker for RankBrain results. If you are showing low user engagement that can mean users are not getting the information they want from your pages and in the long run this can have negative effects on your rank. Google understands the user intent of the query, so if they search for “dog toys” and land on a page that talks about dog toys – they expect the user will spend some time there to review the information. If they are leaving the page too quickly, Google will know this and may not display you in the future.
Content Length – it is important that the content you create is strong in terms of what you offer to potential visitors. Not writing content to just fill the page, but writing content that adds VALUE to the topic you are presenting. If you are doing a “top 10 list” of dog toys – write a great – UNIQUE description about each dog toy.
RankBrain In A Nutshell
We hope this helped you better understand RankBrain a bit and how it affects your potential search result listings.
Here are the take-aways:
1) You cannot “optimize” for RankBrain
2) Utilize variations of related keywords in your posts or pages – use the keyword planner and Google Search to find related terms that you can use.
3) Concentrate on improving your user engagement by modifying content and making content engaging and informative.
4) Keep your posts and pages fresh and updated.
We are going to continue watching where RankBrain goes in the future — this is just the beginning of what will be sure to be a complex algorithm with some amazing results. We love the direction Google is going in to give us the most accurate and relevant search results possible!
Jill Caren brings over 12 years of WordPress and SEO experience to help you improve and grow your website. She has spoken at several events on SEO and has been published in several top SEO publications. You can contact Jill here.