What is Google RankBrain & What Does It Mean for SEO?

How Google RankBrain Impacts Your SEO

Have you heard about Google RankBrain? This somewhat new SEO ranking signal has become integral to the way Google is processing a lot of its search queries. Basically, Google is using RankBrain, an artificial intelligence and machine learning system, to help its organic search algorithm understand search queries and deliver more relevant search results to users. Read on to learn more about how RankBrain works and how it’s impacting your SEO.

What Exactly is RankBrain?

RankBrain is one of the top three “signals” Google’s algorithm uses to rank organic search results. (The other two are links and content.) The RankBrain signal helps Google’s algorithm “understand” the meaning of web pages and return the ones it thinks are the most relevant to a user’s search. Because of RankBrain’s ability to learn and understand content in a human-like way, rather than guessing based on keywords and links, it’s becoming one of most important signals when to comes to SEO.

How is RankBrain Learning?

RankBrain is a combination of artificial intelligence and machine learning, and it uses both mathematical processes and language semantics to understand the meaning and context of what’s on a website. This allows Google to process new or complex search queries, rather than just relying on basic connections like synonyms or word variations. In addition, RankBrain learns over time how people search and what organic results they interact with the most, so it can refine the results it delivers and provide even more relevant content to Google’s users.

Are Keywords Still Important to SEO?

As we’ve seen with many recent Google updates, Google’s goal is to promote experiences and content that people like and find useful. With RankBrain as part of it’s algorithm, Google can do this better than ever before – but that doesn’t mean you should be leaving keywords out of your SEO strategy. However, RankBrain is limiting the effectiveness of exact-match keywords as a ranking factor, and is instead helping Google understand the meaning of a website, almost like a real person would. So, it’s important now to think about your SEO keywords in terms of categories or topics for your website, rather than just specific terms that need to be crammed into your content.

How Can I Maximize My SEO Efforts in Light of RankBrain?

With RankBrain, organic search results are becoming more relevant and useful to users. Here are a few ways you can take a human-like, natural approach to your SEO.

  1. Make sure your website is easy to read and understand, clearly formatted for all devices, and most importantly, helpful for your visitors.
  2. Create content for your website that flows naturally for readers and is more than just a string of keywords. Remember, your primary audience is your users, not search engines.
  3. Keep your message and business information consistent across your website and offsite properties (like your listings and social media).
  4. Stop using outdated SEO tactics that attempt to “game” the search engines. This may penalize your site or hurt your site’s visibility.

The Future of SEO

Google RankBrain represents a critical shift in the way search engines are providing relevant results to users. And, your website should provide as relevant and as positive of an experience as possible in order to drive more visits and engagement. This also means your website and your approach to SEO should be moving away from the elements and tactics that are no longer valued by search engines. Doing so will ultimately leave your website in better shape for your visitors and for any future updates to search engine algorithms.

Check out more SEO trends and best practices on our blog. If SEO is a challenge for your business, learn about our customizable SEO service, ReachSEO, and contact us for a free SEO consultation.

Tamara Weintraub

Tamara is a content marketing manager at ReachLocal with over 7 years experience in B2B marketing and has a nerd-level affinity for software and technology. She specializes in helping local businesses succeed online, writing and learning about Google, search advertising, SEO, and social media marketing. When she’s not writing about online marketing, you can find her watching cult TV and hanging out with her Doberman.

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  • Nikolay Stoyanov

    Great article Tamara! There is still a lot of speculation surrounding RankBrain. Do you think that Google will ultimately turn to AI when it comes to regular searches as well making search completely autonomous?