Algorithm Academy
22 September 2016 | Evie Palaiochorinou

The Algorithm Academy: #3 RankBrain

Welcome to the Algorithm Academy, your six part guide designed to make you a Google genius. We’re going to be teaching you about Google’s algorithm and its ranking factors; from what makes you rank, to what has a negative impact on your rankings.

Today’s topic is RankBrain, and we’ll be telling you everything you need to know, from what RankBrain is and why it was created to how to use it for your website. 

What is RankBrain?

RankBrain is an artificial intelligence computer system that was developed using machine learning. It helps Google process and answer unfamiliar, unique and original queries. It came out at the beginning of 2015 and its effect is global.

Although RankBrain was designed to solve  one-of-a-kind and ambiguous queries, it’s also responsible for determining where web pages are ranked on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP).

The SEO experts amongst you might remember a previous similar algorithm update – Hummingbird. However, RankBrain is not the sequel to Hummingbird, Google’s search algorithm, rather an optimisation of the algorithm. Its influence is so significant that Google declared it as the third most important ranking factor. 

Why Google came up with RankBrain

google dots animated

The need for constant improvement in the algorithm led to a post-Hummingbird-era. However, soon it became obvious to Google engineers that the Hummingbird algorithm had difficulties responding  to colloquial expressions or rare searches. Therefore, Google created RankBrain as a solution to the problem. 

How RankBrain was developed

As machine learning is rapidly developing into a very promising technology, Google decided to use it in combination with Artificial Intelligence in order to optimise their algorithm further.

machine learning

Machine learning is a science that instructs computers how to deliver tasks without human intervention or operation and without the need of elaborate programming.

Artificial Intelligence, on the other hand, is where a computer system can infer what the answer to a question is, using pattern recognition and making connections. Artificial Intelligence means teaching a machine to think as a human being and to draw knowledge both from things it already knows and from human input and programming.

Google needed to combine these two technologies in order to make a system that can take rational decisions based on connections when exposed to certain queries.

How RankBrain works

machine learning

RankBrain is used when there is a need to understand a query and retrieve results. When an ambiguous or never-seen-before search appears, RankBrain uses the historically collected data (stored as mathematical data in the background) to find patterns and meaningful connections. After that, it is able to take rational decisions on its own and present the most suitable answers.

How does this affect your business?

RankBrain is developed for long-tailed and never seen before queries, so it’s not very easy to optimise for.

key to data

However to appear relevant for any of these never-seen-before queries you should focus on creating detailed and meaningful content, and try to keep everything in a rational context. You should look at related topics and use synonyms in your web copy in order to cover more related keywords. Make sure that you have covered your topic in as much detail as possible. Ultimately, the purpose is to provide enough information for Google to digest and understand so it knows that your site is an authority on the subject.

Understanding natural language is a key objective for RankBrain. What RankBrain is essentially trying to do is read between the lines; understand what the meaning behind words is. If this is achieved, then it will be able to answer all first-time-appearing and confusing queries and even anticipate results before users search for something.

big data

Looking at the latest Google features and the clues that Googler is disclosing, we can see that the ultimate goal is to transform the search engine into a deep learning system. Google sees the future of RankBrain closely linked to Artificial Intelligence and they aim at developing computer systems that will be able to think like human beings and make deductions based on previously acquired and new knowledge.

In conclusion, Google has developed a well-polished algorithm designed not to be capable of being fooled by deft webmasters. Through RankBrain, Google wants to make absolutely certain that your content is expertly written, optimised and fulfils intent.

Evie Palaiochorinou

Evie Palaiochorinou

Digital Marketing Specialist