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Everything You Wanted To Know About Google’s RankBrain

Google – the internet’s definitive informational supergiant – is always tinkering away at improvements for their suite of web-oriented tools and software.

It’s no surprise then, that when Google announces a new Search feature publically, the SEO community is often the first to jump into the deep end of analyzation. After all, the promise of a new Google ranking algorithm is a ripe opportunity for webmasters and business owners to see their page rankings on Google skyrocketif they can figure out just how it all works.

As the SEO enthusiasts eagerly dive into exploring new page-ranking methods and content optimization tactics, the rest of us are often left scratching our heads.

Take, for example, Google’s artificial intelligence system “RankBrain,” which was confirmed by Google to be actively influencing search results in late 2015.

Upon Google’s announcement, most of the information on RankBrain was limited and had little factual backing. There were thousands of SEO-oriented sites spouting estimations and promoting strategies regarding RankBrain, but most of it was merely fanatical conjecture and had little grounding in reality.

In the two years following, Google has made further comments on RankBrain that have shed some necessary light on the AI’s exact purpose and function.

And while RankBrain is still not fully understood by most, the answers we do have might surprise you. Like many of Google’s under-the-hood innovations, RankBrain’s impact on the SEO landscape is both subtle and not-so-subtle.

But either way, we’re SEO focused here at Yocale and would love to walk you through it. Let’s get started!

What Exactly is RankBrain?

RankBrain is an algorithm-based AI that uses mathematical “vectors” to understand the relationship between keywords. This means that if a user Google searches for a term or phrase that RankBrain has never heard of, RankBrain can compare the unfamiliar term to similar queries and dynamically display the results.

In simple terms, RankBrain makes Google Search more adept at handling new searches it hasn’t seen before.

It matches unfamiliar terms with similar ones, allowing for a new level of learned accuracy via artificial intelligence. However, if Google Search is already familiar with a search query, RankBrain doesn’t really come into play.

That said, it’s been estimated that 15 percent of Google Search queries are unique – meaning that they’ve never been previously searched for. And as part of Google’s continuing battle for improvement, that 15% is worth tackling.

It’s Not Exactly A Language-Learning Robot

While RankBrain helps Google Search bring you more relevant and diverse search results, it’s still a mathematical solution to a linguistical challenge. RankBrain doesn’t help Google understand language – it helps Google better understand the relationships of terms using mathematical factors.

What, exactly, are these factors? Well, Google has stated that RankBrain’s database of knowledge is based on people, places, and things. It searches this deep system of connections for the most apparent relationships between terms and produces results accordingly.

Over time, these connections between terms are strengthened and refined based on relevance. So the more RankBrain knows, the more it grows.

It’s possible that one day, Google Search will operate primarily by understanding the fundamentals of language and the associations we intuitively take for granted. But for now, computers prefer to learn and speak in numbers – and RankBrain is no different.

Optimizing Web Content For RankBrain

Now, here’s the question any SEO-minded business or website owner really wants to know the answer to: can you optimize your web content with RankBrain in mind? And if so, what’s the best way to go about it?

In an interview with Google employee Gary Illyes in 2016, Illyes had this to say:

“Optimizing for RankBrain is actually super easy, and it is something we’ve probably been saying for fifteen years now … the recommendation is to write in natural language. Try to write content that sounds human.”

“If you try to write like a machine, then RankBrain will just get confused and probably just [push] you back.”

Illyes’ comment seems to be in-line with Google’s overlying engineering philosophy: keep it simple. It might sound like superficial advice, but remember – this is RankBrain we’re talking about.

Given that RankBrain’s mission is to learn from human language, it would only be sensible to keep providing it with natural, human-optimized content. And for most of us who claim to be human – well, that shouldn’t prove too difficult!

As Google continually expands and refines their services, it’s essential for any website or business owner to stay-to-date. And while the subject of RankBrain doesn’t exactly provide for juicy SEO strategies, we have plenty more for you to check out!

Thanks for reading!

For more business strategy – online and off – keep up with us here at the Yocale blog, five days a week.

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