Google’s New Algorithm Update: RankBrain

RankBrain is Going to Judge Your Content

Google is still king when it comes to sending us potential, profitable customers so it makes sense to be up on how our webpages are being ranked now and in future. Google said its Hummingbird algorithm update was a completely new algorithm. Well, that’s sort like saying you got a new carpet when it came back from the cleaners.

Graphic Courtesy of Search Engine Land

This time though, they’ve actually done something they promised for a long time — a self learning page indexing algorithm called RankBrain.

The search giant seemingly inspired by Steven Spielberg movies has sought to use machine learning (artificial intelligence) to improve search results.

More than ever now, we (well, probably just me) will have to consider how Google interprets our content flow, topic coverage and engagement if we expect to rank highly in search results.

It Learns as it Goes

RankBrain appears to learn more about what Google searchers are visiting, reading and spending time on.  It may give a boost to websites with content that’s more interesting to visitors and which seems to have more content that’s interesting on the topic. Rankbrain tries to interpret what people really mean when they do a particular keyword search along with trying to improve its understanding of the searcher’s intent.

RankBrain is an artificial intelligence system that’s being applied to and used with Google’s current search engine algorithms to provide better results to user queries. Rooted in machine learning, RankBrain will use mathematical processes and an advanced understanding of language semantics to gradually learn more about how and why people search, and apply those conclusions to future search results — Jason Demers on

Based on Jason’s description, I would surmise the definition of RankBrain as a program which discovers content paths that solve the user’s query fully and most accurately.

If RankBrain’s influence in SEO and content design is about to increase, here’s some questions you should start answering:

  • How useful and sticky is your content?
  • Does your content flow topically to help solve common problems that Google sees being important?
  • Is your keyword usage strategic/sophisticated enough to signify topical progression to Google?
  • Do you look at your stats to see if people are staying to read/experience your content?
  • What are the click paths they take?
  • What are Google’s robots really trying to learn – What is the ultimate goal for your visitor?
  • Is RankBrain measuring clickthrough rates, time on site, bounce rates, site usage, relevant content and keywords, or which links searchers are clicking on?
  • How will your content compete with larger publishers who offer a more thorough treatment of topics?

I’ve got 11 handy tips for you below on how you should design your content for better RankBrain rankings.

Google Continuously Upgrades its Algorithm (Kaizen)

Google’s always made small, gradual upgrades in its algorithm, but this time it might be getting close to a hypergrowth leap in how search rankings will be calculated.

Google has difficulty ranking a lot of pages on the Web because most pages have no links pointing to them and a lot of search queries are so unique, it can’t understand what the searcher wants. And Google is very dependent on links for selecting its search results.  Yet links don’t tell the whole story about good content, particularly recently published content.

Website owners, bloggers, journalists etc don’t indicated enough when they point to a document about what it’s about, and they may not even take the time to link to an excellent piece of content. Yet this might be content that people really enjoy. Google wants to be more sure they’ve got the best content and the right content.

If Google was to improve their search results, they needed to discover how people are using the content. Do they visit a page, then click back immediately, or do they read the whole post? If people visit a page, stay to read it, and then read related material on that website, it might be a strong sign of high quality content. Larry Kim of Wordstream, a PPC optimization software firm, suggests that Google is using its quality measurement tools from Adwords to improve organic results.

The way 30 trillion web pages are ranked changed forever on October 26, 2015. That’s when the world became aware of RankBrain, Google’s machine-learning artificial intelligence system — Larry Kim in a Linkedin Pulse post.

What Do Your Visitors Care About?

Let’s have a gander at some of my blog post stats in this graphic below. You can see realtors are very keen on the topic of prospecting, and building skills and their brand image.  Snappy, intriguing titles help attract them, but might not entice them to keep reading.

The average time on page for visitors was 4 to 5 minutes which is pretty good in the era of 7 second attention spans. Most busy professionals won’t stick around too long which is why you see an 83% to 87% bounce rate.  They enjoy one article and off they go — unless you have a strong call to action to take them further. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to set up that strong content/conversion process on my blog. Obviously, the site design, content and value proposition have to be developed.  This is more of a fun site that I use to experiment and express myself with.

What RankBrain makes you consider is how you fulfill the search completely instead of having one page for a topic. People won’t engage with one page only, so RankBrain is likely going to learn that you don’t offer visitors much.

So RankBrain could force us all to create more content than we want to and think strongly about how our content works as a whole to satisfy the needs of the 98% of people who visit and leave. Further, we might also want to shy away from poorly qualified traffic  (spam sites for example would get lots of unqualified traffic) as it would send negative engagement signals to Google.

Google compares the searcher’s keyword terms used to what they actually visited and read (BTW, Google can’t read videos and graphics). That’s the customer journey. They’re trying to learn what people actually wanted, and then present the next logical information to them on successive searches. Google wants to read your mind and spoon feed you what they believe is the right information as you search. That’s what this “machine learning” is mostly about.

If RankBrain is now the 3rd most important metric being used in how they rank pages, it might be wise for you to learn more about how they use it and begin boosting your content quality.  However, Google has never liked giving away their “secret sauce.”  That means we have to think about this!

Here’s some RankBrain ranking tips to help you Rank Higher:

  1. create more interesting content – include graphics, videos, quotes, interviews, infographics
  2. develop deeper content on topics and perspectives – delve into what customers don’t know
  3. discover what your customers consider the most interesting content
  4. do not let your webmaster install pop ups that delay the visitors use of the back button
  5. do not use a time wasting interstitial popup that annoys arriving visitors
  6. key on an issue the visitor is struggling with and present possible routes to a satisfying solution
  7. include comments, insights, and tips from experts
  8. avoid using common words that don’t help clarify the meaning of your specific topics — instead use words that apply to specific variations of topics you cover — (e.g., The residential photovoltaic arrays designed into our solar shingles for house roofs generate 12 watts per square foot of roof surface).
  9. explain how your other customers are having similar issues, challenges, and success
  10. use headings and make your content easy to read and scan
  11. include embedded links to let visitors find related material to explore

These tips should help you enrich your content, keep visitors longer, and make your content appear more relevant to Google. As time passes, we’ll learn more about RankBrain. Bookmark this page and I’ll keep you updated.

More information will be revealed about RankBrain and how search results are changing. Pagerank, semantics, Trustrank, and other elements are still important as part of the 200 factors, but our Big Brother Google is watching and judging our content quality.

See what Danny Sullivan said about RankBrain:


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