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Google RankBrain: What You Need to Know

The next big thing is here and it’s called Google RankBrain.

RankBrain is a machine-learning artificial intelligence (AI) system that is handling and processing a big portion of Google’s incoming search queries, and it’s poised to change search forever.

Until now, Google’s search queries have been sorted, processed and handled by algorithms like Hummingbird, Google’s well-known search system, and while RankBrain isn’t completely set to replace Hummingbird, it does present a series of important changes for how people search and are matched with relevant information.

Read on to learn more.

What is RankBrain?

Like we mentioned, RankBrain is an AI system that is capable of learning from search patterns and adjusting itself to provide better results in the future. The system was introduced in early 2015 (although Google says its been rolled-out for a few months now) to handle the 15 percent of search queries that are totally foreign to the Google system. While 15 percent may not seem like much, it’s important to note that, since Google processes upward of three billion searches each day, 15 percent still amounts to about 450 million search queries each day that Google doesn’t recognize and was previously unable to adequately process.

Google’s hope is that RankBrain’s intelligent system will be able to better process complex, long-tail queries and interpret them better in order to offer better results for searchers. Since RankBrain learns as it goes, it’s likely that the new system will be able to discover patterns within complex and seemingly disjointed searches and distinguish the connection in order to present better search results.

Additionally, RankBrain is projected to be able to associate groups of searches with sets of results that it believes users will enjoy and find valuable. In addition to taking some work off of the hands of the Google engineers, it is obviously Google’s great hope that RankBrain will help create a more intuitive search experience.

RankBrain and Google Signals: The Intersection

When you type “How Google…” into Google, the first suggested result that pops up is “How Google works,” which is comical, because nobody quite seems to know. Throughout Google history, the way that Google ranks webpages in search indexes has been a big, muddy mystery that relies on hundreds of vaguely-defined “signals.” These signals include everything from keywords to the perceived quality of a page through the eyes of a search engine.

Until now, these signals have fed into a system called PageRank and, once they were processed, each page received a PageRank score that was used as one more signal to determine indexing position. From there, the complex web of signals was fed through the Hummingbird algorithm to make the final decision on which pages Google displayed prominently and which it didn’t.

Since the introduction of RankBrain, however, the signal system has become just a bit more complicated. Before RankBrain, Google often claimed to have more than 200 primary ranking signals that could be broken down into 10,000 sub-signals. RankBrain was introduced, however, and Google is now saying that RankBrain is the third most important ranking signal the search engine giant will rely on from now on.

Although Google won’t disclose the first and second ranking factors they rely upon, the fact that RankBrain is sitting comfortably at third indicates that this is a huge and very important development in the Google-verse.

How RankBrain can Help Google Refine its Search Experience

Until RankBrain came along, Google’s search queries were all ultimately handled by some Google engineer or SEO in an office somewhere. In addition to this being a huge amount of work for the engineers or SEOs in question, this system had limitations inherent within the database connections and list work it entailed. Although Google has long-since included automation within this process, it’s still difficult for any group of humans to process more than three billion daily searches.

With this in mind, RankBrain is here to leverage Google’s expertise about complex queries and to turn daily search into something new and exciting through consistent learning and a more streamlined SERP setup that offers users access to important information without requiring them to click through to a website. This is possibly one of the most exciting aspects of the RankBrain development — that users can now search information and be matched with correct pages without ever supplying by-the-book “correct” search terms.

For example, thanks to RankBrain, you can search “When was George Bush’s wife born?” and be met with a breakdown of the life and history of one-time First Lady Laura Bush without ever entering her name.


Results like this allow searchers to connect with more intuitive information more instantly without the added hassle of shifting through websites or navigating away from the search page.

The Future of RankBrain

While it’s impossible to know exactly where the Google Gods will take RankBrain in the future – one thing is for sure: RankBrain is big.

In addition to suddenly being the third-most important ranking signal for webpages, RankBrain is also handling a massive influx of daily searches, which means that the Google team obviously has a huge amount of confidence in the system as a whole. As the RankBrain update continues to roll out, there is hope far and wide that it will create a better search experience for Google users and a more intuitive search system for Google engineers. Additionally, RankBrain is posed perfectly to adapt to coming technologies like Voice Search. While the future of Google’s various developments is notoriously difficult to predict, we can bet that RankBrain is something we will be hearing a whole lot more about in the near future.

About the author


Julia McCoy

Julia McCoy is a serial content marketer, entrepreneur, and bestselling author. She founded a multi-million dollar content agency, Express Writers, with nothing more than $75 at 19 years old. Today, her team has nearly 100 expert content creators on staff, and serves thousands of clients around the world. She's earned her way to the top 30 worldwide content marketers, and has a passion for sharing what she knows in her books and in her online course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia also hosts The Write Podcast on iTunes.


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  • Not having to sift through websites or navigate away from the search page also conveniently serves Google and their ad revenue. 🙂
    It is really nice when you get exactly what you search for, though! It will be interesting to see both how SEO and AI will develop in the future.

  • It is going to be interesting to see the evolution of RankBrain in Googles overall search schemes. Webmasters might have to rethink their SEO strategies and tweak them constantly to stay in step with an AI software. As an Organic Health foods and supplement entrepreneur it is a daunting task to get quality customers visit.
    Thanks for the information in your article, It’s making me think!

  • Rankbrain is really a great Update by Google. And rankbrain gives the best and selected information from the search results.

  • Not sure, if it is after the evolution of Rankbrain but we are getting some ranking fluctuations for some of our client’s websites. An interesting thing, I noticed is, that the exact match domains are starting to rank up from quite sometime.
    As google always discouraged the use of exact match domains, how come this started all of a sudden. I had been checking few other websites ranking below such exact match domains, and those appears to be more informative, content rich and relevant.
    It would be really good to know what all factors, Rankbrain takes into consideration while ranking the websites.

  • The future of this is probably bigger than anyone can imagine at this point. Google should also analyse count trends of words and phrases with the view to help advance the understanding and use of collective synchronicity in helping man create early warning systems – areas covering the prediction of natural disasters right through to stock market crashes. They have (hitherto unwittingly) created a tool that can tap into the collective unconscious of mankind.

  • It has been my thinking for a long time now that probably the most important skill for performing SEO work these days is a real mastery of the English language (or whatever language you are writing in).

    Basic keyword optimisation requires a decent level of writing skills to not over emphasis a key term. However with RankBrain it would seem, even more so than with Hummingbird that Google is now trying to understand the meaning of the words written.

    So perhaps if you want to get some SEO training, go and do an English degree!

  • Rankbrain no doubt sound great but if someone is searching for a deep matter of the subject then he will need to navigate through the other websites. As said above in your post user will get the information without navigating through the other websites. I am confused regarding the same. Kindly elaborate in detail.

  • There’s always hype around the latest algorithm (or hint of one since they never really ‘describe’ exactly how any of it actually works), but the basic premise is still the same:

    1. Keep your website technology up to date and error free across a variety of browsers and devices. Test it. Retest it. Then test it again.
    2. Create quality content. SEO only gets your page indexed properly, it’s quality current RELEVANT content that keeps your organic results steady.
    3. Update frequently. Nobody likes stale or static content that hasn’t been updated in 3 years.
    4. Interact with social media and blogs. Backlink as much as possible with relevance in mind. Instead of ‘pushing’ your site, make it one that people want to look for and visit frequently.
    5. Don’t SPAM. If your site looks like SPAM on the page or in the code, it probably is, and Google knows what to look for.

    (Hint for #4 and #5: Nobody browsing a medical website researching about pregnancy wants to buy your iPhone cases from the comment section. Even if they are really cool and really cheap. It’s just not relevant or wanted).


  • My company invested a lot of money for SEO campaign since we started and now we’re thinking of alternative that won’t cost us a big sum. Thanks for the tips! That helps my company a lot!
    Dirk, http://wikilink.biz/

  • My company invested a lot of money for SEO campaign since we started and now we’re thinking of alternative that won’t cost us a big sum. Thanks for the tips! That helps my company a lot!

  • The good thing about Google is that it is always out for a surprise. As far as performing search queries are concerned, Google is on the move to improve upon this. There is no doubt that the webmasters are watching with the keen eyes of interest on the effect on overall SEO but one should always play safe by good SEO practice at all times. Thanks immensely for the update.

  • Google is top gaint in the world working on intellgence of machine that gives us a best answer on google seach result

  • Being a pro blogger can help you outsmart Google at times but it does have a cost! You win or you lose! But learning from every resource like this, it’s a great way to keep up in low times even when you fail!
    Thanks for the article! Cheers!

  • Google is on the move to improve upon this. There is no doubt that the webmasters are watching with the keen eyes of interest on the effect on overall SEO but one should always play safe by good SEO practice at all times

  • Google RankBrain has completely changed the user search experience. Previously, user should go inside a website to check the content he needs but now, Google itself fetches the information needed for you.

  • Where you rank Google rankbrain,its completely upto you.You can use it or what you want you can do but i found it really brilliant innovation.We need to just try it.