Google SE Optimization Search Engines

What Google RankBrain Means for the Future of SEO

Those ensconced in the marketing world are familiar with Google’s RankBrain, the artificial intelligence system implemented by the tech giant at the end of 2015. It processes search results and then sends that information to its core SEO algorithm, which chooses the most relevant content to feature. Even though this system has been around for several months, we still know extremely little about how it works. However, there’s one thing that’s certain: It’s changing SEO for businesses forever.

RankBrain Helps the Algorithm

The most important thing that we know about RankBrain is that it’s not an algorithm, but it’s an essential aid to Google’s SEO formula. It’s a primary part of the system that helps to translate webpages through real-time data and to connect them with the most relevant search queries. It’s been proven to be one of the top signals that can inform search results other than the links and content within an article.

Though the latter two are still essential to SEO success, RankBrain is quickly becoming the most important component. This is because the AI system is the translator. It tells the algorithm what to think about the links and content, and without that pivotal information, the search results would be less relevant.

RankBrain Knows People

The most significant way that RankBrain is changing the SEO movement is in the way that it’s humanizing the SEO process. The system effectively understands people. It’s equipped to learn people’s search patterns and to determine what they want from their queries, even if they don’t specifically type that information into the search bar.

The combination of machine learning and artificial intelligence enables it to understand complex search queries. It looks beyond basic language markers and focuses instead on the meaning behind the words. It’s like the person typing a search query is having a conversation with a robot, and the robot picks up the inflection, emotion, and underlying meaning behind the words rather than simply taking them at face value.

Furthermore, the system restricts exact-match approaches to SEO. It focuses on the holistic complexity of factors involved in the search rather than the keywords. It’s probably no surprise to you that ranking factors don’t really care about keywords anymore, but you might not have known that the incredibly intelligent AI system is a primary reason.

What This Means for SEO

The impact of RankBrain on SEO is nothing short of critical. First of all, it helps us to understand just a little bit more how Google’s SEO algorithm works. The three signals (RankBrain, links and content) work together as a unit and should be treated as such. It’s ineffective to look at them as separate entities.

It also gravely impacts the complexity of your SEO strategy. There’s essentially no way to cheat your way to the top of rankings. It takes hard work and a dedicated, high-quality content strategy to be rewarded with top rankings. Google is committed to offering the most valuable experiences possible, and they won’t permit irrelevant, non-useful content for the sake of a company’s personal gain.

Google’s algorithm is quickly adapting as a result of RankBrain’s intelligence. It’s able to sense what people want from a great search experience.  It’s set up to reward sites that are mobile-friendly and to offer high quality content because it knows what its users are looking for.

Google’s algorithm is constantly analyzing real-time data to determine how consumers interact with content and businesses. It uses the positive and negative interactions to determine which content should rank highest.

Companies Must Embrace the System

The biggest takeaway for companies is that they must learn to work with this AI institution rather than against it. The system incentivizes businesses to get to know their target audiences and to refine their content accordingly. Focusing on the quality of both links and words will help to carry businesses through RankBrain’s picky system.

Learn to embrace machine learning now because it’s the future of business and search engines. Real-time data fuels the way both consumers and businesses interact online. RankBrain is just one of the many examples of how AI will enhance the user experience and increase competition of the SEO game for businesses.

About the author


Larry Alton

Larry is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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  • “It processes search results and then sends that information to its core SEO algorithm, which chooses the most relevant content to feature.”

    It always comes down to relevant content, doesn’t it. Always has and always will. No matter what shiny knew trinket they come up with it will always be what is relevant to the search query. And here some folks think good old organic white hat is passe. Relevancy ranks. Always has and always will.

  • Hey Larry, I think it’s all about getting the AI into the search engines and trying to improve the overall performance. And, since it’s Google we’re talking about here, it will always work for the better cause. Let’s wait for things to go towards that path. 🙂

  • What would interest me is being able to find out what RankBrain’s exact directives are. Of course, it’s about delivering quality results in search, but this in turn is about ensuring Google’s future profitability. My point is: I wonder how “aware” RankBrain is of the “true” goals of the company and whether that is part of its task.