Optimizing for Search in a RankBrain World

RankBrain and Search
Image Credit – metamorworks/

Google often changes things up, as it is constantly fine-tuning its powerful search algorithms. Observant SEO pros can determine when something new is added to the mix, but what about everyone else? Google doesn’t exactly shout it from the rooftops whenever they update or launch a new algorithm. In the case of the AI (artificial intelligence) RankBrain algorithm, Google broke tradition and verified that it is indeed operating – and affecting search results.

Google is Shaking up Search with RankBrain

RankBrain is not just another Google tweak to be ignored. RankBrain uses machine learning to improve search results and goes beyond the keywords that are searched for, factoring in the intent of the user when delivering search results.

RankBrain’s Artificial Intelligence (AI):

  • examines how and why people carry out certain searches
  • is learning and evolving constantly
  • focuses on user intent to deliver stronger search results

The Workings of RankBrain and Local Search

At this point, RankBrain affects less than one quarter of search results. This figure is estimated at around 15–20%, but we can safely say it will increase as the RankBrain algorithm keeps learning. Andrey Lipattsev of Google puts RankBrain in the top three most important ranking factors. That’s huge because the other two top factors are links and content! Once again, RankBrain is another Google tweak, but a very important one, and it has to be considered when creating and publishing content.

Black-hat SEO tactics – spam, keyword stuffing, link farming – will continue to impact website placement in search results. But keep in mind that Google rewards marketers and businesses that play by their rules. Be consistent in providing a quality experience for searchers and customers that will please RankBrain, and therefore Google.

What Does RankBrain Want Most?

It may help to think of RankBrain as a consumer itself. And what does the consumer want? High quality content! Google is big on the concept of E-A-T content, just like searchers, just like the consumer. E-A-T is defined as Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness, and E-A-T content exhibits a high level of each component. Google looks at a website and measures these characteristics, evaluating website quality and basically putting itself in a searcher’s shoes. Is the site helpful and informative? Is it trustworthy?

Everyone wants accurate, high quality, trustworthy results and content to solve their “I-want-to” moments: I want to do, I want to go, I want to learn, I want to buy. These “I-want-to” interludes are called micro-moments (as defined by Google). Every content producer should strive for content that provides reliable information people can learn from and use to fulfill their needs. Such content not only answers questions and solves problems, but it saves time. Go ahead – next time you run a search gauge the amount of high-quality results you see. It seems RankBrain is indeed helping deliver more meaty results with less spam.

Creating Content that RankBrain Likes

1. The Key to Keyword Use

The strong focus on user intent doesn’t put keyword research out of business. On-page optimization and keywords remain an important part of local SEO. Historically, the focus has been on shorter, keyword-heavy content. However, the content producer should no longer focus on a single keyword, but instead, choose a main keyword phrase supplemented with a few related search terms. Content that goes more in-depth is rewarded in the RankBrain world.

2. Put People First

RankBrain’s AI core is looking for content obviously directed at real people. This is definitely a case where “the customer is always right” as Google rewards natural-sounding content directed towards the searcher. When creating content always keep the target audience in mind. As a creator yet also a consumer, what would you like to see? Write and create with this mindset.

3. Remember the Local Aspect

In creating this deep-focused content for real people, include the local aspect. You have perhaps heard the expression, “all politics is local.” Accordingly, the needs of the local consumer take priority, so be sure to include localized content and keywords aimed at a specific audience. Do this consistently and RankBrain will take notice, helping to get a business found via higher rankings and improved visibility.

So now that you understand RankBrain’s intentions and preferences, are you ready to produce better content? Calculate the next best steps and get started!

Bernadette Coleman

Bernadette Coleman is a SEO, Local Search, Engaging Content Enthusiast & CEO of Advice Interactive Group, an Inc500 Digital Agency.

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