Google’s RankBrain: Optimizing for Its AI
Google’s RankBrain is the algorithm you need to know to improve your site’s rankings. Here’s what to know, and how to optimize for it.
Thanks to Google, RankBrain is the latest SEO buzzword sweeping the world of internet marketing.
Just when you thought you had this SEO thing all figured out, there is something new to worry about. But, before you set about the business of retooling, it may not be as bad as you suspect. Take a moment to understand RankBrain in context:
RankBrain in a Nutshell
Let’s begin by exploring what Google RankBrain is, and why it is important.
Google wants their search results to appear in the order of relevance. The most relevant will always appear at the top. At its most basic level. RankBrain is Google’s way of enforcing their idea of relevance.
If Google considers your site low in relevance, it will be disadvantaged in the search results. Fortunately, there are things you can do to realign your sight with Google’s idea of relevance.
Since Google’s goal is to present relevant results, they have to have some metrics for determining relevancy. Those metrics have always been veiled in secrecy. If people knew exactly what those metrics were, they would endlessly game the system.
Every time Google changes their SEO rules or technologies, it is in part, an attempt to keep websites from circumventing their previous rules, and to come up with new ways to keep it from happening again. There will always be sites that abuse the system to gain an unfair advantage.
The goals of Google and the goals of businesses are different. Yet they both need each other. As a result, there will always be a cat and mouse game between businesses improving their rankings, and Google improving their relevancy.
RankBrain is just the latest move in the game for Google to improve its relevancy in a way that is harder to game. SEO is the way to make your site more relevant. Your need for SEO has not changed with the introduction of RankBrain.
What RankBrain Does Differently
RankBrain is less a static set of rules and more an artificial intelligence system. It is an effort to have the algorithm think about search more like a human brain. It is also attempting to learn as it goes, and refine its processes accordingly.
RankBrain attempts to understand the language, not just the words. It has to be able to understand the user inquire beyond keywords, and understand the contents of webpages beyond 1s and 0s.
When you think about it, this is the stuff of science fiction. If Google is successful, they will have changed the world in ways that go far beyond search engines.
What Google ultimately wants are search results that are unaffected by back-linking, keyword stuffing, and all the tricks of the SEO trade. They are not there yet. And they still have a long way to go. Till then, SEO is still necessary. But it must necessarily change.
How SEO Must Change
Google is one of the biggest proponents of SEO. They provide first-party guidance for those entering the space.
But they also include this warning that should be taken with the utmost seriousness:
While SEOs can provide clients with valuable services, some unethical SEOs have given the industry a black mark through their overly aggressive marketing efforts and their attempts to manipulate search engine results in unfair ways. Practices that violate our guidelines may result in a negative adjustment of your site’s presence in Google, or even the removal of your site from our index.
That is why it is absolutely crucial to hire a firm that knows how to get the job done while staying on the right side of Google. The right firm gets you business. The wrong firm gets you de-listed.
RankBrain means that if you or your SEO firm were playing it near the shadowy borders before, you will want to retreat to the center now.
Refamiliarize yourself with the Google SEO guidelines so that you don’t inadvertently find yourself on the wrong side of where Google feels is good SEO. Your SEO has to adjust to a more strict application of the guidelines.
New Rules to Incorporate Immediately
Does your mobile site employ pop-ups and interstitials? If so, it is time for your SEO team to start burning the midnight oil.
Google will punish sites that use annoying pop-up ads.
Sure, your ads are not annoying to you. But chances are if users think they are, so will RankBrain.
Also included in the restrictions are overlays that grey out the content until the user can locate, and accurately tap a tiny [x].
These are the types of things that make mobile sites either more expensive for users on sparse data plans or inaccessible to the blind and visually impaired.
Starting at the beginning of the year, those sites will be ranked lower as a result of violations. This is yet another reason why you need your SEM expert to be up-to-date.
Earlier this year, Google introduced an accelerated mobile pages initiative called AMP. With it, they aim to do nothing less than reinvent the mobile web.
Google is hoping to successfully battle two forces that are eroding their dominance.
The first is the app revolution. When it comes to search and so many other things, the smartphone has conquered the desktop. People don’t use browsers to conduct searches on smartphones. They use apps, and sometimes digital assistants.
The second challenge from mobile is the rise of the ad blocker. Desktop-style ads significantly slow the mobile browsing experience, making it unappealing for users. By speeding up the mobile web, Google is hoping to win back mobile searchers.
Google is advantaging those sites that use its acceleration tools. What this means to you is that you have to make sure your website is AMP-ready. Failure to meet this requirement will cause your site to appear lower in the ranks than otherwise.
RankBrain is not the SEO apocalypse that so many people thought it would be. Rather than end the need for SEO, it increases the need for better SEO.
It will be a very long time before SEO is no longer relevant. In the meantime, RankBrain is the latest move in the cat and mouse game of page rankings.