In October of 2015, Google confirmed the use of RankBrain as a way to help process its search results. At the time, it was only used in about 15% of all searches. Today, it is one of the main factors that goes into Google’s search ranking algorithm (source). Therefore, it is very important that we understand RankBrain and how we can harness it.
What is RankBrain
RankBrain is an artificial intelligence system that uses machine learning to process Google’s search results. Before we get more into what RankBrain itself does, lets look at artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Machine learning refers to a computer that can teach itself something. It doesn’t need a human or detailed programming in order to learn. Artificial intelligence, or AI, is at the very end of machine learning, when a computer can be as smart as a human, in that it can be taught, and can build on what it knows and makes new connections. True AI isn’t possible, at least as we know it, and really only exists in science fiction works. Sometimes, the two can be used interchangeably, but it’s important to understand the difference.
Now, back to RankBrain – RankBrain turns written language into mathematical entities that the computer and understand, and in using machine learning, can correlate to words and phrases that might have similar meaning. This enables RankBrain to interpret the meaning behind searches, so that it can deliver better results instead of just relying on the actual keywords. This means that RankBrain has the ability to interpret the meaning behind a search and can learn from that to help produce better search results.
Why Is This Important?
RankBrain is a huge step for Google. However, some people still get confused as to how RankBrain factors into the search results. RankBrain is just a part of the algorithm that Google uses.
Google has said that RankBrain is the 3rd most useful signal for results, behind content and links. Since that it is the third most important signal out of hundreds or even thousands, RankBrain is pretty important and is probably going to be around for a while. It also creates a difference in how you have to optimize and how you use keywords.
1. Re-Work Your Meta-Titles
We all know that meta-titles are important, but with the introduction of RankBrain, the way that you write your meta-titles has to change. It is no longer necessary to put as many keywords into the titles. Since RankBrain can interpret the meaning of the search, you don’t have to include your exact keyword. Instead, you need to make sure you focus your title on the intent of the searcher & include call to actions to increase click through rates. If you can figure out the motive behind a search and appeal to that, you have a great chance of getting your searchers to click on your site.
2. Be Emotional and Memorable
Your CTR is one of the most important factors in SEO. You want your target audience to actually click on your site in the results. So, how do you do that? First, you have to appeal to your audience, and one of the best ways to do so is through emotional appeals. Show urgency in your title or description, “Act Now,” “Shop Now”, etc. Or use fear, “You Don’t Want to Miss This.” The more you can appeal to your audience on an emotional level, the more likely they are to click on it. In addition to being emotional, you also want to make your content something that is memorable so you stay in your audience’s mind.
3. Focus on Keywords, In Certain Places
If you don’t want to put your keywords in your meta-titles, then where do you want to put them? You want them in your links and social signals. With RankBrain, Google can use the languages and gap the keywords to assimilate keywords together. If you can use your keywords in your titles, anchor text and on social sites, Google can crawl these links and understand what you are talking about. The way that humans interact with websites links to us, and what keywords that they use in the titles, articles, and anchor text affects the way that we are showing up in the rankings. Make sure that the keywords that you want pages to be assimilated with are there and the title of the page and within the first paragraph of the backlink. Then make sure you share your content on social media and encourage others to share your backlinks on social media using various keywords within their posts.
4. Be Mindful of Other Engagement Factors
While your CTR is important, there are other factors that you need to consider with RankBrain. The first that you want to look at is bounce rate, which is the percentage of visitors that navigate away from your page. This is the number one way to see if users are liking your content and are happy with the search results. Make sure your content is top-quality and useful to your users. In addition, you can provide extra links in your content that will help users find more content on your page, even if the landing page wasn’t exactly what they were looking for. This will send positive signals to Google about your content.
You also want to look at the dwell time of your audience, which is the bounce rate plus time spent, or time when a searcher enters your page to the time they leave and go back to the search results. This is a big factor to Google, who uses it to decide whether your content is what the searcher is looking for. Again, you want to give the audience the best content and work your hardest to get them to stay on your page.