Guide to the Google RankBrain Algorithm: Part 2

Google announced its use of an artificial intelligence system nicknamed RankBrain in 2015. The Google RankBrain algorithm works to oversee search results, make alterations when needed, and facilitate the progression of the company’s overall search algorithm.

Trying to understand how the Google RankBrain algorithm affects search engine optimization (SEO)? Check out part two of our series (click here for part one) highlighting some of the most frequently asked questions about Google’s RankBrain algorithm.

What Is RankBrain?

RankBrain is a machine-learning artificial intelligence system used by Google. RankBrain operates as a program to help the Google search engine parse out results for queries. RankBrain specifically helps parse out relevant information to search results, additionally distributing relevance scores to sites, just the way Google Ads provides Quality Scores for advertisements.

Google implemented RankBrain into search engine results in early 2015, officially announcing it in October that year. RankBrain initially only influenced a portion of searches, but Google has since noted RankBrain has been successful and has increased the system’s influence on search results.

How Does RankBrain Impact Search Results?

RankBrain is a machine-learning artificial intelligence system, so it learns over time. As more Google users input search queries and click on results, RankBrain helps the Hummingbird algorithm better provide people with the information they want. It’s not a new algorithm, but rather a way to enhance existing ones.

For example, if you search for a term and don’t find the results you want, you usually refine your search. Maybe you add in a few extra keywords or you reword the whole query. RankBrain notes those instances and over time, will update what results appear from search terms to better provide users with results.

RankBrain, combined with other SEO factors, influences what pages appear in Google searches. RankBrain is especially influential in handling new queries, because it can quickly collect data for new searches and better provide users with relevant web pages.

What Are the Signals Google Uses for Ranking Purposes?

Signals are the factors Google uses to determine the ranks of webpages. This can include factors such as content, word choices, mobile-friendliness, and others. Off-page factors also come into play, such as backlinks and social reach. All in all, there are upward of 200 major signals that Google uses to rank pages, with multiple sub-signals under them.

RankBrain is one of those signals. In fact, by 2016, not even a year after Google announced RankBrain, it had become the third-most important ranking signal in Google.

There are two other top signals above RankBrain: Backlinks are one of the most influential, using linked sources to determine a page as a sort of authority. The words and content of a page are the other, as well as how Google interprets the words entered into a search box.

Is It Likely RankBrain Will Continue to Grow in Importance for Search Engine Results?

The announcement of RankBrain as the third most important ranking signal came as a surprise for many SEO specialists, especially since the system seemed as though it came out of nowhere. The system has had plenty of time to grow and develop, so Google is showing confidence in its impact on search results by placing it so high in its relevant signals.

For now, words and backlinks are still the two most influential signals, but that may change. For the time being, RankBrain focuses on complex long-tail search terms, but it can easily influence shorter queries, as well. We may not have a definitive timeline, but it’s likely the future will see RankBrain grow further in importance.

SEO will shift accordingly if RankBrain becomes an even more influential signal. Understanding the intent by a search term and creating content that meets those searchers’ needs can help your content be more relevant in the eyes of RankBrain.

Check out the next part of our blog series to learn more about Google RankBrain and how you can optimize your website’s content for better search rankings.

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