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What is Google Rankbrain?

brain power”   by Allan Ajifo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Google RankBrain is a new form of machine learning technology that Google hopes will help it to better understand unique queries – ones that have never been searched for before. This type of query accounts for millions of the searches taking place each day, and Google wants to get better at providing high quality answers.
Some website designers are rather confused by the idea of RankBrain, because it removes the one crutch that they had for rankings; keywords. With RankBrain, the exact wording of the search is no longer as important as the algorithm will consider the intent of the search over the keywords used.

Google Wants Psychic Powers

RankBrain is not true ‘artificial intelligence’ in the sense that most people think of it. Rather, it is a machine learning tool. The algorithm has been taught what to expect, and how to learn about user intent and what users want from queries. The more queries it sees, in theory, the more accurate it will get.

The goal is to have people able to make natural language queries with the right context. So you could search for ‘Jaguar’, and based upon the rest of the query, along with your past searching habits, it would know whether you were searching for the animal or the car.

Winning With RankBrain

So what does RankBrain mean for webmasters? Well, for the most part not much has changed. Google uses around 200 major signals to determine how to rank websites, and factors such as keywords, incoming links and meta tags are not really going to help you ‘game the system’. If RankBrain is doing anything at all, it is reinforcing the idea that you cannot manipulate rankings by ‘designing a site for Google’.

Today, it’s more important than ever to design for your users. RankBrain combines all of those classic ranking signals; domain age, quality, page loading times, research, reputation, history, expert contributions, mobile friendliness, etc., together with metrics about user behaviour in order to determine how valuable a site really is.

Are users staying on the site for a long time when they land there? Are they coming back to the site after their first visit? Those are the metrics that really matter. Make content that your users enjoy, and you will not need to worry about rankings, because Google and RankBrain will recognise the quality of the site.