What Is Google RankBrain?

RankBrain is a machine-learning system that is used by Google Search to better understand the meaning and intent of queries that use natural language.

What Is RankBrain?

RankBrain is a machine-learning system that is used by Google Search to better understand the meaning and intent of queries — bringing the most relevant results that meet the searcher’s intent to the top of the search engine results page (SERPs). Since its debut in April of 2015, RankBrain has been referred to as the third-most important factor in the ranking algorithm, after links and content.

Understanding RankBrain

RankBrain was created to help improve Google’s ability to understand the meaning of queries and words searchers use. The importance of creating RankBrain grew more as people began to use location-based search, mobile devices, and voice search. In the past, ambiguous queries, natural language, slang, and other linguistic variables made it difficult for Google to return the most relevant results for searchers, as Google has historically taken searches more literally. It began to heavily rely on exact-matching keywords that made an appearance in both the initial query and the content itself. RankBrain gave Google the ability to interpret queries and keywords in a more dynamic, contextual way, better approximating how humans use words in the way they speak and search.  


Prior to rolling out the new system, Google compared manual analysis of queries via Google Engineers with the algorithm to test its performance. RankBrain ended up outperforming these Google engineers by 10% — totaling 80% accuracy for the AI system, compared to the engineer’s manual method for 70%.

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RankBrain and SEO

Google’s RankBrain can have some impact on how you approach your site’s overall search engine optimization (SEO). It goes beyond the basic, quantitative ranking signals (the number of links pointing to your site, density of target keywords throughout the article, and the depth of your content) and instead takes into consideration what the user needs to come out of their search. This means the better you understand searcher intent, the better you can match your content to what Google is looking for — rather than just matching raw keywords.

Creating Content Fit for RankBrain

You can’t necessarily optimize for RankBrain since it is more focused on understanding searcher intent and expectations than evaluating content. However, you can create content that better corresponds to searcher intent, and reflects what people are looking for. It will help significantly if you know your audience and have original, helpful content in your area of expertise. There are a few best practices to keep in mind: 

  • The Content Itself: When writing content, think about the title. The title of the article should clearly depict what the article is going to be about. If you’re reading an article titled “Best Comfort Foods for Summer” then you expect the content to be just that — a list of the best comfort foods to eat during the summer. If your content doesn’t support the title or the headers within your article, then either rewrite it so it does or remove the piece entirely. It is just as important to ensure that the content is free of spelling/punctuation errors, grammar mistakes, and uses correct sentence structure. Content marketing services are a great way to learn and understand how to properly optimize your content. 
  • Keyword Optimization: Keyword optimization is more than inserting the same keyword into your content over and over again. In fact, this is called “keyword stuffing” and it is frowned upon. Doing this can add a spammy vibe to your article and decrease your site’s authority. Conducting keyword research can help you discover which terms to include and inform you of the words commonly associated with the searcher’s intent. 
  • Links: It’s also important to evaluate your site’s reputation. Are you seen as an authoritative source by search engines? You can determine your authority by looking over how many links point back to your site. In order to rank in search, you need backlinks. Ordering link-building services can help to ensure that you build strong content that is worthy of earning reputable links. You also want to ensure that the internal and external links are authoritative and relative. Your internal and external links should include anchor text that accurately depicts what the linked page will be about. They should also be contextually relevant within the article. Don’t add any unnecessary internal/external links just for the sake of doing so, make sure they actually support your content. 
  • Proper Use of Headers, Titles, and Title Tags: It should be a goal of yours to make the title, title tag, and headers within the article as descriptive, user-friendly, and organic as possible. Because Google is better at understanding meanings and the relationships between words, it is able to detect whether or not the titles are stuffed with keywords or are useful and descriptive. Use titles and headers to better organize your content, not to spam for keywords and queries. 

When in doubt, ask for help! If these RankBrain optimization tactics seem a little out of your expertise, don’t be afraid to invest in SEO services. Not only will they help you optimize for RankBrain, but they can also help boost your overall SEO and help you get the most out of your content. 

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