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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.
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.
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%.
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.
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:
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.