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How Google’s New RankBrain Algorithm Will Affect Your Search Rankings

RankBrain is not new. In fact, Google has been using it for well over a year as part of their search algorithm. It is a further development of the Hummingbird-Update. Google Hummingbird was the first update that was developed in order to better “understand” the content of web pages. Google uses this machine learning artificial intelligence tool in processing billions web pages. Also, Search Experience ratings of websites by Google have moved to the forefront.

15% of all searches are “first searches”. RankBrain can give the right answer to queries that has been never asked before. That’s about 450 million searches per day!

Google will give improved rankings to pages that take into consideration great content, powerful links, Semantic elements and the User Experience.

How does Google RankBrain work?

RankBrain is a self learning system that tries to understand and classify the search query in terms of content and less in terms of a keyword in order to give the best search results based on the user’s search intention. Try to search for “when was the us president born?” on Google. Here is the result:

rankbrain example result

We haven’t used any specific keyword or phrase in our search query like Donald Trump, Hospital, etc. Neither did we used any date, etc. On the other side, Google did not search for the keyword “president” or “born” alone. It just processed the query as a whole in order to understand the meaning of this question. First, Google dismantles the search query to find alternatives for each word and reassembles these with different  words to understand the request and the intention of it. Google gives the result using an answer box. An answer box is not a specific website but a Google owned Composition.

ranbrain processing schema

But where does Google get all this information from?

The source of all these information vectors to determine the right answer comes from millions of more or less optimized websites with text, images, video, etc. that exists. It falls back on a huge text archive with multi- level entities which are logically connected to one another. But it also uses sources like the searcher’s current location, their search history, what device that is using and user signals. RankBrain works like neurons in a human brain - it always creates new connections between entities in order to create new meanings.

Which websites will benefit from this?

Well structured websites with unique content and a good information architecture. This will satisfy searchers' needs and their conversational search queries will benefit from the RanBrain algorithm. The given content should be user centric and easy to understand. Using structured data markup (Schema.org, etc.) in order to give Google a better semantic understanding of the content is a plus!

What does this mean for your page rankings?

Without a question, page rankings are now dropping. New page rankings are harder to obtain based on these and other changes Google has made to their search algorithm. Content and Links are still very important. But Google is now saying that RankBrain is third most important element related to how it ranks pages. Content is still the most important element followed by Links. Add to this the element of user experience and you can see why you need to consider all of these elements to have success at obtain high rankings.

Why is user experience important?

You need to ask yourself, is my website and pages really giving visitors the best user experience? Does it give strictly information or concepts that related to a specific phrase rather than one keyword? Is my website mobile friendly? Is my website secure with SSL? How fast does my website load? All of these elements are big factors in the way a page will rank. Even if you have great page content, your pages won’t rank high if your entire website is not providing the best user experience.

What does this mean for your website?

You need to check whether your website is well optimized for search engines like Google.

Is your website well structured?

  • Is your website well structured?
  • Is your content easy to understand and does it meet the user’s needs?
  • Is your content using the appropriate keyword and phrases in order to give users and search engines a better focus on what the information is about?
  • Are you using easy to use elements like call to actions, etc.?
  • Is your website well indexable and well indexed on search engines?
  • Are your web pages using structured data markups?
  • Is your website ready to be used on multiple devices like desktop, tablets and smartphones?

What can you do now?

You should make a critical review of the website by using the perspective of a potential searcher. Does your website meeting most of the above mentioned requirements, etc.

By: James Conant & Sebastian Grillo

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