RankBrain’s AI and How it Effects SEO

Artificial intelligence has come a long way from the old Sci-Fi movies. Artificial intelligence, or AI, is a complicated idea taken in by a complicated company, Google, in an attempt to make human interactions less complicated for search engines to understand.
artificial-intelligenceRankBrain, as far as we know, is somewhere in between an algorithm and a functioning substitute for the human brain.

Artificial Intelligence and Its Relationship to SEO

Before diving into RankBrain and its characteristics, let’s first go through artificial intelligence technology.

Artificial intelligence in the SEO sense is not the same as the robots from iRobot or Ultron. Generally there are three main levels of artificial intelligence:

• Artificial Narrow Intelligence: basis, specific tasks
• Artificial General Intelligence: functions as if a human
• Artificial Superintelligence: capable of functions beyond that of a human

RankBrain supposedly falls in the first category, so there is no need to run out and prepare for the robot overlords just yet. As far as artificial narrow intelligence goes, RankBrain is among familiar friends. Every time you use Google Translate to decode foreign languages, you use narrow artificial intelligence technology. Even spam filters use artificial intelligence to decipher which bad e-mail from good.

what-is-rankbrainUsing knowledge gathered from Google bots, artificial narrow intelligence programs are able to complete certain functions and achieve particular results, given their pre-programming knowledge.

What Is It?

RankBrain, its essence, is Google’s attempt to become smarter. They want to better understand human interactions online. More or less, RankBrain is a way for Google to learn. It’s not quite an algorithm, but it performs in much the same way.

RankBrain first needed to have a set of data. Similarly, humans learn partially by observing what others around them are doing, or collecting data. From a young age, our brain stores knowledge about what we see. It sees how our parents interact with each other and stores that for later interpretations.

Google has done the same with RankBrain. In order to have RankBrain perform the narrow functions of interpreting, they needed to feed it with data. Using data collected from other algorithms and bots, RankBrain then learns and puts out an algorithm that can be used to interpret. The algorithm is a correlation to the data that it was presented.

RankBrain’s Functions

RankBrain is active and has been active for a few months now. The changes on SEO and the SERPs have so far been interesting.

hummingbirdFirst and foremost, keep in mind that Google treats RankBrain assessments as a very important ranking signal. In a sea of ranking signals to choose from, Google has chosen to place RankBrain high on the list which should say something to SEOs, but be careful.

To understand the full impact of RankBrain on the search query results, let’s step back to a time before the Hummingbird update.

Before Hummingbird, keywords were used to understand what someone was typing into the search box. Basically, it stopped interpreting the representation of letters (keywords) in the box and moved towards understanding phrases. Hummingbird sought to understand the meaning behind searches. The thought was that if Google could understand people’s intent, it could better predict search queries.

Hummingbird established that Google was heading in the direction of trying to understand the user’s experience in order to give the user better search query results. Google’s Hummingbird was only mildly successful. While it took into account entities, it failed to fully realize things like word groupings – namely how certain words mean something different in different geographical areas when grouped together in a particular order.

If enough people search for something that Google didn’t initially understand, Goog le’s algorithms would eventually catch up. This highlights the biggest problem with Hummingbird: Google search cannot speak or interpret the human language.

words-learning-languageThis is where RankBrain comes in.

RankBrain is capable of more than the Hummingbird; however, it is still functioning at a “narrow” level, meaning it cannot function like a human brain. It cannot reason. It cannot take the information that it observes from the world around them and make assumptions based on reasoning. Still, RankBrain is a serious attempt at learning. If RankBrain can learn enough about human interactions, the algorithms should reasonably replace the need for search engines to reason in order to come to a conclusion.

Instead of understanding strings of words or information, the program will seek to understand things.

In conjunction with taking into account strings of words, RankBrain is sweeping existing algorithms to better understand Google as well. RankBrain is programmed to try and understand which algorithms or signals are more important.

getting-smarterYou may be wondering how Google can undertake such a feat. Google is putting a lot of stock into RankBrain. Thousands of computers and staff are working to improve the system. The programs are working on interpreting relationships between words.

So far, RankBrain is having difficulty understanding complex search queries – the same as previous Google updates. The longer and complicated the query, the more the results are jumbled. Still, RankBrain is growing in intelligence. With more time, RankBrain should be able to better understand search queries

How RankBrain Effects SEO

The biggest advice we can give about RankBrain and SEO is to ignore RankBrain. Yes – ignore it. Artificial intelligence, particular artificial narrow intelligence is nowhere near the level of real human intelligence. Humans cannot accurately predict human nature as it is. You can’t expect a machine that was built by those same flawed humans to understand word relationships.

Say that you cannot remember a particular dish you had a few years back. You knew the dish was something creamy with potatoes. You start there for the Google search. Maybe recipe blog or two will pop up with ethnic recipes or recipes containing potatoes. human-behaviorThe results as scattered. Google only knew to look for keywords and not relationships. With RankBrain, it will see that creamy potato dishes could mean a slew of particular recipes within your area. Perhaps it will then pull those recipes up first.

Good search engine optimization Phoenix will take into account user experiences and target audiences within a particular niche. User experiences, content, and links should always be the main focus of your efforts. Niche content will keep your relevant as well as important to Google.

With RankBrain as the reputed third-most important ranking signal, it is easy to want to change your content to fit with how a machine would interpret data. Don’t change your content too much to factor in how RankBrain is going to interpret a string of words in relationship to each other.

RankBrain is designed to sweep and interpret human interactions – not the other way around. The best way to optimize RankBrain and your site is to know your core audience. Your core audience will tell you what they need. This will in turn alert RankBrain which will finally boost your position on the SERPs.

RankBrain will also search for good or bad websites using known spammy behaviors. Websites that engage in spammy behavior in an attempt to game Google’s algorithms are vulnerable to RankBrain. Google is teaching it to learn more about these kinds of behavior.

better-categoriesBacklinks housed in bad neighborhoods will be recognized by RankBrain and affect the quality of your site. Remember – Google build RankBrain. All their spam filters are in full effect. RankBrain should be effecting “bad” sites more than those with good content.

As part of their learning, RankBrain will categorize content into categories. In order to prevent placement in a category with high competition, make sure to keep your content clear.

That is why keeping relevant content at the forefront of your SEO is key. Relevant content means that more visitors will come to your site and link to your content. The trust of your users will gain the trust of RankBrain in turn. RankBrain, thus far, has limited intelligence, but it is smart enough to know that spammy behavior is untrustworthy.

Going Forward with AI

In the future, there is no telling how smart RankBrain will become. For now, make sure to keep your content clear. You want to avoid RankBrain mistaking your content for something with heavy competition. Avoid spammy behavior like bad backlinks, keyword stuffing, etc. Google knows what you’re up to and so does RankBrain. Fall in line with other top sites in your field. If Google thinks that a site is trustworthy, then follow their lead. RankBrain learns and mimics from what it learns. Follow suit with your own site. If Google trusts a site or practice, then so will RankBrain.

Article by George Eblacker