AI Is Here, and It’s Affecting Your SEO: A Look at Google’s RankBrain

November 13th, 2015 by Amy Arnold

In late October, Google announced that they are actively using an artificial intelligence algorithm called RankBrain as part of the search results engine. This has rolled out slowly since early 2015 and has become a factor for website owners and search marketers to pay attention to, according to Bloomberg.

“RankBrain has become the third-most important signal contributing to the result of a search query.”

What are you saying? What madness is this?

RankBrain is used as a way to interpret the searches that people submit to find pages that might not have the exact words that were searched for. It correlates words on your website page to those expected to be seen about the topic. A very simple example from Search Engine Land: RankBrain helps determine whether your page is about “apple,” the fruit, or “Apple,” the company.

RankBrain is self-learning. It’s analyzing billions and billions of searches and click actions to determine what content is more helpful to consumers and what is less helpful. When there are content updates on your site or a competitor’s website, this algo is reanalyzing and reconfiguring search results. This is not done in real time.

How often does RankBrain update?

Because it is self-learning, it is constantly updating itself. But the real question is: how often is it updating search results?

“Google periodically updates the system by feeding it a load of new data to help it better reason with new concepts.”

So Google is feeding it batches of search data, and it’s crunching through the data in batches. The algo is constantly updating itself as it learns from the content it’s analyzing, but the search results are not constantly updating. Search results are updated in batches, which may explain some unexpected ups/downs in Google organic traffic that don’t match up to announced algo updates.


Does Google’s RankBrain change any SEO that we do?

As RankBrain learns more and more, and as Google feeds it more new data to crunch, we may see some organic traffic blips, up or down. These will not likely be announced data updates. Google has said they typically won’t announce data updates. Ups and downs are expected as the AI figures out how your content relates to specific search terms relative to the other content in your market.

With the launch of Hummingbird and the continuous Pandas, Search Influence has long seen the need for really informative consumer-focused content. We have seen consistently positive results across many websites in many industries with this standard of content. If your content is written in accord with Panda and Hummingbird, meaning it is rich text, educational, and really on topic, RankBrain should not be a problem for you.

For further reading, this blog post by Cyrus Shepard was one of the more influential in our constantly evolving content standards, and I think it is definitely related to this discussion.

What’s Next?

“Facebook Inc. uses AI techniques to filter the newsfeed that comprises the personalized homepage of the social network and Microsoft Corp. is using artificial intelligence to increase the capabilities of its Bing search engine.”

Google is actively using self-learning artificial intelligence, its driverless cars have driven over 1 million miles, and it has the dead/undead Google Glass. Reach into your sci-fi knowledge, and consider what Google might do next.

Image Sources:

Google RankBrain