Google’s RankBrain algorithm update takes contextual interpretation to greater heights. It is a machine learning program that uses artificial intelligence to interpret natural language queries.
What Is RankBrain?
A long time ago, if you had a website and wanted to push it to the top of Google’s rankings for a specific keyword phrase that many of your customers use in their searches, you tried keyword stuffing.
If you wanted to rank for the keyword phrase ‘silver cigarette lighter,’ for instance, you would write sales page copy or a blog post with a sentence like this:
‘If you’re looking for a silver cigarette lighter, you should try the handmade silver cigarette lighter model on sale on this page, or contact the handmade silver cigarette lighter company at the following email address.’
While Google still pays attention to the occurrence of keyword phrases, however, it doesn’t merely count how many times a word appears on a page to see how relevant the page is to a searcher’s query.
Instead, it looks at the contexts in which those phrases appear. When you search for a phrase like search engine optimization, Google’s algorithm understands from experience that people are searching for simple, unadorned phrases usually want to learn about them.
When it presents SEO companies at the top for queries about search engine optimization, the search engine sees how people don’t usually click on those results.
For this reason, Google now delivers you a results page with definitions and explanations of what search engine optimization is at the top, and with links to SEO companies at the bottom.
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RankBrain goes even further.
Google published a story on RankBrain in 2015 and offered the following complex, natural language query as an example.
When a searcher asks, ‘What is the label of a consumer at the highest level of a food chain?’, it can be challenging for a computer to understand what the searcher is looking for.
The searcher could be talking about customers at food store chains, about a consumer of sophisticated products, or about the term apex predator, which is used to describe animals at the very top of the food chain.
Whether a searcher uses the search above or a briefer search term like a top-level food chain, Google delivers the same results.
With RankBrain, Google can break queries down into simpler terms, to see that highest-level is synonymous with top-level and that the word consumer, when placed in the context of a food chain, probably means something that eats, rather than someone who buys.
With machine learning, Google can look at thousands of searches to learn what works for searchers. When people get irrelevant results, they usually rephrase their search queries.
When one set of search results receives no clicks from a searcher and is followed up by a differently phrased query, Google learns that the searcher meant what he put into the search box with the second query in the first query.
Google scans multiple searches to learn by trial and error what different searches mean.
Today, RankBrain is involved in nearly every search that Google processes.
How do you perform SEO for RankBrain?
Google has stated that RankBrain is number three on its list of ranking factors. It makes sense to understand how to optimize for RankBrain.
RankBrain allows Google to break queries down into its constituent phrases and look up the most relevant synonyms for them.
It no longer makes sense to focus on keyword phrases. Instead, it would help if you thought about the intent behind the way typical search queries for your product are phrased.
If you don’t think about intent, you could end up wasting your time with your SEO.
For instance, if you attempt to perform SEO for a company that sells sales management software, the old way to promote the product would be to try to have the product page rank for the keyword phrase best sales management software.
However, this doesn’t make sense because people searching for the keyword phrase best sales management software aren’t typically looking for one product that claims to be the best at that point.
Instead, they want resources that compare various software options and show them what the best is.
Even if you rank your product page high for this keyword phrase, searchers will scroll past you to find the articles.
It would make more sense to write a high-quality article or make a great video on choosing the best sales management software and putting it on your blog.
This way, you’ll get people to come to your website when they search for this keyword phrase and consider your product.
Succeeding in ranking well for keywords is all about looking at searcher intent and catering to it. In most cases, it is long pieces of written content capable of solving user problems that rank.
Research indicates that search results that grab the top five positions mostly have over 1,800 words.
Google doesn’t see word length as a ranking factor. It is long content that usually manages to serve searcher intent well, however. Going in-depth into actionable advice on any subject takes as much space.
The more actionable your advice is, the higher you will rank.
The best idea that you can take away from all of this is that you should focus on creating actionable, in-depth content that directly provides answers to searcher queries.
Search engine optimization used to be a bunch of simple tricks, but no longer is. Google updates its algorithm about twice a day, on average.
It is impossible to attempt to try to trick a system that moves as fast. With RankBrain, SEO has turned into an activity about merely delivering a great user experience.
Now that Google has moved beyond looking at simple keyword occurrences, you have no choice but to raise your game level and deliver the content that users are looking for.
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