While much of what Google does seems to be shrouded in secrecy, the company has been willing to share some insights into its new “Rank Brain,” which is already starting to affect search results. As usual, they haven’t offered many specifics.
Still, there are a few things we already know about Google’s Rank Brain, and how it could affect your search engine optimization strategy:
1. Rank Brain is Essentially an Artificial Intelligence Platform
Although it isn’t true AI, in the sense that people are still involved in the process of refining data, Rank Brain is essentially guiding itself through search history and patterns to see what works. In particular, it wants to figure out what searchers are really looking for, as compared to the terms and phrases they type into Google’s box.
This focus on searcher intent is what’s most important. By taking this step, Google is doing what it can to anticipate user behavior by moving beyond simple keyword phrase matches and other simple indicators.
2. Rank Brain Goes Beyond Traditional Keyword Matches
Because Rank Brain is more concerned with what you’re looking for than what you type into Google’s search box, it can return results that are more contextual. In other words, it might guide you to a search result that is closely related to your topic or query, even if that page doesn’t contain any of the keywords or search phrases you are using.
Although traditional SEO and keyword research are still important, Rank Brain makes them secondary to other considerations of topic and relevance.
3. Rank Brain is Becoming More Important
Google’s exact formula for determining search results is a closely-held secret, but it is known that Rank Brain is being more heavily integrated into search results going forward. There are simply too many search queries – sometimes more than 3 billion per day – for human reviewers to examine data on their own. So, Google is doing the smart thing in using computers to help.
It’s not hard to imagine a time when Rank Brain will be the predominant force behind Google’s search strategy, especially once the early kinks have been worked out. Then, search visibility will have changed very significantly from the “keywords and links” model that marketers first became familiar with just over a decade ago.
It’s not surprising that search engine optimization is changing, or that Google is leading the charge in 2016. The only thing that’s new is the way they’re doing it, with a machine-driven platform. Still, you can bet the connections Google’s Rank Brain makes will have a profound effect on SEO – and the visibility of your website – in the coming months.
Edward Kundahl, Ph.D., M.B.A.
Ed can be reached at (or visit his websites)