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It is traditional that the search engine uses what we call algorithms to serve the results. However, as time passed, there was need to improve. That is why Google tried to incorporate other things such as the use of machines to give even more accurate search results. This modern technology, which incorporates artificial intelligence (AI) does not come cheap.

That is how RankBrain, an AI ranking technology was born.

However, you may ask, what is RankBrain? How does it work? Why did Google introduce it? How does it affect your SEO strategy? Does RankBrain still matter? This guide will answer those ands other related questions.

Let’s start with the first one.

What is RankBrain?

RankBrain is an AI system that Google uses to define the user’s search intent when the user types a query on Google’s search bar.

The system was rolled out in the last quarter of 2015 but it was not announced until the last quarter of the following year on October 26.

During the first few months of its release, Google used RankBrain to analyze search queries that it had not encountered before October 26, 2016. According to Google, the number of user search queries RankBrain probed were about 15% of all the questions the giant search engine received.

There’s word that although RankBrain was later incorporated to impact all search queries, it still probes about 15% of all the queries posed by users.

Because it is an artificial intelligence learning system, which builds off Hummingbird, technicians RB is behind Google’s taking off from what they call strings to things about environment.

In more technical terms, experts believe that it is RankBrain that made Google to start seeing the intent of the searcher than reading literal characters that the searcher types on the search bar.

Thanks to RankBrain, it was now easy for the search engine to understand even the most difficult search queries. Upon understanding the search intent of the reader, it then becomes easy for the search engine to deliver the intended results to the searcher.

For the first time, it was easy for Google to receive and analyze queries the search engine has never received before and relate them to those it has received before giving the reader the right feedback.

Why Did Google Introduce RankBrain?

As mentioned before, RankBrain probes up to 15% of all the search queries. Therefore, when Google rolled out RB, the intent was to ensure it understands the queries that it did not have answers for.

Before it was introduced, Google did not have the search queries that totaled to 15% of all the search queries. Besides, the search engine did not have any context related to the search queries.

When it came, RankBrain started to dig deeper into ‘things’ instead of ‘strings’.

Instead of giving the answer depending on the characters typed on the search bar, it was now easy for Google, through RankBrain to first consider the location of the searcher as well as the extrapolate meaning.

This way, it became easy for Google to use other extra-technical methods to understand the searcher intent. For instance, Google started to look through each word of the search query to understand the main word before it starts to processes the answer.

Not before long after the rolling out of RankBrain, it was easy for Google to have a huge number of ‘suggestions’ based on the search history.

For instance, perhaps you’ve typed something like …

Where can I buy instant cappuccino …

Before you finish typing your search query, you realize that Google has given you several autosuggestions such as:

Where can I buy instant cappuccino in NY?

Where to buy cappuccino in BC

Where can I get cappuccino in Belfast?

In all these autosuggest examples, the keyword ‘cappuccino’ stands out. Besides, you will see that the location is also key. That means, with RankBrain in place, Google tends to understand what you are looking for.

Besides, it even asks and autosuggests the place you could be and even gives you additional information to help you find your ‘intended answer.’

 So, why did Google introduce RankBrain?

Google introduced RankBrain to solve search intent problem. Before it came into place, Google did not account for its 15% queries, thus it did not have the context for those search queries.

How Does RankBrain Work?

Surprisingly, Google has never come out clear on how RankBrain works. However, that does not mean we do not have a clue. In fact, with time, it became easy to understand how Google intended RankBrain to operate.

Whenever a user opens their computer or mobile gadget and types their preferred keyword or phrase, the search engine uses a special mathematical formula to give the searcher the ‘most relevant’ results.

RankBrain differs with most of other updates in the sense that it uses ‘vectors’, mathematical connections that relate words or phrases to each other.

That is why, when a searcher types an unknown query (the one Google has never had before), RankBrain uses ‘vectors’ to generate that are most likely to match the intent of the user.

Over time, RankBrain has improved its functionalities by incorporating many things such as location, things, and other blocks to give the searcher the intended results.

Therefore, as Google continues to network with the search engine, RB on its part continues to learn and update its search matches to give the user the intended search results.

How Does RankBrain Affect Your SEO Strategy?

In the past, Google said that RankBrain is one of the most important factors in determining search engine results pages (SERPs). In fact, according to Google, RankBrain is the ‘third most important’ factor.

At the time, Google said that, RB only accounted for Google’s 15% search queries. Things have changed a lot since then. Now, RankBrain accounts for all queries that people type on Google search bar.

So, it is reasonable to say that RankBrain is no longer the ‘third most important’ determinant. Perhaps, it is the most important determining factor of all time. It is easy reach to that conclusion because it is an AI tool.

Whenever you type a query on Google, be sure that RankBrain is involved in the results you receive for the search engine, thus an important signal in all search rankings.

If you are a webmaster or SEO expert working for a company or website, make sure your keyword research skills are on point. Your on-page and off-page SEO strategies too need to be at the top because RankBrain uses its AI technology to deliver results to the searcher.

Ranking your site for different search queries is no longer dependent on just RankBrain’s initial 15% of Google searches but all of Google searches.

How Do You Optimize For RankBrain?

Now that RankBrain plays an integral role in determining your site’s ranking and for all search queries, you need to play by the rules. Yes, you should learn how to optimize your site for RankBrain.

The big question therefore is, how do you optimize your site for RankBrain?

On how hard or easy it is to optimize for RankBrain, Google’s Gary Illyes says, “It is actually super easy to optimize your site for RankBrain. This is the same message we’ve been saying for the past 15 years. We recommend you write in the more natural way. When writing content, write copy that sounds and feels human. Do not write as if you are writing for robots.”

“If you try to write like a machine, then Google will notice and the result is to push you back,” Gerry added.

The tech savvy emphasized the need to test content by saying, “When you have finished writing your copy, pose and read it aloud. You can even ask a few of your friends to read your content to check whether it reads and sounds natural.”

In other words, what Gerry says is,

If content sounds conversational (just as it would be when people are conversing in the day-to-day language), that content is optimized for RankBrain.

If the content reads unnatural or sounds robotic, then it is un-optimized for RankBrain.

For now, the best thing you’ll need to do is to optimize for RankBrain. You can do so by trying these two surefire ways:

  • Research the intent of every keyword
  • Create long-form and relevant content that satisfies the user intent

What Other People Have Tried in the Past?

To be honest, it is not the first time people have been told to write naturally. If you can bear me witness, you’ve probably heard this several times yourself. But even as the information seems to be with us for many years, marketers still need to be reminded of the need to continue crafting copy ‘naturally.’

In the past, tactics such as keyword stuffing have had some success but with RankBrain in place, this tactic is no longer feasible. That is why; we believe that, ‘in this AI era, writing copy that depicts human feel is the way to impress Google.’

True, some people have tried a more technical approach such doing comprehensive keyword research and citation building in a bid to optimize for RankBrain. But the truth is RankBrain is an artificial intelligence (AI) technology that utilizes complex algorithms, which often have constant updates.

With that in mind, the best advice anyone can give you is to continue writing your copy in a more human and natural manner. Of course, you need to continue to observe other traditional SEO practices.

Why is RankBrain Important?

When you write copy, you write copy for human beings. Although copy passes through machines, which evaluate and analyze it, the final destination is human (the user who typed the query on the search bar).

Therefore, RankBrain is still the most important technology Google uses to analyze your content before it sends it to the intended user.

Besides, as one Google technician said, if content doesn’t sound natural (as if it is written for robots), that content is not optimized for RankBrain. In addition, the guru observed that such type of content will always be pushed behind the rest.

That underscores the importance of RankBrain. Whenever you write your copy, make sure it reads natural. If possible, write your content in a more conversational way, just as you’d converse with a friend.

Is RankBrain Still the Third Most Important Signal?

The answer to this question is tricky. One of the reasons why it is tricky to answer this question is RankBrain is not just one thing but a collection of factors. Many SEO experts argue that writing high-quality content is the number one ranking factor.

Surprisingly, RankBrain dictates that for Google to rank your site, you must write impeccable content. Yes, we have repeated this severally from the beginning. What RankBrain needs is you write in a more conversational manner – writing naturally.

That way, with all other factors in place, your content will stand out on Google, leaving several other websites behind. If you try to understand the searcher’s intent and write copy that answers the searcher’s concerns, you are then showing RankBrain that you understand your work.

When it started to work seven years ago, Google said that RankBrain accounted for 15% of its total searches. Exactly one year after its launch, Google maintained that RankBrain was still important.

In fact, Google said, “Our confidence in RankBrain is steadily increasing to the point that it is now used all the time.”

On another quote from one of Google’s top officials, “RankBrain is now involved in every query. Well, probably not on every search query but indeed RankBrain in involved in many of Google’s search queries.”

Apart from RankBrain, other top factors that contribute to the ranking of a site include:

  • Mobile friendliness
  • Page experience
  • Page speed
  • On-page SEO
  • Internal links
  • External links


When it started some seven years ago, it accounted for 15% of Google searches. A year after it was launched, things shot steadily to the point that Google said it covered almost every search query.

Today, RankBrain remains one of the most important signals thus optimizing your site for RankBrain is necessary for your site ranking and user-intent.

If you are a webmaster or work for an SEO company, it is time you master the art of optimizing your site for RankBrain, lest, Google will keep pushing your site behind, something that ostensibly affects your brand, authority, and conversions.

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