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Everything You Need to Know about the Google RankBrain Algorithm

Home » SEO » Everything You Need to Know about the Google RankBrain Algorithm
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RankBrain is a “machine learning” artificial intelligence system that helps Google process search results and provides users with the most relevant results for their queries. It originally went online in April 2015, and Bloomberg news made it more well-known.

The main purpose of the RankBrain algorithm is to help refine search queries, but Google adds that it is used to rank web pages (and made it the third most vital signal in their search engine ranking). Gregg Corrado, a senior research scientist at Google, says:

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“RankBrain is one of the hundreds of signals that go into an algorithm that determines what results appear on a Google search page and where they are ranked. In the few months it has been deployed, RankBrain has become the third-most important signal contributing to the result of a search query.”

How RankBrain Works


While Google has a number of ranking signals (which can be seen in the Periodic Table of SEO Success Table), RankBrain does not function like the traditional ones. When RankBrain sees an unfamiliar word or phrase in the search query, the system explores words and phrases that are synonymous with the user’s query. It refines the results, making it efficient at handling unique searches. RankBrain comprises about 15 percent of all online searches.

How It Influences SEO

RankBrain may be a major influential factor, depending on the modernity and sophistication of your SEO skills. Moz shared an illustrative example of the importance of RankBrain in the search environment (provided by Bill Slawski, a respected patent expert).

RankBrain Optimization Flow drawn by MOZ.

Here are three assumptions regarding the long-term effects of RankBrain on SEO:

  • Shifts User Behaviour Further – With search results becoming even better (in terms of user relevance), getting your business in the top three search results can get you more user clicks as long as it is organic and not paid.
  • Fiercer Competition – Since the rise of RankBrain, searching is more competitive. RankBrain prioritizes more meaningful results. Those whose primary intention is to gain traffic through searches may suffer. Businesses with less comprehensive articles can lose 10 times the traffic compared to their counterparts, resulting in a drop in ranking.
  • No More Spam and Black Hat Practices – SEO white hat practices prevail, and spammers and black hat practicers will lose. RankBrain’s efficiency will shut inappropriate online practices.

Can You Optimize for RankBrain?

Yes, you can optimize for RankBrain by creating content naturally. According to Google’s Gary Illyes:

“Optimizing for RankBrain is actually super easy… the recommendation is to write in natural language. Try to write content that sounds human. If you try to write like a machine then RankBrain will just get confused and probably just [push] you back… Read out some of your articles or whatever you wrote, and ask people whether it sounds natural. If it sounds conversational, if it sounds like natural language that we would use in your day to day life, then sure, you are optimized for RankBrain. If it doesn’t, then you are ‘un-optimized.’”

Impact of RankBrain on Big Brands

Over time, RankBrain learns more about associations through machine learning. This means that if a particular product or service becomes associated with a brand, any searches about the product lead to more branded query results. Since Google may favour big brands in the search results, a website’s engagement rate and mention of the brand are further enhanced.

One of the reasons why RankBrain is an important part of Google is that it plays a crucial factor in page ranking. While it may be unclear how it actually works, RankBrain somehow generates a score to determine the quality of web pages and place them in a specific order. Google uses it to classify and organize web pages according to content.

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