What is Google RankBrain?
As search engines become smarter, the conversation around SEO begins to change. Google RankBrain is the machine learning component of Google's primary algorithm. RankBrain uses artificial intelligence to "learn" contextual information so that it can deliver the most relevant results for users. Google's goal has always been to provide the best answers. RankBrain gives Google the ability to determine intent, which allows searchers to ask questions naturally. Human beings don't speak in exact long-tail keywords, so Google has adjusted how it serves up results accordingly.
What it means for the searcher:
Here's an example: instead of searching 'Affordable Gluten-Free Pizza Pittsburgh,' you'd instead search, 'best healthy restaurants.' Based on your location, personalization, and the terms in your query, RankBrain can read your intent. You're likely to see results that are gluten-free, affordable, and in your location (which, in this example, is Pittsburgh). RankBrain is a work in progress and the results aren't always perfect - but Google is learning with every new query. We're moving towards a future where Google will know what you're looking for with limited search specificity.
What it means for your business:
It means two main things: you need to create content that meets user needs and the traditional keyword model is a goner. Google's algorithm has grown more complex to meet the needs of users. It's not a good user experience to search for information and find keyword-stuffed pages, blogs overrun with bad backlinks, or content that doesn't deliver what the headline promised. Remember, Google is trying to deliver the most relevant answers. The best way to keep your site and your content 'algorithm-proof' is to answer questions honestly and thoroughly, providing truly valuable information. Always keep in mind what the person searching would find most helpful.
Different ranking signals apply to different queries. Decide how your site is going to serve visitors with content and then create that content accordingly. If your site is responsible for informing visitors about local sports scores, you'll need to create content that's fresh, quick, and driven by engagement. If your site is responsible for explaining in-depth concepts (like a complicated product or service), your content should be thorough and have surrounding content that supports it, building authority. These qualities signal to RankBrain what your site is about and what you offer to users. When done effectively, Google will recognize your site as a resource and give you more visibility.
The days of pairing single keywords with single pages is long gone. However, most businesses haven't read the memo. When separate pages are created for various keyword variants, the result is a bloated site with repetitive content. Instead of writing different blogs to include things like, "tax preparation," "tax form prep," "preparing tax forms," etc, businesses should write longer-form content that incorporates all of those phrases, using natural language. Choosing a core topic and writing content around it results in better site architecture and a better experience for users. Google RankBrain will see you as an authority on the core topics you choose. Then, because you've written subtopic content around it, RankBrain will see content depth and a relationship between the pages. When you write with user needs in mind, RankBrain will reward it.
It can be tempting to take shortcuts to produce quicker results from SEO. But, as Google continues to progress and RankBrain continues to learn, tricks and gimmicks will become less and less effective (and could result in lower rankings). The best SEO strategy is to create helpful content for the user. When you answer questions accurately and thoroughly, RankBrain will recognize it.