What is Rank Brain and how does it affect search?

Rank Brain is the next step in search development, utilising artificial intelligence to handle a very large fraction of search results.

Google hasn’t revealed exactly how many search terms it handles, but it has stated it is the third most crucial factor in rankings. In case you’re interested, Andrey Lipattsev of Google re-affirmed what we all believed, that content and links are the top two factors (take that link haters).

But what is Rank Brain and what do we need to know about this form of AI? How can we utilise this for our benefit? I’ve answered a few of the most common questions below.


What Is Rank Brain?

It is a machine learning tool, rather than relying on humans. Of the billions of search terms that are typed in every day, Rank Brain deals with the ambiguous queries, which are believed to be around 400 million per day! This could be anything from voice search queries, queries that have never been typed in or terms that are very similar to others. It basically tries to work out the intention of the searcher, to offer the most relevant result.

Despite this being a hot topic currently, rank brain was actually being rolled out in early 2015 and was fully rolled out by the end of the year.


How Many Search Results Does It Affect?

Approximately 15% of all searches, which is a considerable amount (as previously mentioned, probably around 400 million per day)! Considering the increase in voice based search queries (largely on mobile devices), we are likely to see this figure increase over time.

Can You Give An Example?

A case that Google has highlighted in the past is someone looking for a spoon measurement would get a completely different result in Australia to the USA, as they tend to use different metrics of measurement.

So Is RankBrain A New Algorithm?

No, it isn’t like the launch of panda or penguin. It is in fact a part of the overall search algorithm (hummingbird), so if you want to learn some of the basics, you might want to have a read on this algorithmic update in 2013.

An analogy that a Google rep used was to explain Google as a car. The engine is Hummingbird. An engine is made up of many small parts and one of those parts is now Rankbrain.

What Should I Do?

Just like before, you need a full content strategy with a keyword focus. You will want to be flexible and nimble, so you can adapt to changes in the search results. I would also consider producing content that would directly answer a search query. Look at the pages on your site and ask yourself if someone was to type in a related question, would your webpage offer them the answer they seek and would it also lead to a conversion for yourself.

We type very differently to how we speak, so this is something we have to consider. Voice activated search queries will increasingly hold a role in the SERP’s (mainly on mobile), while Google sees this natural language based search style as the future of search.

As mentioned, RankBrain has been fully rolled out, however this doesn’t mean there aren’t minor tweaks being made regularly. Google has openly admitted it makes over 500 changes a year to its algorithm, which is more than one a day. For this reason, it is important to stick to SEO best practices and try to stay up to date with recommendations from conferences and key digital marketing websites.


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