What is Google RankBrain, and how will it affect SEO in 2019?

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If you’re keen to stay ahead of the SEO game, you’ll naturally be asking what is Google RankBrain, how will it affect SEO in 2019 and, most importantly, what do you need to know to take advantage of it?

Firstly, what is Google RankBrain?

Welcome to the latest advance in machine-learning software in search engine optimisation! This new release from Google basically exists to give search engine users the most relevant results for their queries possible. Google originally announced its plans to build RankBrain in 2015, to help them to deal with the huge number of websites on the internet and to make their algorithm better. It went live in 2016 after a great deal of beta testing.

It’s important to know that Google RankBrain is just one piece of the pie when it comes to Google’s search algorithm – but it now lies at no.3 in the SEO priority stakes, after linking and content.

How does Google RankBrain work to affect SEO in 2019?

Type a complicated query into Google and RankBrain will make a guess about what you are looking for – Whether your search has multiple semantic meanings, it’ll serve you search results for the popular meaning. Once it makes a guess, it will then bring up the most relevant page results and carry out further results using that data.

Previously, Google had to manually improve its algorithm. This meant putting vast amounts of manpower and resources towards data sorting to improve results. However, machine learning allows these predictions to get better and better over time.

Although it’s a machine learning system, Google RankBrain learns most of what it needs to offline. It processes information fed in by data scientists at Google and then continually tests its own assumptions to come up with better search results than anything a human brain could come up with. A new version of the search engine then goes live every time an improvement is recorded.

What does Google RankBrain mean for your SEO?

There is no doubt that Google RankBrain will have a big effect on the way that SEO practitioners do their job. One example is long-tail keywords. Smart websites will use these to rank their content for certain queries which have less competition. Also, long-tail keywords are a great way to rank for voice searches. However, it looks likely that they will become less important as Google’s machine learning software continues to evolve. This is because it is intelligent by definition and keeps improving. The system will keep developing and be able to work out when content is relevant for a user’s search, even when the words or phrasing is slightly different.

Should I forget long-term keywords for now then?

No! Don’t stop working with long-term keywords in your content plan for now though! SEO is a long-term investment and RankBrain will need to keep evolving to become better at getting to grips with the relevance of searches and their context – without necessarily needing to match keywords 100 per cent.

You could even find that your content starts ranking for keywords you aren’t even actively targeting. This is because short keywords are naturally more popular and Google has amassed more information to compare its datasets for those words. Google RankBrain already has more of the data that it needs to link these shorter keywords more easily.

However, one thing has not changed. SEO is still a mix of science and art and there is no formula that will guarantee success. SEO practitioners must still check their posts on a regular basis to make sure that they are ranking well for important keywords. It’s also essential to stay in the loop with the latest SEO developments as they happen to check that you don’t need to change your approach over time.

The bottom line

Google RankBrain is now vital to factor into your SEO efforts after content and linking strategies. So take the time to become familiar with how it changes Google’s algorithm and what the effect on your website’s SEO will be. Remember, it will mainly be deployed by Google for more complicated search queries which use long-tail keywords. So give maximum context to help the system work out whether your website’s content is relevant.


Adam Cook