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What Is Google’s RankBrain, and Why Should I Care?

Hey Guys Welcome to Another Oozle Update, Today I’m going to cover why the SEO on your website might not fit Google’s current algorithm, or better said may not be optimized for how Google now ranks websites, and I want to give some direction on what you can do about it.

Who is This Update is For

First let’s talk about who this update is intended for. I’m talking to anyone who been doing SEO for a while, and has heard something about changes to the Google Algorithm, specifically RankBrain and Hummingbird, but still isn’t quite sure what that means for them.

What Happened

Last year Google announced that they were testing a new machine learning algorithm called RankBrain that they said used to help deliver results on 15% of searches to give people a more relevant result. As best we can tell, Rank brain is a filter that helps Google better understand what people are asking when they do a search. Rank Brain worked so well that Google just announced that they’ve expanded the use of the Rank Brain rank brain filter to all Google searches. This helps clue us in that Google is completing a shift in the way that they rank web pages and gives us some direction on what website owners should do differently now versus a couple of years ago.

What This Means in Plain English?

First some context, for a long time a Search Engines worked kind of like a Parrot, if you searched for something it would Echo back a bunch of webpages that said roughly the the same thing you typed into a Search Engine. This worked REALLY well for a long time, because we in essence shifted the search terms we fed Google to get there result we were looking for. But Google, always looking forward in an attempt to stay ahead of the competition, made an adjust to the search engine to better accommodate how people were searching. Specifically, as people started to trust Google more, and see the breadth and accuracy of how Google could anticipate the answer you were looking for they started to shift to a more conversational, question based search (See Rand’s WBF). A big catalyst for this was the dramatic increase in voice search. If you think about it, when you do a voice search on your phone, you’re more likely to talk to Google or Siri like another human and ask more clearly formed questions, vs our tendency to use a more truncated keyword centric search when you search by typing.

My Mental Example of how I search:

  • Desktop: best Pizza in NYC
  • Mobile Phone: Best Pizza Place Near Me
  • Voice Search: Hey Siri (or Google, or Cortana, or Whatever) Where can I get good pizza close by

To help provide a better experience in this increasingly conversational search world, Google released an improvement to the way they rank web pages called Hummingbird. The goal of Hummingbird is to understand the question you’re asking and provide an intelligent answer instead of just an echo. And while the algorithm was good at what it did (you probably didn’t even realize it happened) it was very manual. Meaning to interpret what the search meant, it relied on actual people working for Google who would literally enter synonyms and connections in between words and phrases for the search engine to use. The search engine then used these manual entries to better understanding the intent of a search and determine what web pages would be relevant as results.The problem is, because they handle literally trillions of searches a year and more that 15% of those searches are completely unique, meaning that nobody had ever searched those exact words before. So, long story short, the monkeys at typewriters approach just wasn’t going to cut it, they needed better way to scale if they hope to roll out the full potential of Hummingbird.

RankBrain to the Rescue

That’s where RankBrain comes in. RankBrain is essentially a computer program listens to searches, interprets intent and likely groups similar terms together. It essentially learns how to make these connections between words and phrases with little to no human interaction. Now Google has enough confidence in RankBrain that it is being used on all searches you do in Google to improve your search results today and then learn from your searches to improves someone else’s results in the future.

We Think it’s Important Because…

We think this is important because it clues us in on the larger scope of where Google is headed. The Hummingbird and RankBrain updates signify the largest change to how Google ranks websites ever and it’s a change toward a more conversational search that delivers more valuable answers to its searches. A shift this big in the way Google ranks websites, should also correspond with a similar shift in the way businesses and website owners do SEO. Unfortunately for some of your, It also means that the SEO that marketing agencies did for years (while not necessarily done wrong) may be outdated and a little off target.

For years Marketing agency’s told you the most important thing you needed to consider on your website is that Google could find the keyword people were searching. This is known in the industry as “writing for search engines” but as Google get better at finding context, identifying questions and delivering their corresponding answers to searcher it become crucial that you have the answers and that they were created for a human and not just a search engine.

What You Can Do About It?

Below What I recommend you do to take advantage of these updates

  • Think of the questions that your target customer likely wants to find on your website
  • Go online and compare and contrast the answers on your website against your competitors and the websites that rank when you search for those questions.
  • Make your website’s answers are better and easier to use than your competitors websites

Final Thoughts

Google’s (and every other good search engine’s) main goal is to deliver the most timely and relevant result to everybody’s individual search. The recent changes to get better at doing so, signal that is is time to look at our website and critically ask, “are we providing great answers to the questions searchers have?” If you can’t honestly say that your website provides that best, most relevant answer, you should have zero expectation that Google will continue to rank you at the top of the results for your targeted terms. If you were in their shoes you would do the same thing.

Dave Smith Aug 12 2016
Categories: Oozle Update
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