Google’s RankBrain: The New Tool Businesses Must Understand

March 18, 2016


It’s clearly understood that Google has a complex algorithm that produces search engine results pages (SERPs) on a given keyword, allowing your business to appear for phrases that potential customers might be searching. What isn’t understood however is how the algorithm works exactly and how Google comes to the conclusion that website A answers the query better than website B. We are aware of Google’s Penguin, Panda, Payday, Pigeon and Hummingbird algorithms and how they work to a point but now there seems to be a new kid on the block,  or rather a new machine on the block – RankBrain.

What is RankBrain?

RankBrain is the name given to Google’s machine learning artificial intelligence (AI) system used to sort the SERPs on a given keyword. RankBrain can teach itself to do something, such as give a better result than it had previously based on metrics like engagement and time spent on a website.

Does This Mean My SERP Was Given To Me By A Terminator?

Not exactly – although RankBrain is a machine that can learn it is still not a “True AI”. A true AI is the fictional AI Skynet from the Terminator movie franchise where it is working completely independently and making its own decisions. RankBrain is different as it is a part of a wider algorithm and simply aids the algorithm by making connections.

What Type Of Connections Is RankBrain Making?

The main connection that RankBrain is looking for is the answer or solution to the query entered to the search engine. Using the below example for the search “where can I buy an oil filter for a Vauxhall Astra 2013” this is what Google thinks will answer that question. Clearly it still has a lot of tweaking to do as a video on how change a filter does not answer my question of where I can buy a filter. This is where RankBrain comes in.

Google RankBrain

Learning On The Job

We don’t know exactly how RankBrain works. Google rarely discloses how their algorithm works as it could then lead to millions of websites ‘gaming’ the system to get themselves or their clients to the top. However, here at Pixus we try to keep one step ahead of the competition by learning more and more about the intricate details of search engine optimisation every day so we asked ourselves – if we were a search engine what is there to learn from the results? And this is how we came up with our theory that engagement and user experience could be the new king of SEO.

How So?

We presume that Google wants what’s best for the searcher and to get better when it gets it wrong and to remember what it did when it gets it right, the only way it can do that is by searcher feedback – it can’t go out and ask the searcher directly so how can it get this data? Through engagement metrics of course.

Hypothetically speaking, Google can look at the results of 1,000 searchers for an identical phrase and see which websites were clicked on, how long they were there for and how they converted. Based on these results it can move the positions around a bit and see if they improve (or get worse). Over time, Google can get a pretty good idea which website performed the best for this keyword and place that on the top. Pretty clever eh?

What Can I Do To Make Sure RankBrain Likes My Website?

Regardless of RankBrain or Google you should always try to make your site the best possible experience for visitors and to give them the information, service or product they are looking for. This can be done with a nice clean design, fantastic content, easy to use buttons and menus and a site that is easy to navigate.

These are services Pixus provide so if you feel your website isn’t up to scratch and could give a better experience get in touch with us today and stay one step ahead of Rank Brain.

This article was written by . Dan is the Co-founder & Director at Pixus.

Dan has over 10 years experience working with web designers and developers, creating a wide range of projects both large and small.


2 Responses to Google’s RankBrain: The New Tool Businesses Must Understand

  1. Nikolay Stoyanov says:

    Nice article Ronnie! As you said, same rules of SEO still apply regardless of RankBrain. Nevertheless, as UX gains on importance, do you think that this will lead to new types of black and gray hat practices?

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