May 17, 2022

Google RankBrain: what is it and why is it increasingly important for SEO?


Google RankBrain is an Artificial Intelligence system with machine learning. It assists the search engine in processing user search queries. If someone searches on Google for a keyword phrase, Google RankBrain helps to find all related searches for that keyword or phrase. 

Wondering how RankBrain works and fits into Google’s overall ranking system? In this article, we’ll show you exactly what RankBrain is, how effective it is, and why Google will increasingly rely on its help in displaying SERP results.

What is the idea behind Google RankBrain

RankBrain is designed to improve search results for ambiguous or poorly worded long-tail queries and new queries that Google has never seen before. Greg Corrado, a senior researcher at Google, was the first to reveal the existence of the RankBrain program in an interview with Bloomberg in October 2015.

RankBrain uses artificial intelligence to incorporate vast amounts of written language into mathematical units called vectors that a computer can understand. If RankBrain sees a word or phrase that it is unfamiliar with, the machine can guess which words or phrases may have a similar meaning and filter the result accordingly, making it more efficient at processing unprecedented search queries.

Based on machine learning, RankBrain is an impressive imitation of human cognitive abilities. It creates and analyzes user profiles to find out what kind of content would be most relevant to the user. Here are some aspects of Google RankBrain that we’ll tell you more about.

What is machine learning?

One of the most profound applications of artificial intelligence – machine learning teaches the machine to analyze models and results so that it can perform certain tasks more efficiently. The algorithm works harder with new data and search queries and becomes smarter in the process, eliminating the need for human intervention.

The work of RankBrain with Google’s algorithms

RankBrain works fully with Google’s current search algorithms to provide better, faster and more complete results. It plays a role in assisting Google with searches that don’t have a specific answer. RankBrain is responsible for converting the countless search terms entered into a search engine into quantitative numbers that, according to Greg Corrado, only artificial intelligence machines can understand. He uses mathematical processes and an advanced understanding of linguistic semantics to gradually learn more about what people are looking for.

RankBrain analyzes your search patterns, location, history, and how you interact with search query results. It then uses this profiling to identify what each user is looking for when they enter a search query. It tries to sort the results based on user relevance. Finally, apply your findings to future search results.

As a machine learning application, Google RankBrain is improving by taking three basic steps offline:

  • processed historical data is used to understand how to make better predictions;
  • the predictions obtained from this experiment are tested by RankBrain to check the relevance;
  • if the forecasts prove to be significant and accurate, RankBrain is updated online with the necessary changes to make it more efficient in sorting the results.

The effectiveness of RankBrain

Google engineers compete against RankBrain to test its effectiveness by guessing which pages will rank at the top of Google search results. In the end, it was found that the engineers made correct assumptions with almost 70% accuracy. But RankBrain overshadows them after making 80% correct assumptions. He manages to beat the engineers who designed it, which shows how efficient it really is. 

The reality is that RankBrain itself is not an algorithm. It’s more like an add-on to Google’s search engine algorithm known as Hummingbird.

RankBrain is believed to make search results smarter and more user-friendly. Improved results ensure consumer satisfaction, which means that they will not look at many results and waste time, but will reach the final goal faster. That way, the top-ranked pages will get the most traffic. Better optimized results also mean greater relevance. Results with less comprehensive websites fall lower in the rankings and gradually lose their high positions, as RankBrain helps the best results to rank higher in the search engine. 


We will make an inquiry about the word “coach”. When we first hear this word, we tend to think of ‘sports coach’. However, it can sometimes mean a brand:

The machine learning algorithm can notice its use in the middle of a sentence as a “coach” or its use near “bags”, “leather”, “men’s fashion” and others.

This is where RankBrain takes effect. He interprets language, interprets inquiries in a way that is part of people’s inner feelings and assumptions. In other words, it has a more dynamic ability to adapt to changing circumstances as language develops over time.

Prior to the introduction of RankBrain in 2015, Google did not have the ability to understand and predict exactly what users were looking for. Now we will do a search for “game console developed by Sony”.

Google clearly understands that this is a PlayStation, although nowhere in my search is this word present. The display of this type of result, together with the proposed additional questions about the query, is due to artificial intelligence.

Is RankBrain a ranking factor?

As soon as AI was launched, Google confirmed that RankBrain was used to rank search results and participated in all queries.

In 2016, Andrey Lipatsev, senior search quality strategist at Google, said RankBrain was one of the three most important ranking signals (along with content and links).

RankBrain continues to play an important role in search results to this day. It differs from traditional ranking factors in that there is no obvious way to actively optimize for it.

How do I optimize for ambiguous keywords or queries that no one has entered on Google before?

The only way is to provide Google with as much information as possible about a page. Something that needs to be done anyway if you are creating content for users. 

In the following lines we will share some basic recommendations for improving content based on artificial intelligence.

How to optimize for RankBrain?

Basically, as we mentioned, you don’t optimize for RankBrain. But we cannot take this for granted. Google’s Gary Ellis says you can’t optimize for it back in 2016. And later, in 2019, he says it’s just optimizing for users.

But this, of course, is a bit of a “Google” statement. Our advice to those who want to optimize for RankBrain, or better yet – to optimize your site, is to take into account artificial intelligence and other similar systems.

Don’t look for tricks.

Look for features!

A free tool that is interesting to use in this task is Google’s own demo of the Natural Language API . Let’s say we want to understand how Google sees text. We can copy any text, paste it into their NLP demo and V oilà ! We get their analysis of which objects appear on the page, along with mood analysis and syntax. 

If you scroll down the list of objects, Google also gives you a complete breakdown of the types of objects on the page.

It should be noted that they are far from perfect and are designed to work as a default object set for learning – this is not a complete list of how Google views the world. But it gives a good visual understanding of your content. Another tool you can use for free is Knowledge Graph Explorer . With it, you can check what Google sees about an object in real time.

With these two tools, you can explore how Google perceives top-ranked sites for different queries, what objects are on the pages, whether they are people, places or things, etc., and get a real understanding of how Google interprets the page through the perspective of the Hummingbird algorithm.

Therefore, we only need them to take into account variables that we cannot control, or to see the probable location of the user, device, etc., and consequently improve our content. How is this supposed to happen?

Provide value to users.

Let’s look at a few ways to achieve this goal:

1. Freshness

We will be looking for digital marketing training on Google. Logically, the search engine displays the most recent offers at the top of the search engine:

This training is completely relevant, because when we visit the site we understand that the course will start this month.

It is only on the fourth page that we find a result that is from 2017. 

Obviously, a newer result would be more user-friendly, given that digital marketing is evolving at lightning speed year after year. So, try adding new content or changing your old one, and make it relevant!

2. Keywords

Don’t use keywords that sound weird and unnatural. Shift your focus to building a set of natural keywords. As usual, those with long tails are more conversational in nature and can be more easily caught by Hummingbirds (and RankBrain, as an extension). Try to create variations of such keywords and use the whole set to create content that looks natural.

3. Conversational writing

Do you know what kind of content is most engaging for the average user?

Content that is clever, sometimes forged with humor (not dry) and human tone.

Create content that engages users and keeps them on your page. When your content speaks to the user, they may even respond (in the form of comments). This, in turn, stimulates UX (user experience) – something that Google loves! Encourage dialogue with your visitors!

The influence of RankBrain on SEO

RankBrain gives proven results for efficiency compared to the years before its appearance. So far, his most significant victory has been reading and understanding what is more relevant and useful to the consumer. That’s where the focus of SEO strategies should be now.

It is important to do SEO that is value and audience oriented. As mentioned above, focus on what the user thinks about your content.

If your content is what the user interacts with more, and if it gives him the value he’s looking for, you already have the winning formula.

Why will Google increasingly rely on RankBrain?

Constant evolution of artificial intelligence

Experts in the field predict that artificial intelligence and machine learning systems will increasingly spread and develop at an impressive rate. In this way all processes will be facilitated at the expense of slower manual work.

That’s why it’s important to understand how they work and how they can influence your digital marketing strategy.

RankBrain makes it clear that new AI machines can benefit companies that produce content that is relevant to their audiences, but also caters to the user experience on their websites and blogs.

To get the most out of artificial intelligence, always remember that these systems simulate the thinking of human beings.

So don’t try to fool it, be honest and create quality content!

If you still have some questions about RankBrain, we’ll be happy to answer your questions in the comments below this article.

Originally posted by Netpeak Bulgaria as “Google RankBrain: що е то и защо все повече има значение за SEO?

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