RankBrain is Google’s brand new artificial intelligence (AI) ranking system. It’s a step forward in improving Google search and an important development SEOs and website owners should be aware of. Below is our quick summary for your convenience:

What the heck is RankBrain?

I am sure you’ve heard about Google’s new machine-learning AI system. Google unveiled its new ranking algorithm on 26 October 2015, and its name is RankBrain. For a few months now RankBrain has been working alongside other Google algorithms to process a huge fraction of daily search results.

The purpose of RankBrain

The main motive for launching this algorithm is to handle unique or obscure queries. Search queries using ambiguous terms or colloquialisms have been difficult for Google to interpret. RankBrain tackles these in a whole new way. RankBrain is able to handle the 15 percent (approximately 450 million) of total daily search queries which Google has never seen before.

Greg Corrado, a senior research scientist with Google, told Bloomberg in an interview,

“RankBrain uses artificial intelligence to embed a large amount of written language into mathematical entities, called vectors, that the computer can understand. If RankBrain sees a word or phrase it isn’t familiar with, the machine can make a guess as to what words or phrases might have a similar meaning and filter the result accordingly, making it more effective at handling never-before-seen search queries.”

What exactly does RankBrain do?

RankBrain’s magic is that it will interpret any niche, long-tail, multi word phrase and translate it to other related queries. This helps Google to display the most relevant results to the searcher, as naturally as a human could do. It is giving more importance to the intent of the search, not only the keywords. RankBrain is not an alternative to Google’s Hummingbird algorithm, but works in collaboration with it. In this combined process, Hummingbird matches a query with keywords and content on the internet. At the same time RankBrain interprets meaning from queries. Google’s combined search algorithms find and serve optimal results based on human search intent.

Think of RankBrain like a shop assistant at a kitchen appliance store. You visit the store and asked the assistant to show a kitchen appliance that runs on electricity to preserve food items at a cold temperature. Naturally, the assistant takes you into the refrigerator display section. RankBrain is also responsible for showing the most relevant and meaningful search results to the user based on the intent of search.

Is RankBrain a major factor/signal for ranking pages?

Since its deployment, RankBrain has become the third most important ranking signal. This surprised Google engineers, just how effective RankBrain was performing. It is even outperforming its creators. In a test, RankBrain engineers were asked to review a sample of websites and guess which ones Google would serve as a top search result. The engineers correctly guessed 70 percent, while RankBrain guessed with 80 percent accuracy.

RankBrain as a machine learning system

It’s well known that there is always some human involvement while refining search queries. This may be in the form of creating stemming lists or synonym lists or making database connections.

Is RankBrain truly AI, is it a deep learning system requiring no human input? No, not yet anyway. But following Google’s 2014 acquisition of DeepBrain it seems clear that Google is pushing hard in the deep learning system direction.

How does RankBrain affect your website and what can you do?

Don’t worry about receiving some unknown RankBrain penalty. This is not a penalty algorithm, but rather an improved ranking algorithm.

RankBrain is making life easier for Google to rank websites for ambiguous and obscure queries. And ae already know it’s not worth creating pages for every obscure long-tail keyword, so don’t go and do that!

A great RankBrain summary by Moz comes to the same conclusion. You need not make any changes as per this algorithm, just keep up the same good, clean SEO work you always do. What was working prior to RankBrain will continue to be successful today.