Including Google RankBrain in Your SEO Strategy

by | Jun 15, 2016 | Content Marketing | 3 comments

by | Jun 15, 2016 | Content Marketing | 3 comments

People have been trying to game Google for years. Keyword stuffing, link buying and selling, and content farms are all tactics that people have attempted in an effort to use the Google algorithm to their advantage and get higher up in search results. But over the years, and through several different search algorithm advancements, Google got better, faster and smarter.

One of their smartest secrets was revealed last fall when Bloomberg broke the news about Google RankBrain, the AI tool that untangles natural speech queries in an attempt to bring better, more targeted results to users. The most interesting characteristic of this artificial intelligence tool? It’s been identified as the third most important ranking factor for search results. That’s number three out of what’s rumored to be hundreds of various elements that decide ranking. (The first two, announced in late March, are links and content. No huge surprises there.)

But Why Spill Your Secrets, Google?

It might seem odd that a powerful company like Google is explaining how search rankings are decided. After all, wouldn’t they want to discourage people taking advantage of their algorithm, given the long history of people who try to game search engines? The reason Google is being so open about RankBrain and how it relates to search results, according to Search Engine Journal, is because spreading knowledge will help the user experience. The more people that start focusing on high-quality, niche-focused content with audiences in mind instead of spammy, keyword-stuffed articles, the better.

But, you might ask, why does this knowledge need to be spread in the first place? Don’t people know that blackhat SEO techniques are passé? Unfortunately, that’s not quite true. Keyword stuffing, near plagiarism, fake or fluffy articles, including more keywords by making them the same color as the background (yes, people actually do this) and many more unsavory techniques are still being used. These tactics may work in the short-term, but it’s never a good decision to put a search engine’s needs before your audience’s.

What Search Engines Respond to vs. What People Want                                    

The problem with always writing for search engines first and people second is the hit that content quality can take. While the best SEOs know how to do both, there are numerous examples of poor quality content that were clearly not created with humans in mind. While it may be possible to achieve high rankings with less than great content, marketers and SEOs cannot forget that their job isn’t done when a person clicks on a link. Even if a person manages to trick a search engine and get page views, all of that work is pointless if people leave the page and don’t return because the content was either poorly written, erroneous or simply unhelpful.

RankBrain Gets Closer to What People Really Want

Sometimes people have a question but don’t know the right words to use to describe it. This is where RankBrain would come in. According to Search Engine Land, RankBrain helps interpret search queries to find what people are truly searching for. The example given in the breaking Bloomberg article is “What’s the title of the consumer at the highest level of a food chain?” When RankBrain gets a query like this, it is able to make very accurate judgments as to what the searcher is really looking for.

What About Keywords?


Search Engine Journal provides a great overview of how you can use keywords in the context of RankBrain. Instead of focusing on using a few specific keywords multiple times, Barysevich of SEJ recommends using several related keywords found through Google search suggestions and Google AdWords to use occasionally in a long piece of content. This results in content that is helpful to people even if they aren’t searching for one specific keyword.

An Overview of RankBrain Content Creation

Many of the SEO best practices still apply given what we now know about RankBrain. But to help you make the most out of the RankBrain announcement, here are a few tips to optimize your content.

1. Authentic and Well-Written

Most of your customers and audiences probably don’t talk or write like a business report or an academic paper. People mostly use natural language, especially when searching the web. Using natural language means using a shorter word instead of a more complex synonym, it means speaking informally and using second person when possible. Mostly, it means talking like a real person. According to the Content Marketing Institute, naturally written content is exactly the kind of thing RankBrain is looking for.

2. Targeted

It’s not a new idea that you should write content for a specific audience. Anticipating your buyers’ needs and creating content to solve their problems is a key element of inbound marketing. Similarly, RankBrain also aims to give people what they want, even if they don’t know the exact words to search for it. Make use of this knowledge by creating focused content that solves specific problems for specific customer profiles. RankBrain’s artificial intelligence may be able to help connect you with people who don’t even know that they need your solution.

3. Long and Detailed

A well-known SEO best practice is to include ample content on a page. Not only does this provide more content to the reader, but it also gives SEOs more space to insert relevant keywords. As we mentioned above, it’s recommended that you use several related keywords in a long piece of content to cover a range of search queries.

Marketers and SEOs everywhere should be excited about this new insight into Google’s ranking process. RankBrain is a highly sophisticated tool that speaks to Google’s increasing understanding of how to provide people with the content they need. If you keep up general SEO best practices and focus on producing content that speaks to your target markets and provides value, RankBrain can be an asset in helping you get your material in front of the right people.

Greg Secrist
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