When Google announced that a super-secret program that they developed was crucial for determining search engine rankings, the whole online world held its breath. What was it? What did it look for? And how did it affect SEO?


In the ensuing six months, we waited bated breath for the best brains in the industry to find how exactly Google’s RankBrain affected SEO. This top secret machine learning algorithm is as elusive as the company that gave birth to it, but through much research, we have finally gotten to the bottom of how RankBrain works, and what you can expect going forward.


How does it work?


As we stated, RankBrain relies on machine learning. Machine learning is an attempt at getting a computer program to function more like a human brain. In the old days, when you typed a keyword into Google, it searched for the exact term or terms. As the algorithm became more advanced, it began to incorporate synonyms and eventually become sophisticated enough to guess at the meaning of queries. This is where it gets complicated!


There is a difference between what is typed and what a query really “means.” RankBrain takes the millions of queries made in Google each second and tries to find patterns, deduce meanings, and find relations between keywords. To put it in simple terms: RankBrain is learning from all search queries, adapting to the results, and trying to give searchers what they really want.


How it affects SEO


Although the direct effects on SEO from RankBrain are hard to pinpoint at this moment, what we do know is that it does weigh heavily on Google’s mind. Your goal should be to provide the best user experience possible and give your customers what they want to see.  When your strategy aligns with Google’s end goal (providing a great customer experience), then you will be on the right side of the battle.


Google’s RankBrain is a fascinating new development, and one that we all should keep an eye on. The more it learns, the better results it will be able to return to us. If anything, it should show that maintaining good SEO practices and continuing to give your customers what they want is the new era of search engine optimization, and that it isn’t going to change any time soon.