Google Rank Brain: What is it and how will it affect SEO?

Ben Matthews

By Ben Matthews

In Blog, Empower Life, Moments

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Bloomberg News recently broke the story on a new artificial intelligence program from Google that it calls “Rank Brain”:

“For the past few months, a “very large fraction” of the millions of queries a second that people type into the company’s search engine have been interpreted by an artificial intelligence system, nicknamed RankBrain.”

So what is Google’s Rank Brain, how does it work and how does it affect your SEO strategy?

What Is Google’s Rank Brain?

Rank Brain is an artificial intelligence (AI) program used to help process Google search queries.

RankBrain uses artificial intelligence to embed vast amounts 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.

In practice, for a search phrase like  “How many tablespoons in a cup?”, Google’s Rank Brain will show different search results based on things like what country the search was made from.

Google told Search Engine Land that RankBrain favoured different results in Australia versus the United States for that query because the measurements in each country are different, despite the similar names.

And it’s effective: Google search engineers were asked to look at some pages and guess which ones they thought Google’s search engine technology would rank at the top of search results.

While Google search engineers guessed correctly 70 percent of the time, Rank Brain had an 80 percent success rate.

Overall, Rank Brain is capable of learning and recognizing new patterns and then revising SERPS (search engine results page) based on its new knowledge.

How important is Rank Brain?

RankBrain is one of the “hundreds” of signals that go into an algorithm that determines what results appear on a Google search page and where they are ranked.

According to Google it’s the third most important factor in determining the results that appear in your search queries.

At the moment, Google’s Rank Brain is reported to be responsible for 15% of all online searches and is now one of the most important signal out of the hundreds of signals used to determine search ranking.

How Will Rank Brain Affect Your SEO?

The first step in developing an SEO campaign has always been about defining your keywords.

When you’re defining your keywords, you will be looking for relevant keywords to your business that customers are searching for. This has always been the foundation to a successful SEO campaign.

If you’re targeting keywords customers are not searching for, then your campaign is doomed from the beginning.

This part of the SEO process, the foundation, is what Rank Brain will most affect.

Before Rank Brain, Google’s software engineers would create a mathematical algorithm that would determine search rankings.  That algorithm would be a constant until an update was made.

However, with Rank Brain that algorithm is now learning and constantly changing.

As a result, your SEO campaign has to be more nimble and adaptable to changes in the search engine rankings landscape.

What next with Google’s Rank Brain?

If you want to learn more about Google Rank Brain, learn more about word “vectors” — the way words and phrases can be mathematically connected.

Start with this blog post, which talks about how the system (which wasn’t named Rank Brain in the post) learned the concept of capital cities of countries just by scanning news articles.

Google have said that there was a gradual rollout of Rank Brain and that it’s been fully live and global for a few months now, so if you haven’t seen any significant changes in your search rankings then this is nothing to worry about.

Google makes lots of changes to its search algorithms all the time, so as long as you’re sticking to SEO best practice, then you’ll be find.

Need more SEO advice? Check out our guide to SEO for charities.

78 thoughts on “Google Rank Brain: What is it and how will it affect SEO?”

  1. Have read many articles on Google Rank Brain. Also, read on Moz & Search Engine Land But the Whole process of Rank Brain algorithm I Understand after reading this article. Nice example is given “How many tablespoons in a cup?” Thanks… 😉

  2. Really nice article! Although, you have to ask yourself, will things actually change? The way I see it, internet is already working on principles of quality (long, informational articles get the most attention). Do you think that this will change in any way in future?

  3. Nice Article. Nice information shared. I ran a SEO campaign, some of my relevant keyword is not ranking now. So whats my next step? how again my keyword rank in google or other search engine?

    • Good information. I had heard of rank brain but did not know it was around nearly 2 years. I am in charge of our SEO campaigns here at WorldEscape and do my best to keep up to date with the SEO world.
      Our rankings are gained by having great content written and this gets us links and social sharing.

  4. Nice article important information, I am working for SEO Campaigns, but I am having issue in ranking the keywords, they are not ranking. So for the same I would like to know the best practices.

  5. Well thanks alot for a very informative post, but still we are able to get Good ranking in Google and still tracking RankBrain Criteria and Guidelines, still changing and improving as well. If you are having trouble about RankBrain …. ?

  6. Well this is something new. hanks for the article I really didn’t know about the rank brain AI from google. Well google is up to many things and we will have to work out more.

  7. […] Google RankBrain made its debut last year it opened quite a few doors of possibility when it came to algorithmic […]

  8. Great Post about RankBrain..!But want to learn more about it. What are the needful changes to be made in SEO for better results? How to cope up with RankBrain??

  9. […] numerous algorithm updates and the introduction of RankBrain as a ranking factor, Google is changing the way it answers our […]

  10. is there any way that i can check if my site is affected by the rank brain algorithm. Because my site was ranking in the third position of serp for almost all keywords. I am doing a online flower delivery in delhi. Since from last two to three month my keyword fallen off to the 10 position of 1st position in the second page. how can i understand that?

  11. Thank you for the article. It helps a lot. before this, I don’t know anything about RankBrain now I have a clear picture about this. But I need to learn more about this as I am an SEO professional. Can you please help about this!Keep posting 🙂

  12. Thanks for sharing this valuable information. Since rank-brain is an important part in SEO page ranking. In the blog you covered a good information. Keep sharing these important information with us.

  13. Here’s a thought – If Google’s Rank Brain is “Overall, Rank Brain is capable of learning and recognizing new patterns and then revising SERPS (search engine results page) based on its new knowledge.” – should we be careful when we are checking result of our own SEO? For example, let’s say you are optimizing one particular page on your website and then check if it comes up on page 1 of Google’s SERP. Out of curiosity you just open it and then close it within, let’s say a couple of seconds. Would this action trigger a “not so relevant” message to Rank Brain and would it then rank that particular page lower in the SERP next time? If it does, the obvious workaround would be to keep the page open for a decent interval of time so that it triggers a “relevant” message to Rank Brain. I would really appreciate any thoughts/comments no this.

  14. Undoubtedly this is really amazing and you understand it is in very easy language. According to me, it is something new which never ever come and it takes many of the new things like now google consider quality more than backlinks. As you said that Rankbrain is an Artificial intelligence program which works is to give the best answer to the search query. The rank brain has the ability to give 80% correct the answer according to any other search engine. It is able to understand the mathematical term as well. Rankbrain is also a machine learning program which means when a computer teaches itself how to do something in place of ordered by a human. Thanks a lot for this…

  15. First I want to thank you for posting such amazing article which is really very helpful and i read your complete blog i found something new here so thank you again and keep posting and update with new things.

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  18. My website use to rank well for the keyword blue sapphire but now its not ranking. Is this because my website sell multiple products and my competitors are only into gemstone.

  19. Fascinating read!
    It’s incredible how Google’s RankBrain is evolving search. I wonder how this shift will impact content creation strategies. Are there any new best practices emerging in response to RankBrain’s learning capabilities?


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