What is Google’s RankBrain and how does it affect SEO?

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Last updated on Sep 28th, 2022 at 02:08 pm

If you’re serious about your SEO then you should know about Google RankBrain. RankBrain is a machine learning artificial intelligence (AI) that is used in Google’s search algorithm. RankBrain was introduced and confirmed to be in use in October 2015 and is still the only artificial intelligence in the Google search algorithm. How does it work? Let’s take a look at how AI is used in Google’s RankBrain.

artificial intelligence

How does it work?

RankBrain is part of Google’s search algorithm, this means its job is to determine the best results and pages to show when a query or phrase is typed into Google. To do this, it selects ranking signals to prioritize to match the best results for the words and keywords of a searched query. These signals are things such as content freshness, keyword matching, domain authority, engagement, and related topics.

How Does it Affect SEO?

Not a whole lot needs to change about your SEO to optimize for RankBrain. To get an idea of how we incorporate this information in an SEO strategy, let’s have a look at how each of these signals plays an important role in determining what content and pages to display:

  • Content Freshness

Content freshness refers to how new the content related to the keywords is. When a user types a query into Google, let’s say they type in “How many episodes in Riverdale?” the freshness of the results here is important because the searcher wants to know how many total episodes across all seasons the TV show Riverdale has. Therefore, Google cannot show and prioritize content from 3 years back, 3 seasons ago when there was only two seasons. Instead, if you type that query into Google, you’ll see they display similar queries with similar keywords in them, and it shows answers from 1-2 months ago.

In other words, keep the content you want your keywords to rank for as fresh as possible for a higher chance of ranking at the top of the search engine results.

google search seo

  • Keyword Matching

As stated above, the RankBrain search algorithm includes signals and shows results from matching keywords. This means that commonly searched topics with similar keywords like “episodes in Riverdale”, “Riverdale” and even “how many in Riverdale” will be displayed on the front page. How do you include this in your SEO? Well, it is simple: Gone are the days of one keyword, one page. Include as many similar keywords and topics in your content as you can, without keyword stuffing.


  • Domain Authority

Part of RankBrains prioritized signals is domain authority as Google avoids spammy sites. This is an important one because we already know that domain authority is an important SEO (Search Engine Optimization) ranking factor. So whether or not the content is fresh, Google will prioritize authorized domains over low-quality domains.


  • Engagement

What’s popular and trending is what gets everyone talking and engaging with topics. Sticking to our Riverdale example, one of the most searched for topics regarding Riverdale at the moment is “Is season 6 the last season of Riverdale?” This query is related to our first search example, “How many episodes in Riverdale?” – so similar topics will be displayed. Season 6 is the most recent Riverdale season meaning it’s fresh content and what everyone is searching for. In summary, keep up to date with the most recent discussions in your niche to drive engagement on your content.


  • Related Topics

We’ve already touched on this quite a bit now, so you should know that it definitely helps to include as many related topics in your content as you can. Another way to include this in your SEO is to search a query and have a look at the most popular similar search suggestions that come up. This is a great way to stay on top of your game and keep your content fresh.


In Summary

Google RankBrain is just an artificial intelligence search engine algorithm. It works by using ranking signals to determine the best results to display. How does RankBrain affect SEO? Not too severely; keep your content fresh, include related topics and stay on top of your game. What’s popular drives engagement which can boost your content ranking. As always, content quality is the king of SEO.

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