Understanding RankBrain

Google uses hundreds of factors to decide which website to show to a searcher. The details of the algorithm used for this decision making are secret, like Coca-Cola’s recipe, but Google isn’t shy about sharing the most important elements: content, links, and RankBrain.

Content is King. Links are the next most important element. That’s Google’s way of including human judgements in the decision. They know that a machine can’t tell whether your website is witty, inspiring, or beautiful. Getting strong editorial links from other high quality websites shows that human beings value your content. Awesome content and valuable links are the highest priority for your website.

RankBrain is #3 in importance.

So what’s RankBrain?

RankBrain is a part of Google’s algorithm. It’s a machine learning system that looks at the results being offered for keywords and gauges the degree of satisfaction searchers feel about those search results. It then updates the algorithm on the basis of the apparent degree of satisfaction.

Imagine that Google served up cookies at a cafe. RankBrain would hear someone ask for a snickerdoodle and see that individual receive a cinnamon-laden treat. Hearing, “Hmmm… not enough cinnamon!” would cause RankBrain to increase the quantity of cinnamon in the recipe. Having amped up the spice, RankBrain would observe reactions to the new recipe. Hearing a “Yum!” would cause RankBrain to plan on serving that new cookie when people asked for snickerdoodles.

Since RankBrain is an artificial intelligence program, it learns to understand people’s questions better as it gets more input. The first time our hypothetical cookie-focused robot heard “snickerdoodle” it didn’t know much. By now, it understands that this request is about a cinnamon and sugar cookie.

With search queries, RankBrain notices which pages people stop and read, compared with those that people quickly leave. If people bounce away from the first result on a page and spend time checking out other pages instead, that top result will lose some credibility.

The people have spoken

RankBrain is an effort to use people’s behavior to guess how happy they are with the search results. This information is then used to adjust the rankings for a particular keyword.

What makes your page satisfying to people who click through to your page from the SERPs?

It’s a page that answers their question. It has useful information. it’s well written, so it’s a pleasure to read. In other words, it has good content.

Who’s king now?

Notice that we’re back to good content.

In fact, while we’re noticing that, let’s notice that high quality links also come from good content.

A clickbait title might get people to click through. But a click followed by pogo sticking back out to find something better doesn’t get you in good with Google’s machine learning system. That requires something that provides value for your visitors.

Is your web content good enough to deserve the crown?

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