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Inside RankBrain: What Google's new search algorithm means to you

James A. Martin | Nov. 25, 2015
Google's RankBrain search-algorithm update has been live for months, but the company just recently confirmed the existence of the new machine-learning component. Here's a breakdown of RankBrain, along with a list of few important things digital marketers need to know.

RankBrain shouldn't have significant effects on any site that is creating great content, according to Lancheres. "The proof is that the high quality content that was ranking a few months ago is still ranking just as well today."

RankBrain should result in smarter Google search

Thanks to RankBrain, Google now "reads" individual sentences, instead of just looking at keywords, and infers meaning from them. The search update lets Google draw relationships between words in a more advanced way than Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI), which used to be the primary way it calculated relevance on certain topics. For example, in the past Google might have interpreted a keyword phrase such as, "Whoever thought this would be a good movie should be fired," as a positive review, because of the words "good movie."

"Now it will look at the surrounding context and weigh it out to know it's an overall bad review," Lancheres says. "If you're trying to manipulate your content to rank as highly as possible for competitive keywords, then you'll want to observe the relationships that RankBrain is forming and make sure to include further related terms within your copy."

"In addition, because RankBrain understands sentences (meaning and sentiment), it is now very important to answer the questions being asked," he says. "For instance, when you read a keyword such as 'best toasters,' think of it as 'What are the best toasters?'" Thoroughly answering questions in your copy may help RankBrain recognize your articles as the best choices for specific keyword phrases, he says.

Don't overthink RankBrain 

Ultimately, the key to search-engine-rank success is no different today than it was a month ago. Marketers should "stop thinking about optimizing for algorithms and start thinking about human beings, just as they did before the Internet even existed," says Samuel Scott, director of marketing communication company

Scott says marketers should optimize their websites "on a technical and on-page level so that Google can crawl, parse, and index content. Then, publish and publicize authoritative marketing collateral that will greatly interest your target audience.

"The algorithm-that-now-thinks-like-a-human-being will take care of the rest."


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