The world of SEO has proven its dynamic nature yet again with Google's RankBrain. Not long ago, Google announced RankBrain as its most important ranking signal. And if you don't want to get left behind, then it is important that you get your site be optimized for it.
To help you get a jump-start on this, we have developed a guide that will tell you everything you need to learn about Google's RankBrain algorithm.
What is Google RankBrain?
First thing first. What exactly is this new Google Algorithm?
Well, RankBrain is considered as a machine-learning (AI) algorithm that Google utilizes to sort out the search results. Another thing it does is help Google process and understand search queries.
Now, this might sound like any other algorithm made by Google. But it actually is not. As stated earlier, RankBrain is an AI algorithm. Compared to before when Google's algorithm was 100% hand-coded by its human engineers, RankBrain now tweaks the algorithm on its own. There is, therefore, no need for humans to manually do the task.
It is even found out according to a study by Google that RankBrain outperformed its Google Engineers by 10% when it comes to identifying the best page for a given search. Now that is just amazing!
RankBrain does this by analyzing the keyword. From there, it will increase or decrease the value of backlinks, content freshness, content length, domain authority, etc. to search results ranking. Soon after, it will look at how Google searchers engage with the new set of search results. If the users find it agreeable, then the algorithm stays. If not, RankBrain will place back its old algorithm.
Since it has been implemented, RankBrain has been performing very well. This indicates how this algorithm is here to stay. So as an SEO you should better familiarize yourself with this as much as possible.
How Does RankBrain Work?
Now let's talk about its functions and how it works.
To start, RankBrain initially has two main functions: One is to understand search queries through keywords. And the next is by measuring the interaction of searchers with the results or, basically, user satisfaction.
Let us expand and delve deeper into these two.
The first job of RankBrain is understanding keywords. And how does it do this? To answer that, let us backtrack a little.
One of the main problems faced by Google before is that 15% of the keywords people typed in search queries were never seen before. To have a grasp on that 15%, that equals to about 450 million keywords! That is a lot for Google to take considering how they do it before wherein Google would have to scan every search results page just to see if it contained the exact keyword a searcher placed.
As a result of this upsurge amount of unfamiliar keywords, what Google does instead is guess. So instead of looking for what the searcher is looking for, Google simply would only look for pages that contained the terms or words the searcher is placed in the query. To cut it short, Google does not understand what the searcher is actually looking for before.
With RankBrain, on the other hand, it actually understands what the searcher is asking. Therefore, it could provide a 100% accurate set of results. The problem with before is that Google would only try to match the words in a searcher's search query to the words on a page. But in RankBrain, it attempts to figure out what the person means. It does this by matching the unfamiliar keywords to those keywords that Google already has before. What comes out of this is that RankBrain turns the search terms into concepts, and then it tries to find pages that have that concept.
Just like human beings do when they want to know if a person approves of what they do, RankBrain observes.
When RankBrain displays a set of search results it thinks people will like a lot, it looks at how the searchers actually interact with that. If it finds that a number of people like a particular page in the results, then it will give that page a boost in the rankings. If the opposite happens where people do not like it, then RankBrain will send a signal to Google to drop that page and replace it with a new one. Then the cycle continues.
So how does it determine user satisfaction? The simple answer is that it looks at what is called as "user experience signals" or UX signals. It can be identified by the following:
To understand, let us place these in a scenario. Let us say you are looking for a specific how-to article. Now when you placed it in the search queries, you get a number of results. Initially, you click the first result. Upon arriving on the site, you see how the intro is just full of fluff. So you hit back and click on the next one. Unfortunately, it provides very generic and surface-level content. You hit back again and proceed. By the next result, you find what you are looking for. This time, you didn't click back. Instead, you spend an amount of time reading through the page article.
The process of going back and forth is what "Pogo-sticking" means. This process is one of the main things RankBrain pay close attention to. So if a searcher quickly leaves a page, then it will send a signal to Google that the page does not offer the best result. When the opposite happens and people stays on the page, then Google will give it a boost on the ranking.
How RankBrain Changed the Keyword Research Game
With everything that RankBrain does, it is therefore inevitable for SEOs to change how they currently deal with keyword research. Google can now understand the intent of a searcher behind every search query. Therefore, you must change up how you handle your keywords by making it more RankBrain-friendly. How so?
Ignore Long Tail Keywords
To effectively do this, you must ignore long tail keywords. They are now irrelevant. Since RankBrain can now understand the intent or concepts behind keywords, creating different pages that cater to different styles of keyword formatting that mean the same things does not work anymore. RankBrain now simply shows identical search results. So there is no need to for you to change "great" to "very good", if you know what I mean.
Optimize Medium Tail Keywords
What then should you do instead? Instead of long tail keywords, what you should do in exchange is to optimize around medium tail keywords.
Medium Tail Keywords are deemed as middle-of-the-pack terms. These get more search volume than the average long tail. But what is great about them is that they are not uncontrollably competitive.
How to Optimize Titles and Description Tags for Click-Through-Rate
Another thing that works well with RankBrain is organic Click-Through-Rate (CTR) or the number of times people click on your result.
As stated above, when people tend to click on a result and stay without pogo-sticking, then it sends a signal to Google that the page is actually providing the results user wants.
Now what remains here is how can you exactly get people to click on your result? We have here the following answers for you:
Make Your Title Tags Emotionally Appealing
Yes, you will have to pull some heartstrings to get people to click. This is a fact that has constantly been proven and backed by studies. CoSchedule even found a direct relationship between highly emotional headlines to that when people share it on social media.
Moreover, you can place some power words into your title tags for more of that emotional punch. Not only will it make your title stand out, but it will also get you more clicks. Here are words you can use:
Place Brackets and Parentheses at the End of Your Titles
Another proven technique to improve your CTR is by placing brackets and parentheses at the end of your titles.
In a study by HubSpot and Outbrain, thy analyzed 3.3 million headlines and found that titles without brackets were outperformed by those titles with it by 33%. Some examples that you can use are:
The next CTR hack is by using numbers. And no, not just on list posts. So pack on some numbers in your title such as statistic number or days, etc. no matter if it is a list post or not.
Optimize Your Description Tag
Lastly, optimize your description tag. The catch with this is that you have to do it not to SEO since it doesn't work as effectively as before. Instead, optimize it for your CTR. To do that, keep in mind the following:
Make it Emotional
Make it Convincing as to Why People Should Click Your Result
Copy Words and Phrases that Paid Ads Use
Include Your Target Keyword
How to Optimize Your Content
After the titles, let us head down now to the biggest chunk of the result: content. The content determines and influences the bounce rate and dwell time of the users on a particular result. If they find the content undesirable, even at first glance, then they are most likely going to click back. Not even your nice title can stop this.
The only way to make people stay is by providing them with good content. Read on to find out how:
Place Your Content Above the Fold
By this, we mean to make your content directly visible without having your searchers scroll through a huge image or header. You have to take note that people can sometimes be impatient and they want fast answers. By having them scroll forever just to arrive at your content, then you are not really doing an effective job in making them stay because they are more likely to click back to the search results. So place the first sentence of your content front-and-center for everyone to immediately see before they change their minds.
Make the Intros Short
We have mentioned above that people almost always click back when they see an intro that is full of fluff and long. Therefore, you have to make sure that your intros will make people decide to stay and not go.
A good intro is not long and ambiguous. It should be five to ten sentences long and should be direct to the point. It must only work to sell the content that they are about to read.
Publish Long In-Depth Content
When it comes to dwell time, nothing can make users spend more time on a page than longer contents do. Aside from that, longer contents tend to cover and answer more questions from a searcher since it is more extensive and comprehensive. Longer content usually amounts to 2,000 words or more.
Break Up Your Content into Chunks
To complement the long content above, you must take note how a big chunk of content could easily turn people off. So ultimately, they will most likely click back to look for something more readable.
Therefore, you have to make it visually easy to read for people by breaking your long content into bite-sized chunks. You can do this by using sub-headers, which could contain at least 200 words of the content.
With everything written above, hopefully, you can now take on Google's new algorithm, RankBrain. What you must ultimately keep in mind is provide a result that will make people and searchers stay longer. Not only that, but get some enriching and helpful information. Once you have successfully done this, Google will ultimately brand your result as valuable for the searchers to see.