Over the years, SEO has gone through several transformations. Starting from simple keyword targeting through to complex website optimization processes, to the ever-dynamic tactics to optimize content across multiple devices, SEO rules are ever changing.
Nevertheless, the basics like keyword-rich and consistent content, optimized links and meta tags, are still around and other crucial factors like user experience, user interface, customer journey, mobile search, voice search and social media marketing have gained prominence in getting SEO right.
In parallel to these changes, no space has been untouched by AI. In this feature, we delve into how AI is going to impact the future of SEO, with an eye on Google RankBrain’s starring role in this transformation.
As new and intelligent technologies are evolving with AI at their center, SEO is witnessing more readers-centric strategies introduced by Google for better search experiences. For Google, the primary focus is always the ‘user.’ Whether it’s the penalty systems or investing in semantics-savvy AI, Google takes all efforts with the sole purpose of improving content relevance for better search experience.
In 2016, Google launched RankBrain – “a machine-learning algorithm that identifies patterns and buckets data.” In an interview, Google confirmed that along with links and content, RankBrain was the third most important factor in its search ranking algorithm.
What is RankBrain and its role in search?
RankBrain is Google’s one-year-old game-changing machine learning algorithm, which was introduced to augment Hummingbird (Google’s overall search algorithm). Its primary aim is to help identify and interpret the searcher’s intent and to show result pages that don’t necessarily include the keywords that the searcher has used, while still ensuring that the content consists of information related to the query’s category.
According to Google, “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. Within a few months of its deployment, RankBrain has become the third-most important signal contributing to the result of a search query.”
RankBrain’s job is to understand the core algorithms existing within Google and applying the best mixture of these algorithms for each type of search result. For example, for specific search results, RankBrain might find META title as the most critical signal, which can lead to a better search experience. And in other cases, it may promote PageRank as a better signal, based on the user intent. That means, RankBrain customizes every search result and uses an entirely different set of algorithms mix for every new search.
Let me sum up how RankBrain works in the simplest of terms: as a searcher-centric AI and machine learning algorithm, RankBrain can use deep-learning to adapt and gain knowledge about the real intentions of search engine users and the kind of information they are seeking. So, if you are creating content that is useful, information-rich, unique and with the ability to engage readers, your content will surely gain, and continue to gain, RankBrains’ attention.
SEO is changing and so are searchers’ expectations
Gone are the days when a keyword strategy was considered as the significant element of SERP. With Google’s Penguin update (quality guidelines) and various other algorithms, marketers have no choice but to create quality-rich content based on searcher intent. Keyword-based SEO techniques have now paved the way for technical SEO, page-loading speed, mobile-responsiveness, user behavior, link-building tactics, content and other factors. In short, every SEO aspect focuses majorly towards building meaningful content pieces with user interface and experience at the center. However high may be your keyword density, if your content is not engaging enough with high-quality, high-relevance material, your Google ranking will start falling!
Four ways to score with RankBrain
The first step is to realize the fact that the ’traditional’ SEO is not going to suffice in the long run and marketers must adapt to the evolving nature of SEO in terms of real users and their intentions, expectations and experience. Second, focusing on the adoption of the right tools and technologies like AI, deep learning, machine learning algorithms, big data, UX and UI features etc. According to the famous American technology author and editor Steven Levy, “RankBrain is involved in every search query and impacts a lot of search query rankings (if not all).”
Also Read: Is AI the Future of Sales?
Here are 4 ways for marketers to comply and win with RankBrain’s ranking system:
1. Use sensible keyword phrases that echo the searchers’ questions
Conventional keyword phrases are passé. RankBrain prefers natural long-tail keyword phrases, which sound like smartphone voice searches – or the real questions that searchers ask or seek. RankBrain connects the dots between the search terms and the keyword phrases to guide users to website content matching the search request. Marketers using long-tail queries as their keyword phrases get RankBrains’s attention. A clear, concise and conclusive keyword strategy with primary keywords and associated long-tail phrases and queries conveying the content topic, is easily interpreted by RankBrain, leading to a highly ranked website in SERP.
2. Phrase your keywords with Google’s Planning Tools
It is now advisable to use Google AdWords Keyword Planner – a valuable tool that identifies the exact and apt keyword phrases to build relevant content. It generates a list that a marketer will find helpful to review and determine the essential vital topics around which meaningful content can be created. Using these keyword phrase suggestions provided by Google can help in understanding how the search engine links the questions. Moreover, content with Google-suggested keyword phrases will get better RankBrain ranking.
3. Write content that that flows naturally with relevance
This is possible if you write unique, exciting and fact-based content that flows naturally and (yet strategically) with non-repetitive keywords and links that direct to complementary sources that enhance the idea and insights of the overall content. RankBrain loves content that is created keeping the user intent in mind – that the users will want to find in the websites.
4. Write to intrigue, inspire, incite and inform
To own organic listings with remarkable click-through rates, it is imperative to tap into the readers’ emotions. Emotions are one of the most powerful triggers that not only increase the clickthrough rate but also boost the conversion rate dramatically. To raise your CTR from ‘OK’ to ‘Great,’ you must combine the best of both worlds – powerful and influential emotional trigger + relevant keyword strategy
RankBrain promotes content that is thoughtfully created answering users’ questions and solving their problems while leveraging a particular emotion.
SEO is evolving each day, and AI and machine learning are adding new dimensions to what’s possible with search. Google has confirmed that RankBrain is continuously being applied to an increasing number of search queries and its AI processes all the questions that Google handles – which has humongous implications for your SEO strategy. Earlier, RankBrain has reportedly handled 15% of Google’s total search queries, but now it’s closer to a 100%. These 4 suggestions above are a great place to start when it comes to making RankBrain love your content too!