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What is Google RankBrain? Should we be afraid?

Google has confirmed it’s developing an artificial intelligence algorithm called RankBrain as part of it's overall ranking algorithm to help results rank 'more naturally'. Hearing the words ‘artificial intelligence’ doesn’t always inspire positive connotations. Films like Ex Machina (2015), I, Robot (2004) and Hal from 2001: Space Odyssey (1968) have fed an irrational fear toward AI. So, what is Google Rankbrain and should we be afraid?

Rank Brain

Firstly let’s dispel any worries. Just because RankBrain is referred to as an A.I doesn’t mean Google has a Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger walking around the campus and there’s no suggestion SkyNet will suddenly take over.

In the case of RankBrain, this A.I is designed to learn from search trends and make connections to locate the best results for search queries.

RankBrain isn’t a physical product, in fact it’s a new algorithm that is designed to help improve searches. As computers are great at gathering large quantities of information, Google created an algorithm that can sift through the data and analyse the patterns. What makes RankBrain an ‘artificial intelligent’ system is the fact it learns and can even make predictions about future search trends.

How will RankBrain affect SEO?

As Google has confirmed RankBrain has been designed to improve searches made online, it’s clear to say that RankBrain will have an effect on rankings.

Google has been using RankBrain over the last few months and it seems to not have had a dramatic impact like Panda or Penguin updates have done in the past.

From an SEO point of view, it sounds like RankBrain will be more beneficial to businesses:

  • RankBrain ranks pages due to relevancy. If your pages are relevant to searchers they will rank well
  • Benefit local searches, especially for local businesses
  • RankBrain will understand your search and be able to bring up associated information

It will take a few months before we can see if RankBrain causes any major changes into Google Search. We must also remember that RankBrain is only one factor in the ever growing family of search algorithms Google develops under the Hummingbird umbrella. It hasn't taken over...yet.

What does this mean for digital marketers?

At the moment it looks like this A.I is designed to improve online search and hopefully that means it can have a positive influence on SEO rankings.

We would promote a 'business a usual' approach to your daily work, as this does not signify a directional change in the way Google is grading sites, it is merely an announcement that Google is developing it's machine learning capabilities which should reduce human involvement (error) and provide users (you) with more consistent and actionable ranking results. Relevance is still key, and so creating valuable content that visitors can end their journey with will still be recognised.

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Have you seen any major changes you think are a result of RankBrain? Tell us in the comments below.  

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