Google RankBrain AI and The Future of Search

rank brain ai google

From the last one year, you may be observing, the tech world has shifted their talk to artificial intelligence (AI). So how can search engine leave the talk? You may be heard the term “Google’s RankBrain Algorithm”

RankBrain is Google’s AI based query interpretation algorithm which is part of HummingBird. Very honestly we hardly know how exactly it works.

But based on the observations and little fact revealed by Google, experts have de-coded this algorithm to some extent.

Larry Kim explains it in very simplistic manner.


Source: Search Engine Land

A searcher enters their query. Google returns a set of relevant organic search results that are largely based on conventional ranking factors. Machine learning then becomes a “layer” on top of this. It becomes the final arbiter of rank — quality control if you will.

It’s like Google is saying, “Great, I’ve successfully crawled and indexed this page. The page exists on a strong domain (it has a high level of expertise, authoritativeness and trust). The content is optimised, understandable, relevant and matches the searcher intent. BUT do any humans click on the result and engage with it?”

This last sentence is the key.

Google’s using a machine learning technology called RankBrain to deliver its search results

Recently Google CEO Sunder Pichai said that AI is everything.

So, there is no question that why not Google will process your query by using AI and machine learning.

Google has used word frequency, word distance, and world knowledge based on co-occurrences to connect the many relations between words to serve up answers to search queries.

But now, due to the recent breakthroughs in language translation and image recognition, Google has turned to powerful neural networks that have the ability to connect the best answers to the millions of search queries Google receives daily.

Google’s objective is to provide you best result…..

Google’s algorithm updates are designed to help the search engine to bring out the best result and stand upright on the mission.

In order to provide you with the most relevant result, Google has to collect and collate data on virtually every imaginable topic.

Larry Page stated;

The ultimate search engine will understand everything in the world.

This task is quite Himalayan as location, culture, philology etc. wise same query expects different results. Here the role of Rank Brain comes in.

Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are changing the world

Machine learning is where a computer teaches itself how to do something, rather than being taught by humans or following the detailed programming.

True artificial intelligence, or AI for short, is where a computer can be as smart as a human being, at least in the sense of acquiring knowledge both from being taught and from building on what it knows and making new connections.  Source: Search Engine Land 

What is Rank Brain?

RankBrain is a machine-learning artificial intelligence system that helps Google process some of its search results, in particular, rare or one-of-a-kind queries.

It was launched in early 2015 and is used globally by Google.

RankBrain is primarily focused on helping refine queries that Google processes, but the company says that the system is also used to help rank web pages.

In fact, Google says RankBrain is it’s third most important ranking factor.

RankBrain uses artificial intelligence to embed vast amounts of written language into mathematical entities, called vectors,  that the computer can understand.

If RankBrain sees a word or phrase it isn’t familiar with, the machine can make a guess as to what words or phrases might have a similar meaning and filter the result accordingly, making it more effective at handling never-before-seen search queries.

First Bloomberg reported about Google’s Rank Brain algorithm. Here you can see..

How Does RankBrain work?

RankBrain works because of Neural Networks. These networks are good at conducting reading comprehension based on examples and detecting patterns.

Google has a vast database of website documents. Hence it is able to provide a large-scale level of training sets to RankBrain AI.

How Does Google’s RankBrain Affect SEO?

From the Bloomberg article:

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, Corrado said. In the few months it has been deployed, RankBrain has become the third-most important signal contributing to the result of a search query, he said.

RankBrain forever changed the way you optimise your website’s content for search engines.

In 2015, RankBrain was used to operate and interpret 15-20% of search queries. Google handle over 2 Billion of searches every day.

Now Google uses RankBrain as a part of its core algorithm. Moreover, it applies its AI system for re-ranking search results. RankBrain doesn’t punish websites, but rather elevates or demotes them by relevance.

Earlier I have mentioned about a mathematical connection of words called vector, RankBrain MI learn this in order to fetch out the results of unfamiliar queries.

Google changes key phrases or words into mathematical entities called vectors which act as signals.

Here the example of connection words from the Google Blog

RankBrain Vector Mathemetics


RankBrain is not stand alone algorithm. It is part of overall HummingBird algorithm.

RankBrain is a better method because it is a deep learning and self- improving system. In some ways, the deep learning methodology makes things simpler for SEOs.

The Future of SEO: How to get favor from Rank Brain?

SEO wizard of MOZ Rand Fishkin  suggests that Google is a “Two Algorithm World” 

The major input of the future of Google on SEO was the fact that optimisation had to account for ranking inputs for the machine as well as user outputs for humans.

He has following suggestion for optimising your site for RankBrain.

Suggestion for optimising RankBrain

optimise for RankBrain

You can’t optimize for RankBrain. RankBrain is a deep learning algorithm performing unsupervised learning. It’s creating its own rules.

Google’s own engineers tell me and others they don’t even really understand how it works. Ultimately, the best way to “rank” for RankBrain remains that same boring thing no one wants to hear despite it being true. Have really good, descriptive content.

Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Land


Let’s take it in little descriptive ways.

Keep Semantic Search in mind while auditing and optimising your content….

you will need to learn how to read your targeted audience’s minds. But in real life, you will need to optimise your website for LSI keywords and contextual clues instead of standalone keywords.

You can use LSI Keyword tools for help.

LSI Keyword Generator

I have generated LSI Keywords for term “SEO”.

See the result in below image, you will find all terms are related and you use more than often while searching for pieces of information.

semantic search results

Rethink the Keywords, Focus on Contextual Keywords…

Keyword optimisation in 2017 is still one of the key fundamentals but it will continue to focus on the natural language used by searchers and the intent hidden behind searchers’ query context.

Google constantly improves its semantic search algorithm and they are providing a lot of recommendations to website owners on how to optimise for it, but they don’t provide website owners with the tools which can help to learn what language searchers use to reach their content.

Voice search is growing, You need to be prepared

Google announced at I/O that 20 percent of all searches have voice intent, which is quite a staggering number considering there 100 billion searches performed each day.

Though Google accepts that voice search queries are different than text queries. It is longer than typed queries.

Google are thinking to give voice queries details in webmaster tool. Here what they say in this regards.

As you understand that queries are long in voice search. So, here Google is more dependent on its query interpretation AI RankBrain.

SEOs are less concerned about content while RankBrain amplifies good content

More or fewer SEOs are always into the endless hustle of Technical improvement of the website, link building and getting social signals.

But good content leaves good experience and Google records it.

Second, a descriptive and through content has more chances to appear in SERP when users search with a long tail.

Linking internal and external relevant pages which can help users to understand the topic clearly can help you in optimising your content for RankBrain AI.

You should avoid superficial linking. Always try to have deep linking it will help the Google’s Brain to understand the relation of your content, anchor text and linked pages.

What is the final objective of SEO? Not rankings, not traffic, but a conversion, the action your target users need to complete on your site.

The longer visitors stay on your site and interact with your content, the higher the chance they will complete your desired call-to-action.

Make your search page snippet super awesome to improve CTR

Larry Kim, founder and CTO of WordStream, recommends improving organic click-through rates to increase your probability of success because he suspects that RankBrain’s “Relevance Score” is the same as AdWords’ “Quality Score.”

RankBrain technology is eerily derived from earlier G-350 technology. You may know it better as Google AdWords’ Quality Score.

This intelligent AdWords technology never needed external signals (e.g., links) to rank paid search ads for relevance. Soon it will be the same for organic search.

The future of SEO isn’t about beating another page based on content length, social metrics, keyword usage, or your number of backlinks.

Better organic search visibility will come from beating your competitors with a higher than expected click-through rate.

Working on your headlines can improve your CTR

Be careful if you will try any click bait technique and your content will fail to provide that kind of value to the user. It will hurt your prospect of ranking on the first page of Google search engine.

Improve your website SERP clickability by optimising your structured data with relevant and descriptive copy….

Optimising for organic search rankings only is no longer an effective SEO strategy.

With Google reshaping its SERPs and adding new above-the-fold search features, you should cater to the trend and mark up your content items to get more chances to win higher search visibility and more clicks.

Search features are descriptive explanatory snippets in search result pages taken fromstructured data which is embedded in your website HTML code as specific meta tags for better understanding your content by search engines.

Here are some of the best SEO tips for your structured data markup optimisation:

Rich answers are directly shown in SERP

According to a Stone Temple study, nearly 20% of results provided by Google are rich answers and over 73% of rich answer boxes provided by Google include a link to a 3rd party website.

Most businesses miss out on such a competitive SEO advantage. Wrap your Q&A content into the structured, clear and simple copy.

If Google finds your content precisely relevant to a searcher’s query, you’ll most likely be chosen over other websites.

The variety of rich answer features gives you some freedom and room for improvement. Given the fact that some of the rich answers contain schema markups, it makes sense to optimise your microdata.

Put your questions into <H1> tags and your answer can be a step-by-step list, bullets etc.

Enhance your rich snippets with review markup.

Any kind of online or brick-and-mortar product/service, be it international or local, can benefit from showing reviews/ratings in SERPs. Add review markup using by yourself or you can use some of the automated tools like Schema App, free Structured Data Markup Helper etc.

reviews markup in search reasults

Learn How to Use Aggregate Review Schema to Get Stars in the Search Results for Local Businesses

 Optimise for Knowledge Graph

A well-optimized Knowledge Graph for products and personal brands delivers a great experience by providing a targeted audience with a visual breakdown of a site’s contents from right within the Google search interface.

Among the most common Knowledge Graph entities, you should optimise your microdata for your site name, site logo and social profile links.

Use’s Organization (Person) markup details together with Google+ profile (business page) optimisation + Wikipedia profile in order to get the most visibility in business page.

Knowlege Graph Result Example

Source: Neil Patel

Note: There is no guarantee your Knowledge Graph Panel will be displayed to searchers. In most cases, a Knowledge Graphis showed off the most well-known companies and famous people.

Learn more about Knowledge Graph…..

According to HubSpot, 80% of web traffic starts via search queries. To Google, the information users are searching for is a form of data. Through a series of tests, Google can improve its algorithm and more closely align search queries with the intent of the users.

Make your content conversational…..

Yulia Khansvyarova stresses that you should optimise for people, not RankBrain.

Don’t try to please search algorithms and systems, focus your attention on providing a better user experience, analyzing your visitors’ behavior and making changes accordingly. If people appreciate your content and consider it relevant, the algorithms will start doing the same naturally.

If your content will be written in the conversational form, there are more chances that it will match the voice search.

Google’s Gary Illyes agrees that the single most important factor in optimisation when it comes to RankBrain is to create content that sounds human:

Try to write content that sounds human. If you try to write like a machine then RankBrain will just get confused and probably just pushes [sic] you back.

If you have a content site, try to read out some of your articles or whatever you wrote, and ask people whether it sounds natural.

If it sounds conversational, if it sounds like natural language that we would use in your day to day life [sic], then sure, you are optimised for RankBrain. If it doesn’t, then you are “un-optimized.”

A good UX is a good SEO…..

A holistic approach of creating great user experience. You can improve your site speed, content, queries handling etc.

You should understand your industry demand and optimise according to that.

The best answer of the query is probably the best way to tackle and get the advantage of Rankbrain.

Conclusion: You actually don’t need to an SEO plan for RankBrain, You Should plan for engagement and best experience.

Rand Fishkin, the founder and former CEO of Moz, has noted that there is no one set of ranking factors anymore. Rand points out that RankBrain seems to be weighing various ranking factors differently, based on the industry, user intent and so on, implied by the query.

It’s no longer the case, as it was probably five, six years ago, that one set of fixed inputs … governs every single query. Because of this weighing system, some queries are going to demand signals in different proportion to other ones.

Sometimes you’re going to need fresh content. Sometimes you need very in-depth content. Sometimes you need high engagement. Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you will need tons of links with anchor text. Sometimes you will not. Sometimes you need high authority to rank for something. Sometimes you don’t. So that’s a different model.

Here is Rand Friskin Whiteboard Video. He is making quite clear points about RankBrain and its implications.


  1. Sonali Shah May 30, 2017
    • Anand May 30, 2017
  2. anand July 3, 2017
  3. fliqi September 28, 2017
  4. Arti Kadu July 12, 2018
  5. ramakrishnan August 13, 2018
  6. varun gupta October 24, 2018
  7. Atul pandey June 1, 2019
  8. Priyanshu Patel November 1, 2019
  9. Mirketa November 4, 2019

Get Blog Updates and Free Advice for Your Business
in your inbox

Get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.