Since 2015, Google has acknowledged using Rankbrain, a machine learning algorithm that matches search results to queries. What Rankbrain does is find relationships between queries to discover intent and provide optimal results based on those queries. Currently, Rankbrain is the third most prominent algorithm among Google’s 200 or so ranking factors, though it affects less than 15 percent of search queries.

Rankbrain is particularly useful with long-tail queries that are infrequently used or never have been used before. In order to decipher meaning and predict what the user is seeking, it finds words most closely related to the keyword or phrase provided to give the best possible match to the user. Because of how common unusual or unique queries are, Rankbrain is especially useful for providing users with relevant results with such queries.

Rankbrain represents the evolution within Google ever since the Hummingbird update in 2013 to ascertain the intent behind keywords rather than focusing on the keywords themselves. In the past, marketers would force keywords to content, creating unnatural writing that was off-putting to users. To enhance the user experience, Google shifted to providing search results according to the underlying meaning of words or phrases entered by users rather than their literal meaning. This meant that it was no longer necessary for writers to force unnatural keywords onto text to optimize for the search engine.

The fluid nature of Rankbrain also represents a shift in the way search results are provided. As Rankbrain determines that seemingly unrelated keywords are related according to the behavior of users, it can optimize itself to enhance the user experience by giving users the most relevant results. This means search results are continually shifting according to the needs of users. The algorithm thus enables Google to learn in real-time what the users desire and provide them what they want.


Brig Agency, a Naples marketing company, is acutely aware of this trend. The company believes that Rankbrain is yet another obstacle Google will put in the way of marketers providing low-quality content to game the system. According to the company, digital marketers can adjust to this new reality by simply giving users quality content. Instead of stuffing obnoxious keywords into text or creating unnatural anchor text, digital marketers will be forced to provide readable, engaging content to get high rankings. Rankbrain will analyze how often users click on a search result and how long users stay on the page to determine its relevance.

Instead of explicitly trying to optimize for Rankbrain, digital marketers should follow the intuitive approach of these increasingly sophisticated algorithms to give users what they want. By following the basic rule of putting quality above quantity, digital marketers stand to reap the rewards as these algorithms get better at providing users relevant content.