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Beginner’s Guide to Google’s RankBrain

Beginner's Guide to Google's RankBrain
24 Oct 2018

Have you heard of RankBrain? If you’re one of the marketing minds in your company, you should probably settle in and get comfortable because we’re about to tell you about one of Google’s biggest algorithm updates in recent years. With so many continual updates, what does it take to be “one of the biggest?” Let’s find out. 

What is RankBrain? 

Google processes about three billion searches every day. Of those searches, up to 15 percent are terms that Google has never seen before—as many as 450 million brand new queries every day! Many of these new keywords are complex and contain multiple words, also known as “long-tail” keywords that marketers are increasingly trying to target.  

RankBrain is Google’s solution to recognizing these queries and delivering more meaningful search results to the users who are typing them. 

How RankBrain Works 

Most marketers are familiar with crawling that’s performed by Google and other search engines to look for specific keywords on a web page to match up to a user’s search. RankBrain works to understand the meaning behind those words rather than just matching the words themselves. 

For example, if someone searches for “tropical fruit that’s yellow,” RankBrain will know that the user is searching for pages about bananas rather than pages that contain the words “tropical,” “fruit,” and “yellow.” In other words, search terms are turned into concepts, and pages with matching concepts are returned, not just matching keywords. 

Satisfaction is the Goal 

User satisfaction, that is. Once a set of search results is delivered to a user, RankBrain then gets to work to see how that person interacts with the pages. Pogo-sticking is when a user works his or her way down the search results, clicking a page and then clicking the back button repeatedly because the pages do not give them what they were looking for. 

These rapid-fire bounces signal to RankBrain that the pages do not, in fact, match the concepts that the user was searching for and those pages get a demotion in relation to that concept. Pages that get a lot of bounces from a lot of users will be pushed further and further down the list. 

Another satisfaction factor is the user’s dwell time, or how long that user spends interacting on a page from the search results. A long dwell time indicates a satisfied reader and that page will get a bit of a boost from RankBrain. Click-through rate (CTR) is also used to signal a page’s worthiness of hitting the search results. Organic click-throughs earn rewards while low CTRs get pages demoted. 

How to Optimize for RankBrain 

One of the most important ways to optimize your pages for RankBrain is to make sure they are packed with usable information for searchers. Long format content that digs deep into a topic is more likely to answer a user’s search more thoroughly, so the person isn’t clicking back to the search results looking for more information. It’s better to over-answer the question, but make sure that the most important information is at the top of the page and that the rest of the page is well-organized with subheadings and other visual cues to help readers who are scrolling and scanning. 

Improving dwell times on your pages will also give you a boost. The longer you can keep people on the page, the better that page will rank. Videos, photo reels, and other interactive elements are great ways to keep searchers occupied and keeping the most important information at the top of the page will signal to reader’s that they’re in the right spot, so they can settle in and dwell for a while. 

Improving CTRs is a matter of making sure your content delivers on the promise that your titles are making. Catchy title tags along with impactful and interesting meta descriptions are critical, but they must also set the right expectations for the page, so readers are satisfied with their click rather than feeling duped into clicking a low-value page because of an awesome, but misleading title. 

ZGM Can Do it All! 

If you’re feeling continually behind the curve when it comes to Google’s algorithm updates, you’re not alone! With more than 500 updates every year, it’s tricky to stay on top of the minor updates, let alone rework your content to fall in line with the major ones. Our team lives and breathes Google, and we’ll make sure you’re always prepared for the latest from this search engine giant so you can get—and stay—ahead of the competition. 

Ready to get results? Get ready to learn how Zero Gravity Marketing can help!