What is Rankbrain and does it affect your SEO?

Last week, Bloomberg revealed that a “very large fraction” of the countless search queries that Google receives every hour, minute and second are now being interpreted by Artificial Intelligence, reinforcing Google’s position at the very cutting edge of search.

Nicknamed Rankbrain, this AI now handles some 15% of all search queries – specifically it helps to handle those that are longer and complicated or ambiguous in wording. Reports show that Rankbrain has been more effective at ranking pages correctly than Google engineers.


Now for some people, who possible binge watched too many Terminator movies over the Halloween weekend, this may conjur images of AI taking over the world. Rankbrain may not quite have the same sense of eerieness that a Skynet or HAL 2000 creates but it may still raise some questions.

However for marketers and those handling their own marketing, there’s an equally scary (and much more real) range of questions out there. Namely, What is Rankbrain and does it affect your SEO?


Keywords as we may understand them are becoming less and less important, kind of.


In SEO, the usage of keywords is always developing. It used to be that you could succeed by plugging away keywords all over your website, and odds are you would rank.

As time went on, this led to the development of long-tail keywords, and changed how we viewed on page and domain keyword optimisation.

A large piece of RankBrain’s remit appears to be in ‘gut feeling’ and interpreting search in a context specific manner. Essentially it’s about knowing what you mean, even if you aren’t saying it. This varies from location specifics such as searching for ‘best fitness trainer’ in the UK vs the US to terminology variance like supplying the right data where somebody uses a colloquialism as opposed to a ‘correct’ term.


So how does this affect you?


Oddly enough, the personal injury lawyer market is nearly always at the cutting edge of search.  Staying ahead of the competition can be utterly dependent on SEO, much more than many other industries as that number one spot on search is key.

So how will they adapt?

If your website is optimised for a few keywords like ‘liability lawyer’ you may suffer, due to a lack of broadness or nuance. People are going to be searching for terms like “I fell, can I sue?”. Adapting to Rankbrain relies on adapting your content to answer these queries with unique and quality content.

And this carries over to whatever industry you’re working in. Your SEO isn’t about gaming keywords to ‘trick’ Google. It’s about answering your customer’s questions – if Google sees you as an ‘answer’ to a query they’ll bring the customer to you. This means that focused keyword optimisation may be less important, whereas context indicators and a broader range of keywords will become more important.


Don’t panic


Google have come out and said that Rankbrain is the 3rd most important ranking factor in their query algorithms. And they’ve said that as part of its rollout it may have been here for months, and may be affecting search for your website already.

Should you be scared? Running for the hills as you try to redesign your entire SEO strategy?

The short answer is no.

The longer answer is no, because this isn’t anything new.

Google isn’t trying to ‘trick’ search marketers with new updates. It’s constantly trying to create a more effective search engine. So all the same rules apply. If your website is ticking the foundational boxes of modern, ‘good’ SEO then you have nothing to worry about.

If you’re providing great content, great user experience, great web design and answering your customer’s questions in ways then Google will see you as an authority on your subject and help you rank.

As you may have realised if you’re a small or medium company handling your own marketing that it’s a fast changing world – and your ability to succeed can rely on adapting. At Sans Frontiere we’re able to bring all the skill and knowledge of a full marketing department to your company, including digital and SEO expertise.

If you’re looking for a new strategy for 2015, need to update your SEO to reflect Rankbrain, or just want to find out what a marketing agency can do for you contact us to arrange a free consultation today.