Say hello to RankBrain…

SEO Rankbrain

As we know, there a many factors and variables that Google use in their official search algorithm. There are in fact, over 250 questions that Google will ask itself about each unique search query before they serve the results and this happens within one tenth of a second!

As no one knows each element of the search ranking algorithm, there are various signals that we know of that are extremely important to optimise for and these show to help with rankings. In a recent article from Search Engine land, Google announced three main factors that they use in their algorithm.

  1. Content;
  2. Links; and
  3. RankBrain.

In this article, we look at RankBrain in particular and understand what this new element is and how it is being used by Google in determining the best and most relevant search results to serve to users.

What is RankBrain?

RankBrain is a machine learning Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology that is used to help deliver the best search results. Machine learning means that RankBrain is able to gather data and teach itself how to do something and does not require humans or any specific programming. This technology is not only amazing but quite scary!

Google have been on the forefront of AI for a long time and it has been said that RankBrain is the result of half a decade’s worth of planning and testing Artificial Intelligence technology. Essentially the aim is for RankBrain to be as smart as a human and surpass the human’s ability in understanding search queries and processing search results.
In fact, RankBrain has already been in full action over the past few months as it has been handling millions of search queries that users type into Google. Google have indicated that RankBrain is helping with 15% of new search queries that are typed in every second that the search engine has not yet seen before.

It has also been noted that the AI helps with difficult search queries that may have a large amount of similar results and being able to identify which is most relevant to serve to users.

RankBrain is designed to be a system that is smarter and better able to deal with ambiguous search queries or more difficult search queries and will be used to aid users who are short on time when searching and who are mostly using mobile devices.

Is RankBrain the new algorithm?

RankBrain is not the new search algorithm but is rather a portion of the hundreds of signals that go into the algorithm. It has become a lot more important than anyone had originally anticipated and it is said that RankBrain has become the third most important signal that contributes to the result of a search query.

Recently, Google put RankBrain to the test by putting it up against a few of its senior search engineers at Google. Google threw a bunch of search queries at the engineers and asked them to select which search results they think will be more relevant for the user. They did the same with RankBrain and RankBrain chose a total of 80% of the more relevant search results as opposed to the engineers who scored 70% in this test.

Google have said that RankBrain has become such an intricate part of their algorithm that shutting it off now would leave a large and noticeable gap in the company’s success as the top search engine.


You may be asking how to optimise your website as an SEO now that RankBrain is in full force. My answer would be to go about your SEO by putting the user first as always and trying to think out of the box of ‘old SEO practice’. Don’t be too concerned about implementing the perfect keywords in the perfect spot but rather think about a conversational tone and what the user would type in search of the best and most relevant results.

Watch this space, the old school of SEO is gone. There is now a new school of SEO that needs to constantly be up to date with changes and additions that Google announce and to be able to optimise accordingly.

Dave Nilsson

Author: Dave Nilsson,

Head of SEO at BlueMagnet