Understanding Google RankBrain

Many SEO’s are still not aware that Google has added a big change to their algorithm called RankBrain. Recently Google came out and admitted that the top 3 factors running their algorithm are:

  • Content
  • Links
  • RankBrain

Now for years we’ve known that good quality content and links were the key to getting better rankings. Now with the introduction of RankBrain theres a new element we should understand especially when it comes to doing our keyword research.

What is Google RankBrain?

Without getting too technical RankBrain is a machine learning algorithm that helps Google judge which pages should be ranked for which results. The difference here is that rather than in the past where each result was served with a similar algorithm, RankBrain is able to make more intelligent decisions as to what “should” rank in a certain niche. So each niche/result may have a slightly different way of judging which results should show. The idea behind RankBrain is it will continue to learn, and become better and better at knowing which results should appear.

So lets take our usual example of “Golf Clubs”. You can see right away in the search results that the top ranking pages are mainly made up of sites selling golf clubs. This makes sense. Usually someone searching for golf clubs will want results where they can buy golf clubs.


We also see that the top results are from strong authority domains like Golfsmith, Amazon, PGA Superstore ect… and for the most part contain the keyword in the title, description and URL. Now assuming these sites continue to maintain strong link profiles, and good bounce rates, RankBrain will start learning that for the search term “Golf Clubs” the proper results are sites that sell golf clubs with strong authority rather than lets say an article about Tiger Wood’s golf clubs on a strong domain.

The idea here is that it will learn what is best for the specific results, where in the past the algorithm was more broadly used across all searches and niches. So it was quite possible that if a strong domain like PGA.com where to write an article about Tiger Wood’s Golf Clubs and that article got great links, it might start ranking high for a term that is really not as relevant, since most people searching golf clubs are looking to buy golf clubs.

How To Use RankBrain To Your Advantage

Now when deciding to go after a specific search term we can take some of the information we gather from the top 10 results to our advantage. Do most of the results contain the keyword in the title, description, URL ect…? Yes, so we should too!

We should use the deep analysis feature and gather LSI keywords. We should incorporate many of those LSI keywords into our content.

If we were targeting this keyword (which is tough and I don’t recommend it but..) we would see that all the results are basically ecommerce pages. If we want to compete for this type of keyword than thats the type of page we should probably have as well.

We can gather backlink data about some of the top ranking sites. We can see what type of links these sites have and do our best to try and create a similar link profile.

I think you see what I am getting at here. By knowing the top 10 results we basically have a run down of what Google is looking for in regards to that particular search. We should use this information to help cater our sites and pages to best match what Google wants.

Of course this keyword being pretty difficult would require a strong domain in the golf niche but most keyword phrases we would be going after would not be this tough. If we were going after an easier keyword, the above tips could be enough to start really propelling your site up the rankings.

Final Thoughts

Now personally I don’t think RankBrain will prove to drastically change SEO. I think it will just make SEO a bit different from niche to niche. Bullying your way into top rankings with great links might not work as well if your entire page experience is vastly different than what RankBrain has found to be best for that niche.

Also what worked in one niche might not work in another. You might find that a highly optimized ecommerce page will work great when dealing with some product keyword phrases, but might fall flat when trying to rank others that might require a more informative site.

All in all though Google is already showing us what its looking for and our job is to do our best to give Google what it wants for each keyword phrase we are trying to rank. Of course here at Keysearch we are always tweaking our keyword difficulty algorithm to take into account the specifics of each niche individually especially now that RankBrain is here to stay!