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What Is The Google RankBrain Algorithm?

What Is The Google RankBrain Algorithm?

Written by: Matthew Jones ()
Categories: SEO

If you’re into SEO or just an avid fan of digital marketing, you’ve probably heard people mention the Google RankBrain algorithm. So, what is the RankBrain Algorithm?

Other than a nerdy algorithm with a cool name, Google RankBrain is an incredibly important part of the modern internet and in this article, we’ll be explaining why.

Google officially confirmed that RankBrain existed on 26th October 2015, however, as we all know Google love to keep a good secret, it’s anyone’s guess how long it’s actually existed and being in use.

To summarise in as short a way as possible, RankBrain is one of the top 3 ranking factors that takes into account user experience – that’s Click Through Rate, Bounce Rate And Dwell Time. If you’re website gets a high CTR, low Bounce Rate and high Dwell Time – you’ll be laughing your way into that coveted number 1 spot.

That is an incredibly basic summary of how it works, so for all of you big SEO fans (just like us), we’ll go into a bit more complexity now.

Don’t forget – Google has feelings too!

The main thing to remember about Google as a business, and something many marketers tend to forget, is that their number one goal/KPI/North star metric (whichever you prefer) is to satisfy as many searchers as they possibly can. If you went on to Google and every search you made just brainwashed you with spam websites and irrelevant results, you’d probably throw a little strop and move over to Bing, or another search engine.

So just like every single business that exists, Google has something they need to give their users in order to retain their spot as leader of search engines. In the old days of SEO, webmasters could make any website rank for any search term, if they bought enough links and crammed the keyword in the content as many times as possible.

The beginning of the end

Eventually though, Google clicked on that this was really starting to put users off of Google – hence came the birth of the Penguin and Panda updates. These updates really started to punish websites that had obviously bought thousands of irrelevant, low quality links and ones who stuffed keywords left, right, center….even hid them by making the text colour match the background.

These updates were really the backbone of what was to become Google RankBrain. Penguin and Panda still exist and function today, so they aren’t history. However, once the updates started to take place, searchers were starting to find better results that gave them a lot more satisfaction.

The issue? It still wasn’t enough! As any SEO will tell you, there is always a way to work around Google’s algorithms and updates, it just takes time. On top of these crafty SEOs, the main obstacle in the way, is that Google’s algorithm isn’t human and therefore it won’t always understand what searchers type in to the search bar.

This obviously came down to different slang used in different regions of the world, various synonyms that exist and the introduction of ‘text talk’. So, Google realised it had an issue, people were searching for queries that websites existed for but it couldn’t link them up unless it hit the correct keywords.

Fear not, here comes AI. Artificial Intelligence has undoubtedly changed the world as we know it. It seems that every day AI has progressed even further. Today we have smart home assistants, tomorrow we’ll have self-driving cars, next year…robots taking over the world?

Maybe not that far but AI has changed everybody’s life in some way, shape or form. In regards to Google, it helped them create and shape RankBrain into what it is today. One of the most important functions Google RankBrain carries out, is monitoring every single search term that takes place and seeing which results people click on.

What this allows it to do, is find common results for varying search terms. So if one person searched for ‘coffee brand with mermaid logo’ and someone else searched ‘is Starbucks logo a mermaid’ and they both clicked on the same result, RankBrain will start to think to itself that this must mean that Starbucks has a mermaid in its logo

So in future, if anyone executes a search for mermaid logo, RankBrain will be able to provide relevant results that are based around Starbucks, which in turn, will increase user satisfaction.

Obviously the algorithm is a lot more complex than that but we could be here for the next month or two if we were to really go in depth.

So, what are the other factors that we mentioned?

User experience is a vital part of Google’s business, based on what we’ve just gone through above, but there are other signals RankBrain can monitor to gauge what searchers are really looking for.

The three main signals it uses are;
– Click Through Rate
– Bounce Rate
– Dwell Time

And this makes perfect sense. When you think about it, these are three of the strongest signals in terms of user experience for any website.

How RankBrain uses these signals is actually incredibly clever (as you would expect from Google’s engineers). Let’s break this down below;

Click Through Rate

RankBrain monitors the results that show up for a search term and records the click through rate each result gets – before using this to determine future rankings. If the website in position 5 is consistently getting a higher click through rate than position 4, then RankBrain starts to think that maybe position 5 is actually a better result and more relevant to what searchers are looking for.

So it will then swap those two websites around and trial how they perform once swapped over. If the website that’s now in position 4, still receives more clicks than it’s rival in number 5, RankBrain gives itself a pat on the back and gets back to work.

These tests are running all the time, ensuring that the results Google shows are the highest quality they can be, for the searchers.

Bounce Rate

In a similar fashion to Click Through Rate, RankBrain monitors the bounce rate that each result gets once searchers have clicked on it. A high bounce rate signals to RankBrain that maybe that result isn’t quite up to scratch.

Sticking to the example above, if a large number of users click on result 3 but bounce off the website with no engagement, then they click on result 4 and interact with the page, then surely result 4 is offering the answer that the searchers are looking for.

So as with the Click Through Rate tests, RankBrain will constantly test websites with lower bounce rates higher up the search results – as this should allow searchers to find what they’re looking for quicker.

Dwell Time

Finally we have dwell time, which in layman’s terms, is how long a user spends on the website after clicking the result. This metric is incredibly important when teamed up with bounce rate.

If a website has a high bounce rate but also has a large dwell time, this signals that maybe the page contains all the answers a user needs but doesn’t require engagement with the site or pulling users into a funnel to satisfy them.

What does this mean for me?

To summarise, Google RankBrain is a hugely powerful part of Google’s ranking algorithm that essentially revolves around user experience. What you really want to focus on achieving for your website is a high click through rate, low bounce and high dwell time.

From our experience, and other case studies we’ve heard, if you can achieve these 3 results and team them up with EAT (Expertise, Authority and Trust), you can finally annihilate those pesky competitors and slowly but surely embark on your journey to SERP domination.

Looking for additional ideas or help?
If you’re wondering how you can achieve all of these things, we know just the people to help….us!

We have a wealth of experience when it comes to helping you achieve your goals and experience position 1 glory. Get in touch with us today to see how we can help and what we can do to help you master RankBrain.

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