If you haven’t already heard, Google recently released some interesting information: the top three factors it uses to rank websites. What are these factors? Link, content, and RankBrain. Other factors, as seen on the Periodic Table of Ranking Factors, also contribute to how sites are ranked; however, in a Google Q&A earlier this March, the above top three factors were confirmed.
The main focus is going to be on RankBrain, since it’s been confirmed as a factor. Search engines understand how links and content work. They’ve been pursuing it for years now. But RankBrain is something that only recently has been confirmed, and it’s number three on the ranking factor list.
What is RankBrain?
It is Google’s name for a machine learning artificial intelligence (AI) system that helps process search results. Bloomberg reported this little detail to us a while back, and now Google has confirmed it.
Machine learning isn’t new, but it is newly confirmed, which means a broader understanding of how search engines are ranking pages is upon us. The AI system is teaching itself how to interact with links and content, without being taught by humans or following detailed programming instructions.
Does this Mean Google will Shift how they Rank Pages?
No. RankBrain is simply one piece of the overall algorithm. Google still uses a program to sort through the millions and billions of pages to return relevant results to users’ queries.
What is Google’s Algorithm Called?
There was no formal name for Google’s algorithm until 2013, when they named it Hummingbird.
So is RankBrain a Part of Hummingbird?
Our understanding is yes. Hummingbird is like a foundation for a house. It holds everything and allows for other structures to be built on it. RankBrain is just another piece to the overall house.
An interesting factor from Bloomberg is that RankBrain doesn’t handle all the searches but only a handful, which leads us to believe RankBrain is only a piece of the larger whole that is Hummingbird.
Other pieces to Hummingbird include:
Payday, Panda, Penguin, Pigeon, Mobile Friendly, Top Heavy, and Pirate.
So What Happened to PageRank?
PageRank used to be another factor in ranking pages, but Google discontinued its use. PageRank gave credit or points to relevant pages (that were mobile friendly or incorporated bolded words, etc.) according to users’ inquiries, denote such pages as credit worthy, and returning its findings to Google.
How Many Signals are There?
What are the First and Second Most Important Signals?
Google counts links like votes at a ballot. Links are an important source of ranking power, and are seen as votes of confidence when someone links to your website.
Content is the other factor. Content includes relevant, informative, text, pictures, and videos. Quality content is judged highly by google because it attracts users.
How Does RankBrain Help with Queries?
Three billion searches are processed each day via Google. It’s no wonder they’ve developed something to help with this mass amount of requests. RankBrain primarily helps with word association and processing more complex queries, such as long tail or medium tail queries. It helps connect otherwise unconnected words that may be relevant to a user’s query.
Why Should you Care about RankBrain?
It’s another window into Google’s algorithm. It helps everyone understand and speculate where they might go next with their query processing and search engine updates. At the end of the day, however, two things still remain constant:
1. Google wants to return relevant information to the user.
2. You need to create that relevant content for the user to find.