Understanding exactly how Google ranks websites is somewhat of a mystery. No one knows exactly how Google’s algorithm works, except for some of the team at Google.

In reality, to learn what works for SEO and how to rank websites, it takes a lot of experience through testing and being a part of communities that share information to help guide one another.

With that said, if you want to understand how your website will rank in online searches, you should understand RankBrain and the theory behind how it works. While Google uses hundreds of tools in its algorithm, it’s machine learning aspect, RankBrain, is one of the most important in terms of search engine results. The usually tight-lipped Google was very excited to announce the addition, but the mystery still remains: What is RankBrain?

What is RankBrain?

RankBrain is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) that Google uses to tweak its algorithm. AI gives machines the ability to learn without being programmed, and RankBrain has been busy learning since its release in 2015. It’s the only live AI that Google uses in its search results, and its job is to decipher what a person is actually trying to search.

These days, a large contingent of people are asking Google questions in a manner that would be similar to asking another person, and this is where most computers typically fail. RankBrain has the ability to guess what is being searched, and interpret the meaning based on what it has learned from previous queries.

How does RankBrain Work?

Before RankBrain, human engineers hand-coded Google’s algorithm. Today, RankBrain is in the background, helping Google process and understand searches.

Google processes 40,000 search queries every second, over 3.5 billion searches per day, and 1.2 trillion searches per year, worldwide, most of which are new, unique queries (http://www.internetlivestats.com/google-search-statistics/). RankBrain can make sense of these new inquiries based on what it has learned from the millions of other inquiries it has seen. Like a person, AI learns. We are not born all-knowing, but we slowly become more aware and need less information to process new incoming data.

Previously, Google was attempting to match the keywords from your search to words on a page. For example, if you searched “What do you call a weather person?,” Google would search for pages with these exact keywords: “call,” “weather,” and “person.” You would likely find a page about literally calling a weather person! But today, thanks to RankBrain, Google understands your question on a human level, based on millions of searches, assuming the likelihood that you are asking for the technical name of a weather person: a meteorologist.

RankBrain is also attempting to figure out what your true intentions are, not just the words you type. That’s the beauty of AI.  It matches keywords that it hasn’t seen before to what it has seen before. RankBrain notices what loads of people have searched, “What do you call a weatherman?” and has learned what people who searched this query are interested in, the technical term used for a weatherman–a meteorologist.

Is RankBrain Important?

RankBrain is one of the hundreds of tools used to help give you search results. However, Rankbrain is said to be the third most important aspect of ranking, right behind content and links.

It turns search terms into a thought, a concept, an idea, and then finds the best-suited website for that idea. It then measures customer satisfaction and learns if the search results are relevant to the query. If not, it will try alternative content, drop it down, and see how it performs the next time it’s searched.

If it learns that it has satisfied the user, it will up-rank that page. When thinking about how you implement SEO into your business, RankBrain is something to keep in mind.

How will RankBrain change SEO?

When asked to identify the best page for a given search, RankBrain outperformed Google engineers by 10%.  RankBrain simply runs in the background, tweaking Google’s algorithm as it learns. It will take a keyword and change the level of importance of content, backlinks, Domain Authority (DA) score, etc.

Thanks to RankBrain, Google is now understanding the user’s purpose behind their query. That doesn’t mean that keyword research is obsolete, rather it needs to be tweaked.

At one time, creating multiple pages and optimizing for each page made sense. For example, creating a page to optimize for a long tail keyword, and rearranging that same keyphrase and optimizing it for another page was a common practice for SEO.

Now, RankBrain categorizes these as the same thing.

According to Google’s Gary Illyes, using natural language is the key to optimizing for RankBrain.

Optimizing for RankBrain is actually super easy, and it is something we’ve probably been saying for fifteen years now, is – and the recommendation is – to write in natural language.  Try to write content that sounds human. If you try to write like a machine then RankBrain will just get confused and probably just pushes you back.

But if you have a content site, try to read out some of your articles or whatever you wrote, and ask people whether it sounds natural.  If it sounds conversational, if it sounds like natural language that we would use in your day to day life, then sure, you are optimized for RankBrain.

If it doesn’t, then you are ‘un-optimized’” (SEJ, Dec 14, 2017).

Google’s ultimate goal is to comprehend fully what is being searched and give the best content to meet the searcher’s needs. If I search “cheap Apple products,” I’m probably not searching for discounted fruit. And that is the beauty of RankBrain, it thinks like a person.  It has learned that when “cheap Apple products” has been searched, it’s likely someone is looking for inexpensive iPhones, iPads, and such. Additionally, RankBrain has learned that “cheap,” “inexpensive,” and “bargain” all mean the same thing, so optimizing for each one is unnecessary.

So how do you optimize for RankBrain? Simple: Develop good content.

We can help with that.


Digital marketing for medical industries requires a specialized approach. Whether you retain your digital marketing in-house or outsource it, it is important that you know how to manage each of these seven areas of focus.

For online success, you need to manage your online presence routinely. If you follow this guide, you will provide your patients with an exceptional online experience, while managing your reputation and standing out in your market.

It’s as easy as hard work.

Photo of Airto Zamorano, founder of numana seo.
Photo of Airto Zamorano, founder of numana seo.

Airto Zamorano
Co-Founder, CEO
Numana SEO/Numana Medical

Don’t have time to do it yourself? Don’t want to do it yourself? Reach out to us for various levels of support ranging from total online management to consulting your own in-house team.

Photo of Airto Zamorano, founder of numana seo.

Written By Airto Zamorano

Don’t have time to do it yourself? Don’t want to do it yourself? Reach out to us for various levels of support ranging from total online management to consulting your own in-house team.