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What is RankBrain?

Late last year, the SEO world was aflutter with news about a mysterious algorithm update from Google called RankBrain. Google announced that Rankbrain was now the third most influential ranking factor. Whoa! Third? When did that happen? What is this RankBrain business all about anyways?


Adster is here to tell you more* about RankBrain!

What is RankBrain?

RankBrain is an artificial intelligence (AI) system that processes search results. It does this by turning language and words into something that a computer can actually understand.


When Rankbrain sees a word it doesn’t understand (especially useful for slang/colloquialisms or long tail searches), it guesses what other words might be similar and filters your results. Then RankBrain, like the Google algorithm, generalizes and rewrites those searches, trying to match the intent behind them.

In other words,


Well, not exactly, but Rankbrain’s goal is to help Google interpret and translate all of the crazy queries that come in through Search every day, with an end goal of getting you the best and most relevant results possible. RankBrain sees patterns between unconnected and complex searches to understand how they might be related. This knowledge lets them understand not just that search, but also future searches for related topics.

Over the years, Google has learnt that ‘walk’ and ‘walking’ might be used by different people looking for similar same results – same for ‘dress’ vs. ‘women’s clothing’, etc. Rankbrain is the next step.

Third Most Important signal?

While Google’s algorithm (currently called Hummingbird) remains mysterious, we know there are roughly 200 signals that determine the result we see on a Google search page. Meta titles, fresh content, backlinks – all of these things are what we would consider ‘ranking factors’. Since deploying RankBrain, it has become the third most important signal – much to Google’s surprise! Extra credit reading: Google Algorithm change history


Rankbrain is…

  • Artificial intelligence used by Google with an endgame of getting the searcher exactly what they want
  • NOT a new way to rank search results (it’s just a piece of the algorithm)
  • NOT a new potential thing to optimize – since RankBrain targets difficult to understand/colloquial searches, there is no sense in trying to optimize a site/page specifically for RankBrain
  • NOT really that new (early 2015 – but Google is just so dang hush hush that news didn’t start coming out about it until late 2015.)

Do you know something that we don’t know about RankBrain? Let us know in the comments below!


*DISCLAIMER: And by ‘tell you more’ I mean… that there is no actual official word/press release/explanation from Google re: RankBrain. The above information has been gleaned by experts (SearchEngineLand, Moz) with SOME confirmation from Google. We could all be totally out to lunch on this. But I’m feeling lucky.