Google RankBrain: The Definitive Guide

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How RankBrain Understands Any Keyword That You Give It


A few years ago, Google had a problem:

15% of the keywords that people typed into Google were never seen before.

15% may not seem like a lot. But when you process billions of searches per day, that amounted to 450 million keywords that stumped Google every day.

Before RankBrain, Google would scan pages to see if they contained the exact keyword someone searched for.

But because these keywords were brand new, Google had no clue what the searcher actually wanted. So they guessed.

For example, let’s say you searched for “the grey console developed by Sony”. Google would look for pages that contained the terms “grey”, “console”, “developed” and “Sony”.

Search keywords

Today, RankBrain actually understands what you’re asking. And it provides a 100% accurate set of results:

RankBrain results

Not bad.

What changed? Before, Google would try to match the words in your search query to words on a page.

Today, RankBrain tries to actually figure out what you mean. You know, like a human would.

How? By matching never-before-seen keywords to keywords that Google HAS seen before.

For example, Google RankBrain may have noticed that lots of people search for “grey console developed by Nintendo”.

And they’ve learned that people who search for “grey console developed by Nintendo” want to see a set of results about gaming consoles.

So someone searches for “the grey console developed by Sony”, RankBrain brings up similar results to the keyword it already knows (“grey console developed by Nintendo”).

So it shows results about consoles. In this case, the Playstation.

RankBrain method

Another example: a while back Google published a blog post about how they’re using machine learning to better understand searcher intent:

Google Open Source Blog

In that post they describe a technology called “Word2vec” that turns keywords into concepts.

For example, Google says that this technology “understands that Paris and France are related the same way Berlin and Germany are (capital and country), and not the same way Madrid and Italy are”.

Country and capital

Even though this post wasn’t talking specifically about RankBrain, RankBrain likely uses similar technology.

In short: Google RankBrain goes beyond simple keyword-matching. It turns your search term into concepts…and tries to find pages that cover that concept.

In chapter 3 I’ll show you how this changes the way we should do SEO keyword research. But first, let’s cover the most interesting element of what RankBrain does…

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