What RankBrain Means for Your SEO Content Strategy

What RankBrain Means for Your SEO Content Strategy

By: Corissa Craddick

It’s time to think differently about Google algorithm updates. RankBrain, Google’s latest major algorithm update, goes above and beyond other aspects of the algorithm by connecting unusual or never-before-seen queries to relevant results. In other words, it’s capable of making accurate guesses about what search engine users want, regardless of how they ask for it.

Unless you’re a techie who likes reading about Google algorithms for fun, understanding how these technical updates fit into your creative process can be challenging. The truth is that neither your website nor your content can be optimized for RankBrain, at least not in the way we traditionally think of optimization. But if RankBrain is actively impacting all search results, it still leads us to the question: how can you consider RankBrain’s authority when creating content? Here’s a comprehensive breakdown to help you incorporate RankBrain’s fundamentals into your efforts to drive organic traffic.

Think more human, less robot

It’s easy to stick to a list of SEO tactics when you think of the algorithm as a machine, but RankBrain’s use of artificial intelligence expects far more from your strategy. The interesting thing about RankBrain is that it encourages content creators to focus more on empathy, imagined queries, and relevance rather than known queries and exact match keywords. Keywords haven’t become any less important, but RankBrain provides some wiggle room in your content strategy by giving the upper hand to content that’s most relevant to what the user wants to find, regardless of how unique or unusual the query.

An estimated 15-20 percent of all search queries have never been seen before by Google, highlighting the importance of anticipating new and niche queries that may not even exist yet.

Here’s an example to illustrate RankBrain’s ability to sort through the internet and make connections between user intention and published content. Let’s say someone creates the following never-before-seen query: “work of most famous decorator on TV.” And let’s say you’ve created a piece of content about the work and successes of Interior Designer Candice Olson, perhaps titled “My Favorite Rooms from HGTV’s Interior Designer Candice Olsen.” Although the query is not an exact match to your content, RankBrain’s ability to connect query (work, famous, decorator, TV) to result (rooms, Candice Olsen, interior designer, HGTV) may lead your content to appear in the user’s SERP.

Ask questions, anticipate queries

The key to stepping up your RankBrain game is to ask important questions prior to starting the content creation process: if you were a potential user, consumer, or customer, what information would you want to know? What questions would you ask related to your industry? How, as a content creator, could you anticipate and answer a question that has yet to be asked? Are there any alternate words within your industry’s terminology that you could incorporate to put your content at an advantage for unique, alternative queries?

Use these questions as a guide for brainstorming and incorporate the following action steps into your strategy.

1. Create content for your audience, not for RankBrain. Consider your audience’s demographic and provide solutions for possible problems.

2. Use your imagination. Put yourself in the shoes of your potential readers and ask yourself what you might want to know about a particular subject.

3. Look for synonyms within your industry and find clever ways to incorporate them into your content. For example, you might be able to find a playful way to incorporate the word “decorator” into a blog that also uses the term “interior designer.”

4. Be specific and add details. The more detailed, specific, and tailored your content, the more likely your content will appear in SERPs for unique queries.

5. Research Google Trends and use the results to both imagine hypothetical search queries and formulate topic ideas based on previous queries.

Looking ahead

RankBrain is just another step in Google’s algorithm becoming increasingly human. In the long run, these people-oriented updates will impact content strategies by favoring content created with people’s needs and desires in mind. If you want long-term success as a content creator, it’s time to start thinking more human, less robot.