SEO and artificial intelligence: Optimizing for Google RankBrain.

By Nick Papagiannis

Wired recently published a good article—“AI is Transforming Google Search. The Rest of the Web Is Nextabout Google incorporating artificial intelligence into its search engine ranking methods. Traditionally, Google’s algorithm or system for ranking websites has been a rule-based system that’s centered around popularity, web page content and HTML tags. However, for some queries AI is now driving search rankings. According to Wired, Google’s AI system, or RankBrain, is used in about 15 percent of search queries which are first time searches on Google. There is some speculation that AI’s role may continue to grow and one day become the primary driver for organic search results. If it does, it will significantly alter search engine optimization practices and strategies. No one knows how things will play out, but according to the article, it’s so sophisticated that the engineers sometimes can’t explain what led to individual search results. That’s a little scary to think about and speaks to the AI-driven algorithm’s real complexity.

For brands looking to stay ahead of the curve and position content to perform as best as possible for the potential influence of AI in SEO, we recommend the following:

  • Make sure content is crawlable and user friendly according to Google: Stay up to speed on Google’s Webmaster Blog, its SEO guidelines for current best practices and any additional instructions around AI. Make sure to employ structured data markup where possible to provide users with the most optimized search result.
  • Understand the user and create quality content that’s data informed: It’s not clear if there will be a next-generation keyword tool should RankBrain’s influence on search results grow to show what kind of content is in demand. However, there should be some kind of demand data available to search teams especially on the paid search front. Content teams should still look at search as a vehicle to determine popular searches and content themes that are in demand.
  • Make content promotion a top priority: Google has always looked at user signals or popularity of content to sift out spam and elevate quality. It’s part of their philosophy since the inception of the search engine. We don’t expect that to change, even if RainkBrain controls all search results in the future. Since popular content will likely continue to be rewarded, brands should formalize a strategy that promotes content as much and as often as possible.