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The future of SEO

RankBrain: What It Means For SEO Consultants & Their Clients

RankBrain, which was launched back towards the end of 2015, is Google's artificial intelligence which has the aim of making search results “smarter” and more intuitive. Whenever Google releases a new update, such as Penguin or Panda, many Internet marketers tend to “flip out,” and some of them – like those who ran spammy websites – with good reason. However, RankBrain isn't like previous updates. Artificial intelligence with the ability to learn (via machine-learning) is a whole new ball game for the search engine giant. RankBrain is quite smart; in fact, it has been shown to be more effective at predicting search results than the Google engineers themselves. Should advertisers and SEO agencies be concerned? How is RankBrain going to change the industry? Has it already done so? Is SKYNET finally upon us and if so, why is Arnold Schwarzenegger hosting The Apprentice (USA) instead of gearing up for battle?

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Google's search algorithm is already incredibly complex, with hundreds of factors influencing what appears in the search engine results pages (SERPs). For better or worse, RankBrain is now affecting the mix. This article will examine some of the questions just posed and, more importantly, show how we can both adapt to and benefit from this major Google update.

The Way Forward – Search Engine Optimisation and Google’s Artificial Intelligence Algorithm

The unfortunate truth is that RankBrain is going to shake the foundation of the SEO world. However, enterprising businesses have adapted to previous changes, so in theory, this change should be no different, right? But as indicated above, RankBrain is a real game changer. Besides the fact that it's an AI developed for the express purpose of affecting Google's search results, one thing that makes RankBrain unique is that it combines multiple different algorithms for each search. It's going to blend together a few different core algorithms for each keyword or keyword phrase queried, depending on what it has determined to be “optimal.”
This is an issue for those who would try to do regression analysis (basically, comparing search results before a Google update to those after the update) to determine which algorithms Google has changed. Algorithms haven't changed in this update; rather, each set of algorithms is going to be different for everything searched. Certainly, from now on, the old ways of regression analysis for deciphering Google's sometimes inscrutable algorithms are dead – RankBrain has fundamentally changed the way Google functions. New forms of regression analysis will have to be used. Search Engine Optimisers will have to assess each individual keyword to try and figure out which algorithms RankBrain has determined provide the best searcher experience for each one. In addition to now using multiple, different algorithms for each unique query, RankBrain will assess similar sites and sort them into “verticals,” the effects of which we'll get into in the next sections.


Ensure That Your Website Is In A Clearly Defined Niche

Due to the tendency of RankBrain to put sites into large groups, making sure that it can tell what your site is all about is going to be of vital importance from now on. It will assess your site and categorise it. Taking this simple classification a step further, however, RankBrain will analyse the layout of high-quality, well-regarded websites within each niche and use them as a “gold standard” for other sites within that niche. Take and Search Engine Land, for example. They are trusted sites within the search engine optimisation information niche. RankBrain will “learn” from them, and other sites like them, what the “best” format for SEO information sites are. So now, if you make an SEO tutorial site which has a template vastly different from some of those high authority sites, you will be penalised in the form of not appearing high in search engine results. If you create a site that is deemed by RankBrain to be “spammy,” you will be penalised (and rightly so, assuming the AI did a good job)! On the other hand, websites which cover multiple niches are not going to perform well in this new environment because RankBrain will be confused by them. There are a couple of exceptions, such as Wikipedia because they are so well-known and (mostly) trusted, but any sites which do not have that kind of “authority” and attempt to widely diversify their subject matter are going to be hit hard by RankBrain.

Effects On Backlinks

RankBrain's ability to separate the wheat from the chaff, the high-quality and informative sites from the low-quality and irrelevant sites, also extends to how backlinks work. It's going to once again use those gold standard, authority websites, and how backlinks work for them, to assess the validity of backlinks on similar websites. Say you're running a site on car repair. Your backlink profile includes all of the normal, expected links related to the car repair niche. But then, just to branch out a bit, you include one or two irrelevant backlinks (perhaps ensuring somehow that they're ostensibly relevant). RankBrain, comparing your site to high-authority sites, is fine with the usual backlinks for that particular niche, but then sees the irrelevant backlink (say it's computers) and “realises” that the car repair authority sites don't have any links like this in their backlink profile. To make things even worse, a lot of sites Google has flagged as “spammy” also have similar, irrelevant backlinks to computer websites. So now, you're ever-so-slightly disingenuous backlinks are actually hurting you! Your website will be ranked substantially lower in Google’s SERPs.

In Conclusion

Although we don't have to worry yet about RankBrain trying to take over the world (hmm?), artificial intelligence is here to stay, and it will be interesting to watch its future development. One area that it's already affecting, unfortunately for those who spent so much time optimising their sites, is SEO. Overall RankBrain will provide better search results for the user, but it removes some old shortcuts that many SEO consultants still use to this day. In other words, most SEO loopholes have now been permanently closed. Google is on the record in an interview with Bloomberg magazine confirming that AI is one of the most important factors in search results. Links are still number one, but as pointed out earlier, RankBrain affects how those links are weighted.

Patrick Robinson Consulting’s premier London SEO agency will help your company keep pace with the fast-changing SEO landscape. This includes any future updates Google may decide to unleash upon an unsuspecting London business community. Things are always changing in the world of SEO, and now at a faster rate than ever, so you need an agency that's just as fluid; well that's us.

Contact us today for an SEO quote tailored specifically to your business needs. We’ll keep you one step ahead of Google updates, artificial intelligence, and most importantly, your competitors!

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