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How to Prepare Your SEO Strategy for Google’s New AI

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Over the past year, advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have slowly been creeping their way into the marketing space. It sounds like the thing of Hollywood blockbuster sci-fi: tools that were built to learn their jobs and improve at them over time. But with machine learning already working its way into social media, it didn’t seem like it could be long before similar innovations worked their way into search engines and, by extension, into marketers’ SEO strategy.

And now, it’s happening with the largest search engine out there.

This past week, Google has announced the introduction of RankBrain to its search engine algorithm. For many marketers, this can sound like just one more layer of SEO unknowns to account for. But Alphabet, Google’s parent company, seems impressed, and it may be time for marketers to face the future.

Google, RankBrain, AIThe Present and Artificial Intelligence

As with most elements concerning Google’s search algorithm, not many details are known about RankBrain. What is known is that Google has been testing RankBrain for the past few months using a “very large fraction” of search queries. Reportedly, RankBrain improves Google’s ability to return accurate searches for more conversational or ambiguous queries. But beyond this, it also examines search behavior to “learn” how to perform better searches, presumably complicating how keywords may act in an SEO strategy.

This isn’t the first computer to aim for human conversation. IBM’s famous supercomputer “Watson” was built specifically to answer questions in natural language. While accurate enough to commendably compete on Jepordy!, the massive computer has a few key differences from Google’s RankBrain. Between its access being limited to primarily research and enterprise entities, to being based on a curated collection of 200 million pages, Watson is, both in form and function, a device not built for use by the general Internet.

But other tech companies have stepped in to try and bring AI tech to everyday users (marketers very much included). Hound (in beta) has shown off tech demos that seem to embody exactly what Google is hoping to get out of RankBrain, though perhaps not on quite the same scale as Google is preparing for.

Meanwhile, The Grid is a company getting ready to launch its new Web design platform that builds websites for users. Its AI learns to adapt page designs to the content and tastes of Grid users, who interact with an inviting visual interface rather than cumbersome code. In this, one of the great opportunities for both machine learning and marketers gets a tangible prototype: technology that not only reduces the burden on users to make technical tweaks, but also learns how to reduce that burden into the future.

Preparing for the Robot Searchpocolypse

While there aren’t necessarily many functional details, there are still a few things you can be doing to preemptively prepare for Google’s latest search changes:

  • Keep it Conversational: There’s never been a better time to review your content to make sure your keywords are incorporated naturally. Regardless of whether it helps with natural language searches in the future, this review can also improve the quality of content you serve readers.
  • Focus Your Language: Spreading your content thin to try and cover too many keywords can end up confusing your search profile altogether. Consider narrowing down keyword lists, or reorganizing how your keywords are distributing across your channels to ensure saturation.
  • Be Consistent: Working to develop a distinct “voice” for your brand online doesn’t only make your content more recognizable, it also makes it easier for users to search for your content in a consistent way.

Only time will tell exactly what effect RankBrain will actually have on SEO strategy and digital marketing. But in the meantime, searching for ways to deliver your content in a consistent and conversational way will help ensure your content is both high quality and ready for machines that learn.

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