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.
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.
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:
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.
To keep up with the latest SEO and Google developments, subscribe to the Content Standard Newsletter for updates, coverage, and analysis.