GOOGLE RANKBRAIN: What It Is & How RankBrain Works


By definition, RankBrain is a machine-learning artificial intelligence system that helps Google process some of its search results, in particular, the rare or one-of-a-kind queries. It is the third best-rated search engine by Google after links and contents in terms of giving the most accurate results sought by users on Google. Google RankBrain first came online in April 2015 then it was launched on 25th of October 2015 after proving its efficiency when tested by the Google team. That is, in a sample test of 15% of the information it was fed, it provided results within the range of 10% statistically speaking.

Primarily, it focuses on helping to refine queries that Google processes in such a way of ranking web pages.

What is Machine learning?

Machine learning is a process where a live machine teaches itself how to do something rather than it being taught by humans. In another similar definition by following the detailed programming.

And What is Artificial Intelligence?

A computer can be as smart as a human being, at least, in the sense of acquiring knowledge.It does this from building on information fed to it.From that information, it is able to make new multiple connections from a designed algorithm. An example of such an algorithm is PageRank, it aids the Google search engine to rank the results of their searches.Thus there is also a correlation between Artificial Intelligence and RankBrain in that they are machines that that learn. This characteristic feature has been adopted in various descriptions online such that they may be used interchangeably to mean the same thing.

RankBrain is part of Google’s overall search “algorithm”. As a computer program, it is used to sort through the billions of pages that have been fed to it, then reflect the ones it deems most relevant to particular queries.

Did RankBrain Come to Replace Hummingbird?

Hummingbird is a predecessor of RankBrain. It was launched on the 26th of September 2013. It functions just the same as RankBrain, only Hummingbird searches through the entire context of the searched phase instead of actively working on single keywords. Thus the result Hummingbird would give would be more to the point instead of a relative outline of several suggestions that are close to the client’s request.

Is RankBrain Part of Google’s Hummingbird Search Algorithm?

It goes without saying that this is actually the case. Hummingbird is the overall search algorithm and RankBrain is an additional component to constitute its intricate anatomy. From sources such as the Bloomberg, they have made articles about RankBrain which has brought us a clear understanding of what it is in Relation to Hummingbird. They have indicated that it does not handle all searches as the overall algorithm would.

However specific the results from Hummingbird were, the Google team had to improve its function the result brought may have been “in context” but generally fail “out of context”

Hummingbird also has other additional components. There are Panda, Penguin and Payday which are specifically designed to fight spam. Pigeon is designed to improve local results: Top Heavy is designed to denote ad-heavy pages. Mobile friendly is meant to reward mobile-friendly pages and Pirate being another section designed to fight copyright infringement.

But what about “PageRank”?

Most would say that the Google algorithm is PageRank but this is not the case. PageRank is actually a part of the overall Hummingbird algorithm. It covers a specific way of giving pages score based on the quality and quantity of links from other pages pointing to the requests if the clients request.

What is special about PageRank is that it is the first name that Google ever gave to one of the parts of its ranking algorithm. This was way back at the time search engine began, 1998.

Is RankBrain a Ranking “Signals”?

Signals are things that Google uses to help determine how to rank web pages, for example, by reading words on a webpage.  Thus, words are a signal, bold words increase notations of keywords sought. A calculation is involved in seeking after a page and a score is given to the page by the PageRank which is also used as a signal. Signaling also applies to pages noted as mobile-friendly.

Cumulatively, the signals get processed by various parts of the Hummingbird algorithm to figure out which pages Google shows in response to various searches.

There are about 200 major ranking signals spoken of fairly by Google. These are then evaluated and may, in turn, give 10,000 variations of sub-signals. This is what has been featured in an article of Bloomberg.Not only does signaling determine the positioning of a page on the search results it is a component of Google that enables it to search within the web of contents that match the searched items.By understanding this we see that RankBrain is not a ranking signal.

Where Does RankBrain Rank?

Presently RankBrain ranks the third according to Google as is considered an important factor for ranking websites. The other top two most important signals according to Google are contents and links. Why do those two come up first, you may ask. For obvious reasons, you need to have words to make up the content to be found. Secondly, you need to have links, that is, areas where you can search and get the content. For this reason, the two have been given a priority.

However, the means by which Google counts up the link in the form of votes to come up with the rank is yet to be known and understood (Bloomberg 2018).

The Exact Work Done by RankBrain

Another personal enquiry was made by Bloomberg to Google via email that asked them to clarify what RankBrain really does, the response was actually that RankBrain involved a way to interpret the searches that people would submit to find pages that might not have had the exact words that were searched for.

Before RankBrain came into play, Google still had other means by which it would find pages that were beyond the exact terms that someone entered. However, there was a milestone by which Google had faced difficulties linking pages with similar definitions to the exact words. “Stemming” was introduced and it was what made Google get smarter.  For example, when you would key in the word “braid”, through “Stemming”, Google would refer you to pages with words like “braids” to match it.

Through time, Google got synonym smart such that it would relate to words like “running shoes” with “sneakers” and later on gained some conceptual smarts, to understand that there are pages about ‘Windows” to relate with the technology company Microsoft versus “windows” the glass.

RankBrain And Refined Queries

With over 3 billion words queried on Google every day, among those which can be complex, multi-word queries or “long-tail” queries, RankBrain has been designed to better interpret those queries and effectively translate them, behind the scene in a way, to find the best pages for the searcher. Google did not provide examples of searches or give details on how RankBrain guesses at what are the best pages. It probably translates an ambiguous search into something more specific to then bring back the best answers from the best pages.

How Does RankBrain Learn?

All learning that Rank brain does is offline (Bloomberg 2018). It does so from a batch of historical data fed into it from which it then makes predictions. The predictions are then tested and if they are proven to be good, the latest version of RankBrain goes live. The cycle is then repeated.

RankBrain And Query Refinement

Be it through stemming, synonyms or now RankBrain, how a query is refined has not been considered a ranking factor or signal.Now as we know, signals are typically factors that are tied to content. Such as the words on a page, the links pointing at a page, whether it is on a secure server or not. Signals are also tied to a user, such as where a searcher is located or their search and browsing history. In this, RankBrain contributes directly to the ranking of a page. However, the ranking component involved is what remained unspoken of.

Importance of RankBrain to SEO

  • Increases the Dwell Time

It’s not magic, something nice gets more attention and people spend more time reading it. Google RankBrain recognizes the number of times an article is viewed and the amount of time an individual spends time reading it. For this reason, it will increase its rank over the internet such that should anyone key in related words, the article will automatically come up top.

However, if someone does not spend more than 2 seconds on your profile, RankBrain will reduce the chances of that article appearing. It will deduce that the article is an inferior one.

  • Google RankBrain Optimizes on Keywords

RankBrain was designed to get results based on keywords, the more a content features similar words relating to the searched word, the more the article will rank at the top. Thus, it takes the effort of the company to make superior content in order to do well in the highly competitive market.

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