What is it?

If you’ve been keeping up with the latest search and Google news, you would have already heard about RankBrain.

If you’re unsure what it is, it is Google’s latest ‘toy’ – a machine-learning artificial intelligence system to help the search giant sort through its search results. This video from Bloomberg explains a bit more.

RankBrain is part of Google’s overall search “algorithm” (Hummingbird) and is mainly used to interpret the searches that people submit to find pages that might not have the exact words that were searched for.

Google processes three billion searches per day. Back in 2007, Google said that 20% – 25% of those queries had never been seen before. In 2013 that number reduced to 15%, but that’s still a huge number of queries never entered by any human searcher.

What it does

Of course, as a user yourself you know that a lot of those queries will be complex, so called “long-tail” queries. RankBrain helps to better interpret those queries to find the best pages for the searcher.

It does this by identifying patterns between seemingly unconnected complex searches to understand how they’re actually similar to each other. It therefore teaches itself how to better understand future complex searches and whether they’re related to particular topics and associate these groups of searches with results that it thinks searchers will like the most.

By using artificial intelligence, RankBrain embeds vast amounts of written language into mathematical entities — called vectors — which the computer can understand. When it sees a word or phrase it isn’t familiar with, it makes a guess as to what words or phrases might have a similar meaning and filters the result accordingly.

What you should do

Of course, RankBrain is just one of the hundreds of signals that go into an algorithm that determines what results appear on a Google search page and where they are ranked.

There is one thing you should know before you go into a blind panic – you can’t optimize for RankBrain.

RankBrain is all about the better understanding of language. Google looks at the words sentences and paragraphs on the web and turns them into mathematical vectors so the only think you can do is improve the quality of your writing so Google can better understand the meaning of your context.

Of course, that’s not optimising for RankBrain because it’s what you should be focusing on anyway – strong writing matters now more than ever.