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Rank Brain definition

Rank Brain (© Sikov /

Rank Brain (© Sikov /

Rank Brain is one part of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm that aims to greatly extend the capabilities of Google when it comes to providing customers with relevant, interesting and valuable content and information.




What is a Google Algorithm?

The role of Google is to answer questions and to help connect people with the content that they’re looking for online. To do this, it uses a huge index or database of websites, containing large amounts of their content. This then means that when someone searches for a specific term on Google, it can use an ‘algorithm’ in order to sort through that index and to serve up the most relevant and interesting content.

This algorithm goes through a large number of changes and is very different today than it was when Google was first born. These algorithm updates have often come with names like Panda, Penguin or Pidgeon. The updates are designed to make Google better at providing users with the right content – so that the content they were provided with would be as relevant to what they were looking for as possible and so that the content would be as high quality as possible.

Unfortunately, this has often led to many websites having their traffic cut in half almost overnight as a change immediately renders their practices as outdated or outmoded. What internet marketers need to remember is that Google has no allegiance to them. Google is only interested in offering the best content to its users and that means that it needs to try and get rid of the low quality or ‘spammy’ websites that otherwise clog up the SERPs.

openPR-Tip: If you try and ‘trick’ Google to get your site to the top, by leveraging known facts about the algorithm without a thought for the quality of your content or the experience your audience is getting, then this means that your goals are not aligned with Google’s. Google doesn’t want you to be able to trick its systems, and so any loophole that you exploit will eventually get closed and your site will be hurt as a result. Focus on providing quality first and foremost, and you should be okay.

The Role of Rank Brain

The role of rank brain is to add greater AI ‘smarts’ to the search algorithm. More specifically, rank brain allows Google to actually read and understand the content it is looking at. That is as opposed to simply looking at the content and trying to match keywords.

So, if you ask a question, Google should now be able to actually answer that question. And we often see this in the knowledge graphs. What’s more, is that Google is no longer confused by things like synonyms. It can also work out things like regional differences and choose the best results on that basis. So how does all this affect your SEO?

Firstly, it means that precisely matching keywords is no longer the most important goal. Rather, LSI (latent semantic indexing) and writing around the subject is much more important. Use a large and natural vocabulary as would be expected to appear on this kind of content. There is absolutely no excuse for keyword stuffing today.

Likewise, you need to write well and be as accurate as possible in your content. If AI is reading through your content today, it’s only a matter of time before it is able to make judgements based on the style and quality of that content! It may already be happening.

Rank brain is only one part of Google’s algorithm today, which is more broadly known as Hummingbird. Hummingbird is so named, because it has the ability to adapt and respond immediately to changes in content and the web – like a hummingbird! This means that any changes you make today should be reflected very quickly in your search rankings. For better or worse…