Recently, there was a viral story about an 86-year-old Grandmother whose online searches would include “Please” and “Thank You.” She thought that there was actually a person on the other end of the computer looking up the information for her. She wanted to be polite and thanked the “person” on the other end for sending her search results. Her grandson thought it was adorable and shared the story via social media.

Well, Grandma’s assumptions were not that far off. Google has been using a query refinement tool called RankBrain in its search algorithm to better understand what users are searching for on the Internet. RankBrain is one of many pieces for Google’s Hummingbird search algorithm that helps the search engine understand what you are searching for, but it is a powerful piece. It was reported that Google is now using it for every search that is conducted. It “thinks” about what the user typed in and returns results that it “feels” are the best options.

“RankBrain is 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.” ~ Greg Corrado, a senior research scientist at Google

RankBrain is a machine-learning, artificial intelligence system that refines search results and builds on what it learns. Remember, the IBM computer Watson who starred on Jeopardy a few years back? RankBrain and Watson are cousins. Every time you search for information on the Internet, RankBrain’s artificial intelligence learns what is the right and what is the wrong result depending on what it has been taught and based on knowledge that it has learned. This knowledge plays well with how much Google really knows about you. What you search for and what Google already knows about you (location, age, gender, etc.), returns search results that are targeted specifically at you.

Artificial Intelligence uses a process called machine learning where it is fed knowledge through offline training. Based on what information it is “fed”, it makes connections to all of the information and builds on what it has learned. It tries to learn the meaning of the whole sentence rather than the meaning of each word alone. It interprets the meaning of your query in human language terms, not the way a computer analyzes data.

How will RankBrain affect SEO? As if reaching the front page of Google wasn’t difficult enough already, because RankBrain is returning the results it thinks are relevant, businesses need to be even more proficient at managing the SEO for their websites with well researched long tail keywords, 10x content, site speed, and becoming an authority on a topic. These are just a few things that drive improvement on SEO for websites.

It is possible that advertising costs for highly coveted keywords in many industries could go up since search results are returning more relevant queries. The bottom line is that now more than ever before, businesses need to pay attention to their online properties to keep them up-to-date and in line with the new innovations that Google is using to make search queries more successful for end users and businesses that are adaptive to the ever-changing landscape of the Internet.

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