Artificial Intelligence Is Changing The SEO Landscape
Simply put, SEO is the practice of configuring a web page to provide the best user experience for a certain search term. When optimized effectively, this means that a human user can find exactly what they are looking for on your web page when they enter a specific keyword. An optimized page is only as good as the technology available to match it to the specific keyword, though. As technology has advanced, search engines, like Google, have continuously updated the algorithms that are used to streamline the process of matching results to search queries.
Enter Google RankBrain
Alphabet, Google's parent company, has been at the forefront of artificial intelligence research and have since incorporated machine learning into their page ranking algorithms. Referred to as Google RankBrain, this piece of the algorithm is recognized as the third most important ranking signal. Prior to the incorporation of RankBrain, the search results algorithm was 100 percent hand coded. Engineers would make educated changes to the algorithm with the goal of improving user experience with search results. If it worked, the change remained in effect. If it didn't, then it was changed again. RankBrain is able to make these changes on its own, thus expediting the entire process.
RankBrain looks at how Google searchers interact with the search results for specific keywords and makes adjustments to improve the overall experience with the results page. Some may say that a machine couldn't possibly understand human behavior better than the actual human engineers, but when they put RankBrain to the test, the algorithm accurately predicted the #1 search result 10 percent more often than the engineers were able to. Ultimately, the incorporation of artificial intelligence with SEO makes SEO more effective.
How Does Google RankBrain Work?
Google processes more than three billion searches every single day. If it seems hard to fathom that Google could have an accurate answer for every search query, you're right. About 15 percent of search queries entered each day are being searched for the first time. Before artificial intelligence, Google would scan the internet to find pages that contained the exact match keyword that someone searched for.
For example, say you are searching for a “movie with talking cat and tornado.” Google would scan for pages that contained the individual words “movie,” “cat,” and “tornado.” As you can imagine, the search results would likely lead you far from The Wizard of Oz, which is the answer you are really looking for.
Google RankBrain looks at search queries as a whole and tries to interpret the searcher's intent to provide much more accurate results. This is done by matching new keywords to keywords that Google has already seen before. When you search for “movie with talking cat and tornado,” Google RankBrain understands that you are looking for the title of a movie with those features, rather than those features by themselves.
Evolution of Artificial Intelligence
This is not a new concept. Google has been working with machine learning to understand intent since 2013. Their technology, which they call Word2vec, focuses on transforming keywords into concepts. According to a previous Google blog post discussing this technology, Word2vec “understands that Paris and France are related the same way Berlin and Germany are (capital and country) and not the same way Madrid and Italy are.” We can assume that RankBrain operates on a much more sophisticated version of this same type of technology.
Understanding User Satisfaction
RankBrain still follows the fundamental practices that are used to measure user satisfaction. After showing a set of results that the artificial intelligence thinks best matches the query. It watches how users interact with the search results – how often a search result gets clicked on, the time spent on the page, how often users bounce, etc. RankBrain uses these interactions to determine whether a result should be ranked higher or lower.
How AI Is Changing SEO
SEO has changed tremendously over time. The easy ways that used to get you ranked number one (keyword stuffing, for example) now harm the rankings of your pages. Shortcuts do not work when the algorithms used to rank pages understand the concept as a whole. Additionally, an outdated best practice was to optimize individual pages for a variety of long-tail keywords. Now that RankBrain is able to interpret search queries as a concept, instead of just looking to keywords, the algorithm understands that different varieties of long-tail keywords are essentially looking for the same answer so you see much less variation in the SERPs.
Interestingly enough, the incorporation of artificial intelligence into the process of SEO makes the entire search process more user-friendly. RankBrain is helping Google put the best content in front of users, which is a call to action for all webmasters: time to improve your content.
As a leading SEO agency in Denver, FiG Advertising + Marketing specializes in keeping up with changes in the search world and capitalizing on them for the benefit of our clients. If you're interested in improving your search presence and ranking #1, contact us for an SEO audit today.