Yesterday we all learned about “RankBrain” – a newly rolled out artificial intelligence system Google developed to help deliver the search results. Oh, and the third most important ranking factor!
Google shared (with Bloomberg
) that for a few months already, RankBrain has been processing a “very large” fraction of search queries, particularly the 15% of daily queries that have never been seen before. This is pretty exciting for us and other SEOs for the major development itself, as well as for two more minor reasons: Google usually shies away from disclosing the order of importance of ranking factors, so their announcing that this is number 3 is quite a surprise. On the other hand, it’s a signal nobody has any control over, unlike content or site structure, so it can’t exactly influence a webmaster’s behavior.The second reason is that Google has rarely discussed the number of new daily queries it receives, nor just how many of them are more ambiguous than its algorithm could handle. They only mentioned back in 2007 that 25% of its daily queries were new, and updated that figure to around 15% a few years later.
“If RankBrain sees a word or phrase it isn’t familiar with, the machine can make a guess as to what words or phrases might have a similar meaning and filter the result accordingly, making it more effective at handling never-before-seen search queries.”
This differs from the standard ranking algorithm signals that are based on programming by humans, but that don’t contain an element of learning.
Google gave an example of a query RankBrain would help process: “What’s the title of the consumer at the highest level of a food chain?” Longer queries like this surely account for a large number of the new and more ambiguous queries.