How are Google’s RankBrain Updates Affecting Organic Search?

Content marketingAnyone producing content like blogs or knowledge articles is going to be aiming for good organic traffic. That’s kind of the point.

And we know the rules, right? It’s got to be high quality, it’s got to be user-first and it’s got to be relevant to your audience.

That’s all still true but, more and more, it’s not what you think is relevant to your audience that matters.

How Google produces relevant results

Google’s a business too, and what it sells is fast and relevant answers. In the good old days (they were terrible, actually), that relevance was determined by whether you had keywords and phrases in your content that matched what the user searched for.

That later became far smarter, and Google would piece together general semantic relevance in your content, like “hiring a builder, modern architecture, planning regulations, house design, project managing a new build” rather than “builder in Essex”. This would also be affected by the searcher’s location, their activity online and their demographics.

But now there’s RankBrain

Google is now using an AI called RankBrain. It does all the things Google’s been doing for a while now but, as far as anyone knows, better.

Going back to that reminder that Google is a business, the focus isn’t on sending you traffic and it never has been. It’s about giving the searcher what they want, fast.

Quite often these days, the search result that will win is actually Google’s restructured version of a web page in its own sidebar or a top-of-the-page snippet: the highlights it thinks will answer the searcher’s question. No traffic for you – the user gets their answer right there in the SERPs.

What to do about Google’s RankBrain updates

What you’ve hopefully been doing for years. Google claims there’s no way play RankBrain (and you shouldn’t try – that’s not how this works), so keep your focus on making great content.

Great content is:

  • Fresh – even old content should be kept up-to-date so information is still accurate and relevant
  • Engaging – previous users’ level of satisfaction with the page will be used to decide its relevance for future searchers
  • Specific – broad topics are not going to be highly relevant for searchers so it’s better to create multiple pages instead of one big post that covers several subjects in less detail

Try these articles on content quality to check you’re on track