An article which appeared on searchengineland.com in March provided the inspiration for this post, what was interesting about the article was that Andrey Lippattsev a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google suggested the following were the most important factors when determining the position of websites in Google’s search results
So what’s the big deal?
The reason this was important was that Google and the other Search Engines are generally secretive about their Search algorithms and this information was from the horse’s mouth as it were. The SEO community had ascertained the importance of links & content years ago so no surprises there, it’s the third factor RankBrain that I will examine in this week’s blog post.
Google’s search engine algorithm named ’Hummingbird’ contains over 200 factors, which are used to determine search engine rankings the three most important being Links, Content & RankBrain as stated above. Searchengineland.com provide the following definition of RankBrain
RankBrain is Google’s name for a machine-learning artificial intelligence system that’s used to help process its search results I want to further clarify this definition into plain English i.e. to de-geekify it. Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to computer systems that are designed to learn to perform a task; Machine learning is a form of Artificial Intelligence. RankBrain is a part of Google’s Hummingbird Search Algorithm, which uses Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to better understand vague/ambiguous search queries and provide users with useful information. deMyers suggests that
RankBrain is an artificial intelligence system that’s being applied to and used with Google’s current search engine algorithms to provide better results to user queries (Forbes.com)
The growing Importance of RankBrain
As RankBrain has overtaken hundreds of other factors to enter the three most important signals it must have quite an important role in the continued development of Google’s search engine, that alone means it is worth taking the time to understand it, but how can understanding this improve my own search rankings? that’s the $64,000 question and in order to understand that we’ll need to examine Semantic search
What is Semantic Search?
Wikipedia offers the following definition of Semantic Search
Semantic search seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding the searcher’s intent and the contextual meaning of terms as they appear in the searchable dataspace, whether on the Web or within a closed system, to generate more relevant results. Semantic search systems consider various points including context of search, location, intent, variation of words, synonyms, generalized and specialized queries, concept matching and natural language queries to provide relevant search results.Wikipedia.com
This is best illustrated with a simple example. Semantic Search makes use of the context in which information is presented, take the keyword Jaguar it has a number of different meanings. Jaguar on a web page featuring words such as forest, panther is probably referring to the Jaguar breed of big cat. Where Jaguar on a web page featuring the terms Tata & Land Rover is more likely to be referring to the Jaguar brand of luxury cars this admittedly simple example illustrates what I mean by the role of context when searching by using this the aim of semantic search is to provide the user with more relevant which better satisfies their requirements.
Like most people who don’t work for Google, I don’t have the exact information about how RankBrain works all I know from Mr. Lippatsev’s interview is that it’s an important ranking factor so I’ll take the cautious approach and recommend the best practices for ranking highly in semantic search.
Latent Semantic Indexing(LSI)
LSIgraph.com provide the following definition of LSI keywords
LSI Keywords are essentially keywords related to the keyword that you search for on search engines such as Google. In a nutshell, they are keywords that are semantically linked to your main keywordLSIgraph.com
For the Jaguar Cars example above the LSI Keywords would be Range rover, Aston Martin & Maserati that clarify it’s the Luxury Cars brand I’m talking about rather than the big cat variety of Jaguar.
This means links between pages which make up your website, these should make it easy for both users and search spiders to navigate your website, Anchor text, URL structure, and site hierarchy are additional factors with a pyramid being regarded as the optimal structure(see diagram below)