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  by Chris Flores |

SEO in 2016: Optimizing Your Content for RankBrain


Google evolves every year, and so does the SEO industry. Google’s aim is to deliver quality content in its search results, for almost every query imaginable. The most recent addition Google has made to its algorithm is called RankBrain.

Charles Reid, a marketing expert at Chicago SEO Company remarks: “The introduction of RankBrain will see SEOs and Google substantially increase the amount of value they provide for the end user.”

Before we delve into what RankBrain is, and how you can create and optimize content accordingly, let’s take a brief look at how Google has evolved over the years.

Evolution of Google

Google has come a long way since its PageRank algorithm. It now ranks pages much differently to when it simply used PageRank as a criteria alone. Post 2010, Google rolled out many updates and the major ones are:

Panda (2011) – This update solely focused on eliminating thin content, duplicate content, keyword stuffing and any kind of user generated spam.

Penguin (2012) – Penguin’s goal was to eliminate topically irrelevant sites, sites built purely for SEO, paid links and even over optimized anchor text.

Hummingbird (2013) – This update was probably the most major algorithm change of the lot, with Google relentlessly focusing on eliminating exact match keyword targeting. Google’s intentions are to make sure the results align with what the user is looking for.

The next major update, is what this article will focus on and it most likely signals the beginning of a new era for SEO professionals.

Meet RankBrain

RankBrain, is Google’s new machine-learning AI system that will learn and understand existing searches and content so that it can predict and display better results for new, ambiguous and more difficult queries.  RankBrain was launched in October 2015, and it is a learning system. The core function of the system is to give high quality and relevant search results for new queries. Let’s take a look at how it does this exactly.

How Does It Work?

Unlike humans, machines need complex formulas to determine contexts and comprehend statements correctly. Google has a tough time deciphering 15% of all its queries as they are new. That is a lot of head scratching and manual work to try to determine permutations and combinations of a sentence’s meaning. That’s almost 450 – 500 million a day, considering that the overall search volume is close to 3 billion.

Google can identify what may seem like complex and unrelated searches, to ascertain how they are similar. This allows RanBrain to predict what future complex searches look like.

Tips to optimize content for RankBrain

If you own a blog or a website, then you need to know how to structure your content so that Google’s RankBrain can understand what the purpose of your article is. The key to creating great content that is perfect for RankBrain, is to forget about it completely, and solely focus your attention on your target audience.

Specific Content

With each blog post, you need to create specific content for your target audience. Make use of things like synonyms, recommendations, keywords, etc. You need to put yourself in the shoes of your target audience, and understand if the solution you are offering comprehensively solves their issues. If you want to know what great content looks like, search through complex queries in your niche. For example, when we ask Google “How can I remove grease stains from my bicycle?” My intention in this case is not to clean the bicycle, but get rid of the grease from my carpet or clothing. The screenshot below shows us how Google performs.


Google even thinks of how you might have gotten the grease on your clothing in the first place. So those solutions are tailored to the most likely scenario. From the screenshot, you can see that “lube my chain” is marked in bold letters.

This is a classic example of how you can create content with eye catching headlines, that interests your users and get to the heart of the problem.

Long-form Content is a Massive Positive

Steve Baldwin of remarks: “Rank Brain uses co-occurrence to help deliver the most relevant results to users”. Long-form, in essence, gives you a much better chance of inserting related keywords into an article naturally. Since co-occurrence looks for the frequency with which a related term appears in an article, your article has a much better chance of ranking higher for related terms.

Supposing you search for “How can I double my blog’s traffic?”


Google will display a lot of related items containing synonyms like “Tactics to increase”, “strategies to increase”, etc.

You can take this as an opportunity to incorporate links to high authority sources, and even reference evidence of studies, to back claims and statistics that you provide in the article.

Search engines can identify that when you are searching for things like consumer reports, people expect stats, samples and other data. This strongly boosts the credibility of your content, however big or small the content maybe.

Natural Appearance

It is extremely important to RankBrain that your article sounds conversational if possible. Supposing people are asking for instructions, articles that offer solutions in a manner that is very natural takes precedence. If someone is asking “How can I bake a cake?”, and if you have instructions laid out in a manner that is conversational, like “I tried this at first… but you can try it the other way”, it will be extremely natural.

Be clear and descriptive, and Google will understand that you are providing valuable content.


The new RankBrain algorithm update is a huge step by Google towards providing high quality premium content. You as a blogger or SEO, need to make sure you shift your focus from keywords to your target audience and their needs.

Even though, RankBrain is still only the 3rd most important factor according to Google behind links and content which are a joint first, its growing influence over the long-tail queries can’t be understated. These long-tail complex searches are only set to grow as voice searches over the Google app is set to grow even further. Make sure your content is informative and your objective is clear. This will pave the way for you to have a very successful blog or website.

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Chris Flores

Chris is a marketing specialist and a blogger from California. When not eating hot dogs and rooting for Lakers, he loves exploring the Digital World and helping others to embark on their own digital adventures.

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