RankBrain, a machine learning technology, has already entered the game of search as we know it.

This technology is now responsible for the majority of Google search results. While the average user hasn’t noticed anything different, just yet, the move to RankBrain will make the web an easier and better place to search, according to the search engine giant’s plan and current data.

It’s one of the most mysterious Google algorithms, to date. It’s nearly impossible to predict. It’s hard to trick. And if you want your business to stay at the top of the digital marketing space this 2017 and beyond, it pays to take RankBrain into account when creating a marketing plan.

RankBrain in a Nutshell

RankBrain is an artificial intelligence (AI) system Google designed to strengthen their search algorithm. It works in conjunction with Hummingbird to give better search results for user queries, and it helps Google process the estimated 15% of unseen queries entered each day. It can watch how users respond, pick up on various search patterns, learn the meaning behind queries, and store patterns in its memory as reference for future searches.

RankBrain was launched in October 2015—and has now become the third most important ranking signal.

To the non-data scientist or search engineer, RankBrain may seem very technical. It’s something savvy business owners, marketing specialists and search marketers, however, will need to understand to be competitive today and in the years to come.

Optimizing for RankBrain

Surprise!—there is really no way to “optimize” for RankBrain.

Because RankBrain works in conjunction with Google’s core algorithm and other ranking signals, you may need to change your strategic focus—especially if your current strategy is founded on backlinks. Note that RankBrain is not a traditional algorithm like Penguin and Panda; with the latter two, you know how to avoid the penalties because there are set guidelines.

RankBrain, on the other hand, is not easy to optimize for. Google doesn’t say anything about it. You can use specific standard SEO practices, however, that are now more relevant than ever.

  1. Use Related Phrases

The whole point of RankBrain is to not be too literal. As such, it would help for you to take what a user enters into the search box and interpret what the query really means, instead.

Do not simply focus on only one keyword phrase; use related phrases, too. Use “stemming” keywords while integrating prefix, suffix, synonyms, plural forms of words, and natural word variations to make connections between ideas.

Case in point, you can use the word “mercury” 15 times on a page, but if you forget to include the word “planet”, Google will be confused about what the page is really all about—it could be an element, a car, or something else.

  1. Approach Keyword Research Differently

Use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner, but do so with a different approach. Don’t look for one keyword phrase; instead, look for multiple phrases. This way, no matter what a user is searching for about the topic, your blog post would cover it.

  1. Create Valuable Content

Write more comprehensive posts and aim to cover all aspects and angles of the chosen topic. Answer the common questions, and answer as many as you can. Google and RankBrain’s ultimate goal is to provide users with the most relevant results, and if you share the same goal with Google, you’re more likely to succeed.

The Secret: Go for User-Focused, Actionable Strategies

Industry experts and the public, alike, have always seen AI as the next step in the technological evolution. With RankBrain, the SEO landscape will continue to evolve in 2017 and beyond, becoming more about the user keywords and less about traditional ranking signals.

No one knows all that much about RankBrain, at the moment; but what you already know is enough for you to come up with actionable strategies, such as those outlined above, for this year. This is not to say the strategies have not been used before; these have always been tied-in with everything Google wants the web to be: a better place for users. To achieve success in the modern era, you must develop relationships, earn high quality links, and find ways to create a beautiful cobweb of backlinks from websites all across the internet.

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