Last year Google announced that RankBrain was their third most important ranking factor:
“In the few months it has been deployed, RankBrain has become the third-most important signal contributing to the result of a search query.” And as Google refines its algorithm, RankBrain is going to become even MORE important in 2018.
The question is: What is RankBrain, exactly? And how can you optimize for it?
RankBrain is a machine learning system that helps Google sort their search results. That might sound complicated, but it isn’t. RankBrain simply measures how users interact with the search results… …and ranks them accordingly. For example, let’s say you search for “cold brew coffee” in Google.
The #4 result looks especially enticing. So you quickly click on it. And when you get there…wow! It’s the best darn article about coffee you’ve ever read. So you devour every word. RankBrain is going to take note…and likely give that #4 result a rankings boost. On the other hand, let’s say that you do the same search. But this time, you click on the #1 result without even looking. But the content is TERRIBLE. So you bounce from the page after a few seconds. And you click on the #4 result to find something about coffee that’s actually worth reading.
RankBrain will also notice this. And if enough people quickly bounce from that result, Google will boot it from the #1 spot.
As you can see, RankBrain focuses on two things:
1. How long someone spends on your page (Dwell Time)
2. The percentage of people that click on your result (Click Through Rate)
Let’s break each of these down.
If you want to master SEO in 2018, you need to become a CTR Jedi. Yes, because of RankBrain.
But also because of:
In fact, one industry study found that organic CTR is down 37% since 2015.
It’s no secret why: Google is crowding out the organic search results with Answer Boxes, Ads, Carousels, “People also ask” sections, and more.
And to stand out, your result needs to scream “click on me!”…or else it’ll be ignored.
In the old days, Google would analyze your page to see how many times you used a specific keyword. In other words, they focused 100% on your page’s content. So the Google spider would visit your page to check if your keyword appeared in your:
To be fair, they still look at that stuff. But today’s Google is MUCH smarter than it used to be. So instead of only measuring content, they now focus on context.
Remember: Google’s #1 job is to show their user the BEST result. And in most cases, the “best” result isn’t a piece of keyword-stuffed content.
Instead, the best pages cover an entire topic in-depth. With in-depth content, a Google searcher gets everything they need in one place (one stop shopping). In fact, my recent ranking factors study found that in-depth content tends to rank best in Google.