Since the launch of Google’s RankBrain, an artificial intelligence system that interprets search engine queries, people have begun to sit up and take notice of A.I and its real world application. Far from being something confined to the pages of Science Fiction, Artificial Intelligence is changing how many industries operate and with Google’s latest foray into A.I it’s time for online marketers to heed the following warning; the old rules of SEO no longer apply.
If we’ve learnt anything from popular culture over the years, it’s that A.I is not to be trusted. Almost every film, novel or television show that takes on the subject of Artificial Intelligence ends with an uprising of killer robots and the destruction of humankind. However what many people don’t realise is that A.I has been around in some form or another for a while and has played integral roles within the healthcare, security and science sectors.
Far from the terrifying Hollywood makeover A.I has received in the past, today’s A.I is being used to improve lives and accelerate progress across many sectors. One company that has embraced the A.I revolution is Google, who back in 2015 began to roll out their artificial intelligence system RankBrain. The system was developed to help process search queries. RankBrain is classified as Artificial Narrow Intelligence (or ANI), this means that the system uses AI for one particular thing only – in this case returning and ranking results in Google searches.
Like all forms of A.I the success of RankBrain depends on it learning information and being able to call upon this constantly developing knowledge to return the most relevant search results to Google users. However perhaps most impressive is how the system deals with words of phrases in search queries that are unfamiliar. In this instance, RankBrain can guess what words may have similar meanings and filter results accordingly which goes towards steadily building its understanding over time.
So how could Google’s use of A.I impact you as a marketer and your SEO? Well, The system relies on keywords and phrases, so to maximise your SEO campaign in the wake of A.I defining your keywords will be critical. In the past, Google used mathematical algorithms to determine the search rankings based on keywords – meaning that for prolonged periods of time rankings would remain the same until an update to the algorithms was made. However, with RankBrain now constantly evolving and learning these algorithms are changing continuously, and marketers need to be regularly evaluating their SEO campaigns and keywords if they are to keep a positive ranking in this changing landscape.
Google has also spent time teaching RankBrain the difference between ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ websites. This essentially means that when looking at sites RankBrain weighs it up against certain criteria to work out where it should lie in search rankings. However, problems can arise should a reputable website not fall in line with RankBrain’s learnt criteria. For example; for a site that offers information on a broad spectrum of topics such as ‘Wikihow’, the category and criteria for which it should be weighed up against will not be immediately obvious. This can result in a site being randomly assigned to a category which may not be relevant to the site’s overall function –jeopardising its SEO and significantly decreasing it’s its visibility to those searching it’s more relevant terms. As such it’s important for you to keep your brand niche online to encourage correct classification.
If you are concerned about RankBrain’s impact on your SEO, the good news is that the system is always learning and as such, will become sharper and more capable. In the meantime, however, it is worth screening your SEO campaign for the proper use of keywords and phrases, and check your website is structured in a clear and concise way.