Machine learning and deep learning are changing the face of digital marketing, and they are forcing websites to make changes to accommodate them. Google is leading the pack, by using both machine learning and deep learning as part of its algorithms for website rankings in search engine results. Google has publicly stated that RankBrain, its machine learning, artificial intelligence system that is used to help process search queries, is now the third ranking factor in search engine results rankings.
Defining Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning
Artificial intelligence is an all-encompassing term that describes machines that can demonstrate intelligence. Technically speaking, AI means that a device can perceive its environment and take actions based on that environment, giving the impression that a device is making decisions by itself. However, this perception is not true for AI, in general. The computer systems involved in AI have been designed to learn and make connections with data.
Machine learning is an application of AI, in which a device teaches itself how to do something, rather than humans teaching it or programming it to do things. With machine learning, it’s possible to use a device to help a customer choose between several things, to offer products or services that the customer likely needs or wants, or to track customer service.
Deep learning is a specific type of machine learning, that is based on learning representations of data and using that learning to make other connections. For example, deep learning can help predict how likely it is that an internet user will click on an ad, improving the efficiency of advertising.
Google rolled out RankBrain in 2015, not as a direct part of its algorithms, but rather to learn what mixture of algorithms is best applied to different types of search results. It is to be used to help process search results, particularly with complex, multi-word queries that are not very common. For example, negative search queries, that include the words “without” or “not”, are uncommon, so RankBrain can help with these queries.
RankBrain can see patterns between searches that are seemingly unconnected, to understand how those searches are similar to each other. RankBrain will then understand future complex searches and associates those searches with results that it thinks searchers are looking for. There is a cycle of allowing RankBrain to learn material offline, then test it, and then take the new version live. The cycle repeats with new material. The more the cycle is repeated, the smarter RankBrain gets and can better handle those uncommon search queries.
The Effect of RankBrain
RankBrain was designed with the intention of being a ranking factor that doesn’t have a workaround, that websites are forced to adhere to. There are no black hat strategies to beat RankBrain, and Google’s goal is to use it to force website owners to make their websites better for users. As a result, you can expect to see a bigger crackdown on spam websites.
You can also expect better device integration and better search results that are based on the type of device being used. A smarter search engine has the ability to learn which websites will display properly on devices and will deliver those results to corresponding screen sizes.
How SEO Is Changing Because of RankBrain
RankBrain has not required the dramatic changes in SEO that you might imagine; rather, it is forcing curators of website content to do what they should have been doing all along, creating quality content for their websites. In order to meet the requirements of RankBrain, you need sharp content that provides information that the audience didn’t even know they wanted to learn.
In recent times, an important part of SEO was to create content and pages that focused on just one keyword or phrase. However, since RankBrain is used primarily with complex search queries, it’s becoming more important to create content and pages that are centered around one main keyword phrase and also other phrases that are related to that keyword.
Optimization for your website should now include language that sounds natural since that’s the style that RankBrain has learned to associate with quality websites. Make sure that the language used in your website and content sounds conversational, rather than stilted and overly formal.
One of the important aspects of RankBrain is its ability to learn what “good” websites look like, versus “bad” websites, and this varies by the particular website niches. For example, retail websites won’t have the same standards as travel websites. For that reason, websites should try to maintain their niche status to avoid being misclassified, which would result in being compared to a different type of website and ranked according to that.
Pay attention to the top websites in your niche. In order to be classified as a “good” website, your website should imitate the structure and makeup of the top websites in your niche. If your website appears to be too different from those top websites, it may be classified as “bad,” which would result in lower rankings. Find a balance that allows your website to look similar enough to earn higher rankings, while still displaying your own business style.
You can expect this kind of artificial intelligence to play an even greater role with search engines in the near future. While it hasn’t resulted in dramatic changes to SEO yet, as “tools” like RankBrain advance with technology, website owners will have to continue to adapt for search engines.
Contributed by: Amir Noghani, SEO specialist and the general manager at Green Web Marketing. For the past seven years, he’s been working in the field of communications and digital marketing. He has a Master’s degree in engineering.
Sign up for the free insideBIGDATA newsletter.