You may not of heard, but towards the end of last year, Google announced that “a very large fraction” of all it’s search queries have been subject to it’s latest algorithm update, namely, RankBrain. With some key updates in 2015 we can be sure we are going to see some big changes this year so let’s take a closer look at what RankBrain means for you and your users.

This latest update is a step towards Artificial Intelligence with RankBrain using AI to filter search results. In a nutshell, if RankBrain gets a query that it’s not familiar with, it infers what words or phrases would be relevant to the search. So, never before seen search queries are handled more effectively and the user, i.e. you, get a better experience and more relevant search results. Not only that, it then machine learns what results are more effective for the user, systematically improving with each search. It’s so effective that RankBrain’s been beating the company’s experts at page selection for specified search results.

This update is another cog in a huge machine that determines what you see when you search for something, but even so, RankBrain’s impact has been huge. Greg Corrado, a senior research scientist at Google said that RankBrain has become the third-most important signal contributing to the result of a search query.

“ The other signals, they’re all based on discoveries and insights that people in information retrieval have had, but there’s no learning.”

Interestingly, RankBrain isn’t just being fed online data, Google are actually passing it offline data that it also takes into account during queries. This gives it insight above and beyond what it finds on the internet as it is. Perhaps the most exciting part of this is that you will actually be able to affect search results if you’re recognised as an authority on a particular topic. This brings a whole new dimension to the already broad subject of ‘what is SEO?’.

So how is this move towards AI through RankBrain going to affect search in 2016? We can only hypothesize at this point, but here are some of my thoughts…

Search terms are going to evolve

RankBrain is going to create more connections between typical or unique phrases and it’s going to be able to interpret the use of real language to provide a more relevant search result. This is particularly potent if applied to customer reviews. An example might be that a review with a quote such as ‘loved the pizza here and it was really good value’ could now be a search result for a user looking for ‘I want some pizza but I’m on a budget’.

You can also apply these considerations to voice searches, with users being more inclined to use real or more colloquial language to perform searches. Marketers need to adapt to this.

Users behaviour will change

Improving relevance is going to further instil in peoples minds that the top 3 search results are the ones worth clicking through on. So being on page 1 isn’t going to be enough.

More competition

RankBrain is another step towards filtering out poor content from SERPS. Only top quality content is going to be ranked, with the rest actively being penalised. Marketers need to shift their behaviours in producing run of the mill content, to stuff that actually gets shared. In my opinion, less is more and focusing on quality over quantity will provide a more tactical approach to SEO.

Bye-bye spam, and good riddance

While RankBrain isn’t targeting Spam or Blackhat techniques, shifting towards machine learning which has the potential to yield exponential results means Google is going to be in a stronger position than ever to fight spam and loopholes.

What next?

With Rankbrain providing users with a richer experience, it’s a clear sign that we’re entering an age where companies are beginning to trust there most important operational systems, in-part, to machine intelligence. You should consider how this is going to affect you over the coming years. Either way, it’s going to be an exciting time for Search.