The best thing about technology is that it’s dynamic – constantly evolving!
The worst thing about it is – it’s dynamic and constantly evolving!
It all depends on how you approach the change. If there’s one area where change has not only been constant but rather exponential, is Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Here’s how the world of “SEO Experts” generally perceives Search Engine Optimization – the science of getting pages to rank high on search engines based on variables like keywords, tags, link-backs, etc.
SEO has always yielded significant ROI, with over 72% of business owners believing it to be a direct positive influence on their bottom line (source: Mechanica and Fast).
Others have seen a massive 14.6% conversion rate as compared to 1.7% for outbound marketing with a 61% drop in comparative costs (source: Search Engine Land).
Now, a lot of the things you might know today about Search Engine Optimization are quite obsolete or unimportant.
For example, if you are still surveying keywords and alt-tags, you’re spending time on elements that most search engines don’t really care for – to put it mildly.
Thinking like a Search Engine
The only way to get your website ranking high on the search engine is to start thinking like a search engine.
The first thing is to try and understand the objective of a search engine – it is to provide you (the user) with the most relevant results for whatever it is you’re searching for.
“Relevance” is key here because the more relevant a search result is, the more likely you are to come back to that search engine the next time – it is their bread and butter!
Question is, how do you determine “relevance”?
Here’s why we’re only concerned with Google: Google is the trend setter in the industry when it comes to finding relevant search results.
Microsoft also had their own machine-learning algorithm for improved search results – something they’ve been developing since 2005 – but their PR-machine has fallen silent on updates in recent times.
That said, there’s no real way of determining which is better so we went with the one that’s used more!
PageRank is an Important Approach
Named after one of the founders of Google, Larry Page, a website’s PageRank refers to the number and quality of links that are leading users to that website.
The general policy that it is expected to follow is that the more important a website is, the more likely it is to receive links from other websites.
Think of it like a tailor or a doctor – the more effective or important or good they are at their job, the more people there will be recommending them to others.
Or, to put it in another way – the more people there are singing praises of a particular doctor or tailor, the better they are likely to be.
Also, who’s singing the praises is also important as a man in a poorly tailored suit will know lesser about the best tailor as compared one who’s immaculately dressed.
While PageRank isn’t the sole criteria for top-end website rankings, it is one of the most important ones out there.
Is RankBrain the New Deal?
So, in 2015, Google confirmed that it was using an Artificial Intelligence (AI) or learning system called RankBrain to provide more relevant search results to queries.
It isn’t the sole ranking algorithm in play – but one of the many that combine to form Hummingbird – Google’s overall search engine ranking algorithm.
Google has stated that RankBrain is the third-most important algorithm on their Hummingbird algorithm – after Links and Content.
We’ve already talked about what “Links” refers to, and we’ll come to “Content” in a bit, but here’s a bit more about RankBrain.
Here’s an example: If you start typing “Manchester” on Google, the first results that come in the auto-complete options are Manchester United or Manchester City.
Essentially, Google knows that you are a sports fan and also that most sports fans who search for Manchester are usually looking for one of these two football clubs.
That’s part of what RankBrain does – it looks at patterns and learns from them to try and show you the most likely thing you are searching for.
However, RankBrain only works on search queries that it has seen before – not on fresh queries.
To provide relevant results, it needs something to compare past searches with. On average, there are about 3-billion searches made by Google each day.
Of that, about 15% are never-before queries – things that are being asked of Google for the first time ever (source: Cnet).
The idea of RankBrain is to identify patterns in searches and there’s a lot of speculation about how it actually works.
The key thing to note here is that it analyzes search results and click throughs from seemingly independent searches to create patterns for future searches.
Finally, we get to Content
Now, Google considers “content” to be more effective at providing relevant search results – when combined with other algorithms – than RankBrain.
It’s completely logical – RankBrain is at a loss to determine relevant search results for queries it has never witnessed before – so how can it cover all search queries?
For the 15% of search queries that Google has never seen before, Content and Links are the most important factors in determining top rankings.
The more relevant the Content is, the more likely it is to be shared on various platforms – which essentially become the number of links that lead to it.
So if you have poor, uninformative, low-value content, you are not going to get shared often enough to get enough links back to your website.
Hence, your overall PageRank will be lower and, therefore, your search engine rank will be lower too.
It does not mean Keywords in any way or form (source: Google)!
It simply means that you need to generate high quality, informative content on a consistent basis!
You SEO Knowledge needs Renovation
Here’s the problem – most businesses and brands are not aware of the criteria behind effective Search Engine Optimization.
They rely on the SEO-experts they’ve hired and with their outdated knowledge, these professionals take them down the wrong path.
According to Google, a large percentage of queries are being processed by RankBrain, every single day.
When the company that leads the search market is telling you that it values informative content, the quality and quantity of links back to your website and usage patterns detected by its machine learning system, why would you trust an employee or vendor who states otherwise?