Google RankBrain

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Google’s in your head

OK – so, I’ve written before about SEO and links, the various algorithm updates and changes introduced by Google – how these might affect the travel industry and more recently about content strategy. Now, however, is where things are starting to come together a little more.

Google’s newest algorithm (some dispute it’s actually an algorithm, but it pretty much is) is called RankBrain. Unlike previous algo-iterations, this one is not about the actual search, or the keywords used. As the name suggests, it’s more about what’s going on in your head when you type in those few words in the search box. RankBrain is all about intent not action.

What we mean is not what we say


It sounds very “Big Brother”, but it makes sense. I ran a quick test here at the office the other day. Giving six people a scenario – “you want to spend a night in watching some great telly tonight”, I asked them all to jot down the search term they’d use to find out what’s on. The results were something like this:

  1. TV listings
  2. TV tonight
  3. Great programmes to watch
  4. Best rated tv programmes
  5. TV listings tonight
  6. Best on Netflix

You can immediately see that going by the search term alone, Google would deliver somewhat different results for each of these searches. Some would be a simple list or TV listings sites and others might be peer-review sites. Some are time specific whilst others are very generic and a couple are after recommendations. However, each person, essentially wanted to find out the same thing. RankBrain aims to get to the nugget of truth behind searches like this and deliver what you intended to search for, not what your syntax suggested you were after.

RankBrain is actually not new – it was first released around a year ago. But it’s been so shrouded in mystery, that even now, there’s plenty of debate around exactly what it is and how it works. It’s thought that it will take into consideration the timeliness of your search and your location, but also use data from thousands of similar searches and perhaps even your own online history to get to the heart of the matter.

Domain Authority losing its authority?


What is generally agreed however, is that some of the metrics we’re currently using to measure quality – and ensure great SEO, may not be as important as they once were. Exact keyword matching (as you may have guessed) is not so important any more, but the depth of your content is very important, as is its relevance, and other, related, topics on your site. Domain authority is decreasing in importance as is the diversity of links. But the freshness of content and content engagement levels are far more important, vital even.

RankBrain will ‘learn’ over time and probably use its learning to deliver results based on the best possible of the various Google algorithms. That means sometimes having in-depth content will be key, sometimes the freshest content will win out or perhaps the most engaged content will be the factor that ranks highest.

Less is more – just create more of it.


So, we’re back to content strategy once more. You may have a site stuffed with content – thousands of pages, each optimised to specific keywords perhaps – or maybe a nice clean site with few pages and easy to navigate.

However, what you need now is to create and publish fresh, useful and relevant content on a regular basis and then publicise it as well as allow others to easily share it (‘amplify’ is the phrase to look out for). This should build engagement on your site and enable RankBrain to spot the match-up of intent between searchers and your good selves.

Don’t try to ‘SEO it’ – just give your customers the best information you can as often as you can in as digestible a format as you can.


Kirker Holidays


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I have worked with Travel PR for almost 20 years - during which time they have helped to facilitate access to a wide range of clients, tourist boards, destinations and tour operators. While the contours of travel have inevitably changed during that time, Travel PR have been a constant. I have always found them to be professional, helpful, and easy to deal with.

Chris Leadbeater, The Telegraph

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