Google’s RankBrain Update Explained and Recovery Strategies

In many’s eyes, Google’s RankBrain update is somewhat of an enigma. There isn’t a handbook explaining precisely what it does, but the SEO world has pieced together how it works to give you an idea of how it’s changed the search landscape. The good news is that your site probably won’t suffer from this update if you’re practicing good SEO. But we want to explain how RankBrain can impact you and what you need to do to continue seeing high rankings on the largest search engine on the web.

Launch Date: October 26, 2015

As an offshoot of the Hummingbird update, RankBrain has helped provide more relevant and nuanced search results because it can understand user intent on a more human-like level. Google said that RankBrain was in its top three most important ranking signals, making it a massive part of how it sifts through its queries.

What Google RankBrain Impacted

Because RankBrain’s goal is to “think” for Google’s web crawlers, you can benefit if you’re “targeted” by the update:

Unknown Queries

Of all of the reasons your site might trigger the RankBrain update, this is the best-case scenario. RankBrain interprets new queries in Google’s search and sends users to your site if the crawlers think you’ll best meet their needs. In this case, unknown queries aren’t necessarily something you can control. However, if you provide content that can address those queries, RankBrain works to your advantage.

Apart from being the answer to Google’s unknown queries, the other hazards or triggers for RankBrain don’t work in your favor. As with every further update and step Google takes, the goal of the RankBrain update is to keep web pages out of its SERPS if they don’t provide a helpful, relevant, and excellent user experience. There are a few reasons why RankBrain will target you:

Low-Quality Content

If your site leaves your users with a bad taste in their mouths, RankBrain will drop your rankings. RankBrain is an offshoot of Google’s Hummingbird update, which means it works specifically to reward sites with great content that benefits users. Conversely, you could lose rankings if you lack content that provides those solutions.

Bad User Experience

If your website design isn’t fast, beautiful, and valuable, you can say goodbye to high rankings. Like Google’s other updates, RankBrain will determine what kind of experience you provide and rank your site accordingly. RankBrain is more intelligent than any updates that have come before it, making bad areas even more vulnerable to losing Google rankings and traffic.

How The RankBrain Algorithm Works

RankBrain is the only live artificial intelligence that Google uses in its search results. The core algorithm update processes queries unknown to Google or new questions that no one has ever searched for. Roughly 15 percent of all Google searches entered each day are brand-recent searches.

This might seem like a bizarre stat, but when you think of all the different ways you can ask a question—and all the other people that use the search engine—it’s not surprising that Google encounters so many unknown queries. However, it’s here that RankBrain shines. RankBrain, in simplest terms, is a part of Google’s algorithm that gives the user the best match, even when Google isn’t quite sure what the search query means.

However, if Google is sure of the query’s meaning and user intent, RankBrain is not utilized. It’s only coming into play when Google needs help deciphering a brand-new question.

How to Fix Your Website If Google RankBrain Impacted it

Creating great and valuable content is the best way to optimize your site for RankBrain. RankBrain catches queries that no one is searching for, and even that is constantly changing. The goal is not to write so that RankBrain sees your keywords. No one is searching out if you’re writing to optimize for a query; why? That’s like chasing the wind.

The goal of this algorithm update is not to optimize for it. Instead, create good content with keywords and phrases people are searching for. A fantastic way to do this is to write naturally. Read your content out loud. Does it sound natural, like something your target audience would say themselves? If the answer is yes, you’ve done your job. You won’t trigger RankBrain, but that’s ok. This is one update you aren’t necessarily striving to optimize for.


RankBrain has brought a human-like perspective to Google’s search results. More so than ever, Google can understand the nuances of its users and what they’re looking for when they type in a specific query—even if it’s a query Google has never seen before. It’s no secret that Google’s algorithm gets “smarter” daily. RankBrain is just one way we see Google utilizing its updates to give us the best search results experience on the planet.

Additional Google Update Resources