Google “Rank Brain” Impacts Search

Of course you know Google is the world leader in search and with the way they conduct business by progressively improving there is no chance of the Google machine slowing down anytime soon. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been discussed in mainstream media as a growing industry, with many skeptical about how machines can learn about the world and take actions accordingly. 

What Is This Artificial Intelligence System

RankBrain is the nickname for the artificial intelligence system Google has been developing. In October Greg Corrado said ‘a very large fraction’ of worldwide Google searches over the last few months were interpreted by RankBrain. Many in the industry were surprised by this progression. For Google however, AI is at the high end of machine learning and the faster they can incorporate AI into their search function the bigger the advantage they will have over their competitors and a better search function for users.

RankBrains Primary Function

Despite the millions of Google searches made everyday, Google still experiences approximately 15% of completely new search phrases it has never seen before. Many of these terms are ambiguous leaving Google plenty of work to figure out what exactly the user was wanting to know. This ambiguity has been a focus of Google, they have publicly said they are trying to get Google to understand the semantics behind people’s searches for context.

RankBrain determines what these unseen words and phrases are by using what they call vectors, charting the searches. When a new word is used in the search bar RankBrain will select a word with a similar meaning and intent and provide results accordingly.

A large part of the reason for the 15% of never seen before searches is due to the increase of mobile phone searches. People are in a hurry and do not type as accurately as they would on a desktop/laptop but are not fussed as they know Google will realise what they are trying to search for more often than not.

RankBrain Impact For Users

While we do not notice a difference in day to day search results in Google, the other parts that make up Google’s search algorithm are all based on past searches in which Google logs and takes note of what links the user did and did not find useful.

RankBrain Performance

There are hundreds of factors that contribute to a search result but even Google itself was surprised by the resounding success of RankBrain. As a result they have promoted the feature to the 3rd most important factor in generating search results.

Google has been working on understanding AI for the last five years recognising machine learning is changing the whole way we think about the world. Google started testing and playing with AI before it become a buzzword, is it really a surprise that RankBrain has been so successful?

Google does ensure the consumers are happy with their results in focus groups and Corrado said they were implying the importance of RankBrain in the results is the equivalent of Wikipedia turning off half its pages. It just wouldn’t work properly and the news would spread globally within minutes.

They had just a five person team for the first few years as they worked on the machine. That quickly expanded to dozens in early 2015 when Amit Singhal, vice-president of search gave the go ahead for RankBrain to be deployed.

The way Google has incorporated machine learning via AI into its business has provided a blueprint for companies who can implement AI into their business in larger scales. Other companies using AI already are Facebook, Bing and Twitter all of which will be keeping an eye on Google to see how AI evolves in their company.  


Christian Thomson

Christian is a British-born entrepreneur and founder of Marwick. For over 19 years, Christian has successfully helped businesses excel in digital marketing. Founded in 2012, Marwick has grown from a start-up to the 11th Fastest Growing Company in Canada in 2020 and expanded into the UK in 2019.

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