What is Rank Brain: Everything Attorneys Need to Know

Chris Dreyer, President and Founder of Rankings.io

The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of Cirlce of Legal Trust.

What is Rank Brain: Everything Attorneys Need to Know

In 2015 Google revealed that a part of its algorithm known as Rank Brain was quickly becoming responsible for a lot of activity in ranking search results.  It is now one of the three most important ranking factors[1] for web pages (the other two being content and links).  So how does Rank Brain impact attorney’s SEO efforts?  Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Rank Brain?

Rank Brain is a machine-learning system developed by Google and is used to help process search results from queries entered by users.  It isn’t true artificial intelligence (which as of right now doesn’t exist) but it can build upon information to try and determine what results might be relevant to a query.

Like a lot of things Google does, very little is publicly known about Rank Brain and how it actually works.  In an article with the Guardian published in 2015[2], Google’s Director of Engineering Ray Kurzweil mentioned that the company (Google) wanted computers to be able to read then and have meaningful discussions about the information they consume.  So at some level Rank Brain and other machine learning initiatives[3] are an attempt by Google to get closer to that goal.

To be clear, Rank Brain is not Google’s algorithm.  It is a part of the algorithm.  The basic idea is that the system takes in huge amounts of text and converts that to numerical values it can understand.  It then tries to make correlations among different data points.

Rank Brain has gotten so good at its job that Google recently told Search Engine Land that it considers the AI-like system to be its third most important ranking factor behind links and content.

How Rank Brain Impacts Attorney SEO

Although we have an understanding of the basic idea behind Rank Brain, we do not know the nuts and bolts of why it chooses the content that it does.  Google’s core Hummingbird algorithm[4] is still the main act so it should come as no surprise that lawyers need to continue focusing on quality UX (user experience) based SEO.

Rank Brain and other machine learning attempts have been around for years now.  The Penguin and Panda updates are both machine learning based algorithm updates.  If anything the take away for attorneys is that search engines still need help understanding the relationships among content and there are ways to help that along.

Use Attorney Schema:  Schema is HTML markup that helps search engines understand the relationships pieces of content have with one another.  Marking up your site with schema[5] will help search engines display that data in more meaningful ways.

Great Copy:  Clearly and accurately describing your pages with good content is key.  Prospective clients need clear and concise content and so do search engines.  Make sure your blog posts and web copy are about singular topic areas per page and that they are up to date and accurate.

Page Hierarchy:  Make sure your site has a clear hierarchy of pages.  For example if you are a personal injury attorney, your sub-pages might be car accidents, truck accidents, slip and fall, etc.  Think of this like a content umbrella[6] where there is one main theme and then sub-themes underneath that relate to the main idea of the website.

Ensure Accessibility:  Make sure all areas of all pages that you want showing up in search are accessible by search engine crawlers.  This includes images, videos, text and files that may be referenced on a page.  If a crawler can’t access elements of your page, it could impact the page’s ability to rank well.

Optimizing these elements of a website can help improve how Google’s algorithmic assets rank web pages.  With advances in machine learning like Rank Brain, Google is moving closer and closer to an engine that will be able to understand search queries as if searchers were asking a real human however until that is achieved, making simple improvements like those listed above and those in Google Webmaster Tools[7] can have a positive impact on a site’s position in search.

[1] http://searchengineland.com/now-know-googles-top-three-search-ranking-factors-245882

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/feb/22/robots-google-ray-kurzweil-terminator-singularity-artificial-intelligence

[3] https://rankings.io/3-ways-attorneys-can-get-an-over-optimization-penalty/

[4] http://www.slideshare.net/PriyodarshiniDhar/google-hummingbird-algorithm-ppt

[5] https://rankings.io/how-to-setup-local-schema-for-lawyers/

[6] https://rankings.io/content-umbrellas-for-lawyers/

[7] https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35769?hl=en

Posts by Chris Dreyer

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