How RankBrain Impacts Your Business Website And Sales

Why Would A Business Owner Care About What Google Does?

Executive Summary - As a smart business owner, you're going to want to read this article all the way to the end because you'll find-out how a portion of Google's RankBrain technology is likely working against your website and sales. And, while you read, you'll discover several effective ways how you can make it work for your business instead.

You've probably got a business website that you're happy with. When you search for your business name in Google, you see your business listed in the search results. That's how YOU find your business in Google. But, consumers in your local area probably won't find your business the way THEY search. And, Google's RankBrain is going to make that even more of a challenge going forward. Here's why:

  • Limited Page 1 Real Estate - In most areas of the United States, just about any business has a lot of competitors - more than can fit on to Page 1 of the search results. And, since Google tells us that about 90% of consumers don't go past the first page of search results, those businesses stuck on Page 2 and beyond are largely not even being seen by local consumers.
  • Generic Search Terms - Consumers who've not heard of your business previously naturally would not be searching Google using your business name. But, they would be using more generic searches for business type + city (e.g., cosmetic dentist fremont ca, dui attorney san francisco, etc.). If your website and content are not optimized for these generic keyword search terms, it's highly likely that YOUR business will not be appearing on Page 1 of search.

RankBrain goes way beyond processing unfamiliar search phrases. It also takes into account how searchers interact with a business website. (original image by Martin420 on WikiMedia)

  • RankBrain - For the sake of argument, let's say that you invest in search engine optimization services (SEO) - and your website business website has begun showing up on Page 1. But, with Google's RankBrain technology in place, it's now harder to maintain that favorable search results position. That translates to you losing out on those extra customers & sales you've begun enjoying. Keep reading to find out why...

Search Engine Basics

First, let's set the stage with the basic operation of a search engine - in this case Google.

Algorithm - Custom computer program that sorts through billions of web pages, orders them, and displays them for specific search queries or keyword searches.

Hummingbird - This is the formal name Google has given its search algorithm. There are over 200 inputs to the algorithm.

PageRank - This is part of the Hummigbird search algorithm. It covers the way in which Google gives a page credit based on links pointing to it from other pages on the web (think: individual votes of confidence). Google used to provide PageRank information, which provided Internet marketers with strategic information for link-building efforts. Google stopped providing PageRank info in March 2016.

Quick Facts

In addition to the 500+ changes Google makes every year to their search results computer algorithm, they also release major updates from time to time with names like "Payday", "Panda", "Penguin", "Pigeon", and "Fred".

These updates have a significant effect on where your business website (and other online properties) appear in the search results.

What Is RankBrain?

Introduced in 2015, RankBrain has already become the third most important ranking factor in the search results algorithm - according to Google's Greg Corrado. In this article, the word "ranking" is used to denote the order of the search results for a given search phrase. "Ranking favorably" simply means having a listing for your business that shows up on Page 1 of the search results.

In tech-speak, RankBrain is Google's new machine-learning, artificial intelligence technology.

Machine Learning - This is specialized computer programming where a computer teaches itself to perform a task - or set of tasks - without following detailed program steps or being taught by humans.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) - This is highly specialized progamming whereby a computer can end up being as smart as a human - and can carrying out actions with the accuracy and speed of a computer.

Google's Mission

At a high level, Google's mission is to end search. End search?

Yep. Google wants to serve highly-relevant search results its users. At the end of the day, Google basically wants to connect searchers with exactly what they're looking for and as soon as possible - which of course completes their searching. Google figures that will make people want to use Google search again & again - for all of their searches.

What Does RankBrain Do?

RankBrain plugs into Google's search algorithm and helps Google better sort-through, order, and deliver its search results. And, it's a significant way Google will accomplish their goal of providing highly relevant search results.

What Most Are Saying About RankBrain

One of the things RankBrain does is to assist the search algorithm with search queries it has not come across before. If it's not familiar with a certain word or search phrase, it can take a guess at other words that might have a similar meaning and filter the results accordingly. That function can help provide more more relevant search results.

The Bigger Thing Nobody Seems To Be Mentioning

►Pay especially close attention to this part.

The other hugely important thing that RankBrain does is to take interaction cues directly from the web searchers themselves. These cues - or signals - communicate to Google how much - or how little - a searcher engages with a particular website that's presented in the search results. These interaction signals are fed into RankBrain.

Search Engine Optimization experts who know what they're doing can typically get a targeted website page to appear favorably in the search results - that's to say on Page 1 and preferably at the top. Doing this makes a business a lot more findable online, and it's a recipe for a lot more visitor traffic to a business website. Naturally, that leads to more sales.

As you would suspect, Google knows that not all websites are created equal. Some websites have very good content. Some websites are more middle-of-the-road in terms of content quality. And, some websites have low quality content. Some websites have many thousands of pages of content, while other sites have very little content - also known as "thin" content.

Google realizes that searchers are not going to be happy getting served sub-standard search results. That would be a frustrating user search experience and a waste of time. Google knows that's not a recipe for people wanting to continue using Google to find things.

For obvious reasons, Google wants the better quality content showing up favorably in the search results. And, Google figures that the searchers themselves can tell Google exactly what websites & pages they prefer.

Google is also aware that SEO experts try to influence the search results for the SEO firm client's websites. In the early days, simply having a lot of links pointing to a website that also has lots of keyword phrases on the page made it fairly easy to get good rankings. Algorithm updates along the way have made it more a lot more challenging to achieve favorable rankings, but the best website marketing companies are still able to get pages ranked favorably in the search results.

Google's RankBrain technology is looking at these User Interaction Signals

But, what about maintaining the favorable search results?

In the past, getting a favorable ranking generally meant that it would stay there. That's typically no longer the case - in large part because of RankBrain. In fact, unless the favorably-ranked website has good RankBrain signals, that site's favorable search results positioning will likely fade to Page 2 or beyond.

What Are the RankBrain Signals?

Wouldn't it be great if we knew the signals that RankBrain monitors? If we had them at our finger tips, it would be kind of like having a secret decoder ring you could use to help your website gain & maintain favorable search results positioning.

You're in luck because we've been digging, and we uncovered the signals that RankBrain measures. They are as follows:

RankBrain Signals

  • Brand Search & Brand Mentions
  • Navigational Search
  • Click-through Rate from the Search Results
  • Bounce Rate
  • Number of Pages Visited
  • Total Time-on-Site
  • Traffic Volume
  • Repeat Visitors

(Every other list item above was bolded only to make the list easier to read.)

A Closer Look At The RankBrain Signals

Brand Search - Are people searching for your brand name? In other words, are people searching using YOUR brand name as part of their search query? As discussed previously, unless YOUR brand is already well-established in your area, consumers are likely not searching for YOUR actual brand name - or YOUR website domain name. RankBrain is monitoring this. To some, this would be a "Catch-22" situation (you need people searching for your brand, but they don't know about it yet). So, what do you do? We use our proprietary system to feed RankBrain. But, you could, for example, do some paid advertising or other promotions in Facebook to get your name out there.

  • Tip - You could, for example, do some paid advertising or other promotions in Facebook to get your name out there. "Boosting" a post to your local community is easy & inexpensive in in Facebook. You can tweet about things your business is doing. You can post images related to your business on Pinterest.

Speaking of the social arena, is your brand being mentioned in people's social circles? Is anyone sharing info about your business with their friends? Are your customers writing customer reviews?

  • Tip - Offer great service to your customers in every aspect of your operation - from the receptionist answering the phone, onward. Also, ask your customers to provide reviews from your business on Yelp, Google+, and Facebook. People will share your good deals & helpful information with their friends.

Navigational Search - Navigational? What's that? Simply, are people searching for something unique that is featured on your website? For example, someone may search for "the habit menu" to find the menu that's specifically on the The Habit website.

Another example might be where a smart business owner does a navigational search for " google review link generator" to find the handy online tool that easily creates Google+ customer review form links to share with their customers, clients, or patients. Additionally, you might also have a resources page related to your business - like the "small business marketing tools resources" page we have on our site.

In these situations, people are looking for some information, a tool, or other resource that is specifically findable in the navigation on your website. What useful resource do you have on your website that consumers would like to find?

  • Tip - You could start sharing your resources in your social media accounts. Tell your followers about your resources, and encourage them to check the resources out. Ask them to share them with their friends. You can also "Boost" a post inexpensively in Facebook to get your resources in front of a lot of people in your local area.

Click-Through Rate - An SEO optimization company may have gotten your website near the top of the search results on Page 1 for a keyword phrase you care about (that's a great thing). But, is anyone actually clicking YOUR result when they get presented with it in the search results? If you're not sure, your website analytics can certainly tell you about this. And, you can be sure that RankBrain is watching, too.

Consider this example: If your website is displayed promiently in the search results over & over, but no one is actually clicking your search listing (or very few are), RankBrain will determine that people - when given the choice - are choosing NOT to engage with your website. That's a bad signal to send to RankBrain - and, it's a recipe for your website getting bounced to Page 2 or beyond. And, that means a lot less traffic to your website - which also means fewer sales.

The click-through rate is a very important signal to RankBrain.

  • Warning - Whether for brand search - or generic keyword search phrases, don't be tempted by well-intentioned, but misinformed SEO firms who still use spammy automated bots or lower-skill worker services to game the system because Google is on to the schemes & methods used, and they may give your website a slap you won't soon forget. That would make your site less findable and can make you lose-out on sales.
  • Tip - You can easily ask your customers what things they were initially looking for about your business. If it's missing from your website, get it on there & highlight it. And, considering bolstering the information that you already have on your site.

Bounce Rate - When someone does click-through to your website, but chooses to return to the search results relatively quickly, that person has "bounced" from your website. While being an imperfect measurement (because someone could have gotten the exact information they sought, only visited one page on your site, then returned to the search results), it's still a measurement RankBrain monitors. A high bounce rate is a bad signal to send to RankBrain. Bounce Rate is reduced when website visitors spend time on your website consuming content on various pages.

  • Tip - An effective way to get people consuming your content is to continue to provide them with helpful, educational content and make sure that your website's navigation makes it easy to find the various content. And, share it in the social arena.

Number of Pages Visited - This may seem obvious, but the more pages a visitor visits, the better the signal. Ideally, you would want people to spend several minutes on each page of your business website consuming content (e.g., text, video, images, & audio). Just make it good quality content. That's a good signal to send to RankBrain.

  • Tip - At a minimum, make sure you have links throughout your website pointing to interesting, informative, or educational features on your site. Perhaps, have featured blocks of information - or focus areas - that are easily seen.

Total Time On-Site - The more the merrier, as far as this signal goes. Engaged visitors will typically spend at least several minutes on a site. Time-on-site is improved by having great content to read, watch, and listen to.

  • Tip - You should certainly offer high-quality articles that inform & engage your site visitors. You also might offer quizzes, polls, or event sign-ups in addition to great articles, videos, images, or audios. Inter-link your posts & pages so that your readers will see links within the content they're reading.

Traffic Volume - Generally, the more traffic your site gets, the more popular it must be. That can be from search traffic, referral traffic, or direct traffic. Referral traffic is traffic from other sites, such as social media sites, authority sites linked to your content, ad traffic, and traffic from business directories. Direct traffic is simply people typing in your actual domain name into the address field and hitting enter. Sites with low or no traffic send a poor signal to RankBrain.

  • Warning - If your SEO company is building links to your website every month, but there is no traffic coming to your site from them, what do you think that situation communicates to Google? Does it really seem natural that all these links are being built to your site, yet no one is actually clicking the links to actually visit your site? Google is monitoring this...
  • Tip - Share your site's content in the social arena. Consider "boosting" helpful posts on your Facebook business page. Consider guest-posting articles on local or industry authority websites. Of course, you want a link back to YOUR business website.

Repeat Visitors - Do people return to your website to consume more content? If so, that's a great signal to RankBrain. And, your website analytics can tell you about it.

  • Tip - Even if your site currently has very little in the way of repeat visitor traffic, there are things you can do to boost your repeat visitor numbers - like engaging in email marketing to have people on your list return to read new blog posts, see new offers, and find out about upcoming events. You can also target people who've visited your website, place an ad in Facebook that specifically targets them, and convince them to click the ad that will return them to YOUR website. See...your numbers are getting better already.

One Last Thing (and It's a Big One)

There's something in the Internet marketing world that would make an SEO agency quake in their boots if they knew about it - and that is the dreaded "Split Test".

Google knows about how many clicks each listing in the search results page should get. For example, the web page listed in Position 1 on Page 1 should get "X" clicks. The web page listed in Position 2 should get "Y" clicks. And so on.

  • If your website is not in-line with the expected number of clicks Google is anticipating, that can trigger a "split test". In this situation, Google puts your website up against another website. If that site has a better click-through ratio and a better bounce rate rate, your site loses the test and ends up on Page 2 of the serach results and beyond. Say goodbye to findability for your business, and say hello to lost sales.
  • Tip - Check your website analytics to see how your website is performing because it's likely underperforming and sending unfavorable signals to RankBrain. The good news is you can turn this unfortunate situation around to put YOUR business website in the best shape possible for attaining & maintaining favorable search results positioning.

The Bottom-line

Strategic Google SEO packages can still get your website ranked favorably in the search results. But, favorable user interaction & engagement are now required to keep it there.

  • more Tip. Do the things suggested above to get people engaging with your website. If you'd rather have someone do it for you, check the limited-time offer below.

As a savvy business owner, by now you begin to realize that you need to start feeding RankBrain with favorable signals. Just don't put this off because RankBrain is already at work detecting user interaction - or lack thereof - with YOUR small business website. That is likely already impacting the traffic to your site - and your sales, too.

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Don Roberts

Don Roberts

Don Roberts is nationally recognized as being one of the most effective search engine optimization experts in the business community.

He's well known for customer satisfaction and for creating profitable Internet marketing promotions that significantly increase brand awareness and sales by making businesses more findable online by local consumers.

Don's website marketing services are never canned or off-the-shelf. Rather, each plan is strategically-tailored to the specific competitive situation a business owner finds their business in. Contact Don at (408) 890-6395.

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