Google RankBrain:The Definitive Guide

If you’re serious about SEO, you NEED to optimize for RankBrain.

Why?

Well, Google recently announced that RankBrain is Google’s third most important ranking signal.

And it’s becoming more important every day.

In today’s guide you’re going to learn everything you need to know about Google’s RankBrain algorithm. Let’s do this.

Google RankBrain: The Definitive Guide

Chapter 1:Google RankBrain: A Visual Explanation

Google RankBrain: A Visual Explanation

What is Google RankBrain?

RankBrain is a machine learning (AI) algorithm that Google uses to sort the search results. It also helps Google process and understand search queries.

So: what makes RankBrain different?

Before RankBrain, 100% of Google’s algorithm was hand-coded. So the process went something like this:

Google Engineers

Human engineers still work on the algorithm, of course. But today, RankBrain also does its thing in the background.

RankBrain process

In short, RankBrain tweaks the algorithm on its own.

Depending on the keyword, RankBrain will increase or decrease the importance of backlinks, content freshness, content length, domain authority etc.

Then, it looks at how Google searchers interact with the new search results. If users like the new algorithm better, it stays. If not, RankBrain rolls back the old algorithm.

Here’s the craziest part:

Google asked a group of Google Engineers to identify the best page for a given search. They also asked RankBrain.

And RankBrain outperformed brainy Google engineers by 10%!

Accuracy

In short, RankBrain works. And it’s here to stay.

Now that you’ve seen an overview of what RankBrain is, let’s dive deeper into how it works.

Chapter 2:How RankBrain Works

How RankBrain Works

RankBrain has two main jobs:

1. Understanding search queries (keywords)
2. Measuring how people interact with the results (user satisfaction)

Let’s break each of these down.

How RankBrain Understands Any Keyword That You Search For


A few years ago, Google had a problem:

15% of the keywords that people typed into Google were never seen before.

15% may not seem like a lot. But when you process billions of searches per day, that amounted to 450 million keywords that stumped Google every day.

Before RankBrain, Google would scan pages to see if they contained the exact keyword someone searched for.

But because these keywords were brand new, Google had no clue what the searcher actually wanted. So they guessed.

For example, let’s say you searched for “the grey console developed by Sony”. Google would look for pages that contained the terms “grey”, “console”, “developed” and “Sony”.

Search keywords

Today, RankBrain actually understands what you’re asking. And it provides a 100% accurate set of results:

RankBrain results

Not bad.

What changed? Before, Google would try to match the words in your search query to words on a page.

Today, RankBrain tries to actually figure out what you mean. You know, like a human would.

How? By matching never-before-seen keywords to keywords that Google HAS seen before.

For example, Google RankBrain may have noticed that lots of people search for “grey console developed by Nintendo”.

And they’ve learned that people who search for “grey console developed by Nintendo” want to see a set of results about gaming consoles.

So when someone searches for “the grey console developed by Sony”, RankBrain brings up similar results to the keyword it already knows (“grey console developed by Nintendo”).

So it shows results about consoles. In this case, the PlayStation.

RankBrain method

Another example: a while back Google published a blog post about how they’re using machine learning to better understand searcher intent:

Google Open Source Blog

In that post they describe a technology called “Word2vec” that turns keywords into concepts.

For example, Google says that this technology “understands that Paris and France are related the same way Berlin and Germany are (capital and country), and not the same way Madrid and Italy are”.

Country and capital

Even though this post wasn’t talking specifically about RankBrain, RankBrain likely uses similar technology.

In short: Google RankBrain goes beyond simple keyword-matching. It turns your search term into concepts… and tries to find pages that cover that concept.

In chapter 3 I’ll show you how this changes the way we should do SEO keyword research. But first, let’s cover the most interesting element of what RankBrain does…

How RankBrain Measures User Satisfaction


Sure, RankBrain can take a stab at understanding new keywords. And it can even tweak the algorithm on its own.

But the big question is:

Once RankBrain shows a set of results, how does it know if they’re actually good?

Well, it observes:

RankBrain uses UX signals

In other words, RankBrain shows you a set of search results that they think you’ll like. If lots of people like one particular page in the results, they’ll give that page a rankings boost.

And if you hated it? They’ll drop that page and replace it with a different page. And the next time someone searches for that keyword (or a similar term), they’ll see how it performs.

What is RankBrain observing exactly?

It’s paying very close attention to how you interact with the search results. Specifically, it’s looking at:

  • Organic Click-Through-Rate
  • Dwell Time
  • Bounce Rate
  • Pogo-sticking

These are known as user experience signals (UX signals).

Let’s look at an example:

You pulled a muscle in your back playing tennis. So you search for “pulled back muscle” in Google.

Google search

Like most people, you click on the first result. Unfortunately, the intro is full of fluff and filler content (“Your back is an important muscle group…”).

So you hit your back button and check out the 2nd result:

Pogo stick effect

This one isn’t much better. It’s full of generic advice like “rest and ice your back”.

So you hit your browser’s back button yet again and give result #3 a shot.

Pogo stick effect 2

Bingo! This result is EXACTLY what you’re looking for.

So instead of hitting “back”, you spend 5 minutes reading through the page’s physical therapy routine. And because you got what you wanted, you didn’t revisit the search results.

This back-and-forth is called “Pogo-sticking”. And it’s something that RankBrain pays a lot of attention to.

If Google notices that people quickly leave a page to click on a different search result, that sends a strong message to Google: “That page stinks!”.

Pogo stick effect 3

And if Google notices that lots of people STOP pogo-sticking on a specific result, they’re going to give that page a boost to make it easier to find.

Pogo stick effect 4

I’ll have lots more on optimizing for UX signals in Chapters 4 and 5. But for now, it’s time for me to show you how RankBrain changes how keyword research works.

Chapter 3:Keyword Research in a
RankBrain World

Keyword in a RankBrain world

As you saw, Google can now understand the INTENT behind a keyword.

So does that mean that traditional keyword research is dead?

Nope!

That said, you may need to tweak your keyword research process so it’s more RankBrain-friendly.

Here’s how:

Ignore Long Tail Keywords (They’re Obsolete)


Long tail keywords are dead.

(There, I said it)

Back in the day it made sense to create hundreds of different pages… each one optimized around a different keyword.

For example, you’d create one page optimized for “best keyword research tool”. And another optimized for “best tool for keyword research”.

And old Google would rank each of them for their respective long tail keywords.

Best keyword research tool

Today, RankBrain understands that these terms are basically the same thing. So they show nearly identical search results.

Identical results

In short, optimizing for long tail keywords doesn’t make sense anymore.

What should you do instead? Keep reading…

Optimize Around Medium Tail Keywords


Instead of long tails, I recommend optimizing content around Medium Tail Keywords.

Medium Tail Keywords are middle-of-the-pack terms. They get more search volume than your average long tail. But they’re not insanely competitive, either.

For example, here’s a set of keywords around the topic of “Paleo Diet”. The terms in the middle are Medium Tail Keywords.

Medium tail keywords

When you optimize your page around a medium tail keyword (and make that page awesome), RankBrain will automatically rank you for that term… and thousands of similar keywords.

Similar keywords

In short, I recommend optimizing your page around a single keyword.

(Just make sure it’s a Medium Tail Keyword)

Then, let RankBrain rank your single page for lots of different related keywords.

How about an example of this process in action?

Example of Keyword Research and On-Page SEO in a RankBrain World


A while back I decided to write reviews for all of the SEO tools that I ever used.

The result? SEO Tools: The Complete List.

SEO Tools: The Complete List

Because my content provides a ridiculous amount of value on a single page, it ranks in the top 5 for my target (Medium Tail) keyword: SEO Tools.

SEO tools

But more important than that, RankBrain understands that my page is about concepts like: “SEO Tools”, “SEO software”, “keyword research tools” etc.

That’s why this single page ranks for 1,800 different keywords (according to SEMrush):

SEMrush

That’s the power of optimizing amazing content around a single, Medium Tail Keyword.

Chapter 4:How to Optimize Titles and
Description Tags for CTR

Optimize Titles for CTR

As you saw in chapter 1, organic CTR is a key RankBrain ranking signal.

The question is: how can you get people to click on your result?

Well, that’s exactly what I’m going to cover in this chapter.

Pack Your Title Tags With Emotion


There’s no doubt about it: emotional titles get more clicks.

This is something copywriters have known for years. And in recent years this idea has been backed up with data. In fact, CoSchedule found a clear correlation between highly emotional headlines and social shares.

Emotional value

For example, here’s a generic SEO-optimized title tag:

Productivity Tips: How to Get More Done

Not bad. But it lacks the “umph” that pushes people to click.

Here’s how you could turn that title tag into an emotional powerhouse (while keeping it SEO-friendly):

Crush Your To-Do List With These 17 Productivity Tips

Now it doesn’t always make sense to create highly-emotional titles. But whenever you can, you should.

Add Brackets and Parentheses to the End Of Your Titles


This is my all-time favorite CTR hack.

I first discovered this tip from a study that HubSpot and Outbrain did a few years back…

In that study they analyzed 3.3 million headlines. And they found that brackets outperformed bracketless titles by 33%:

Titles with brackets

In fact, this little tactic works so well that I tend to include parentheses in most of my titles:

Titles with parentheses

Here are some examples of brackets and parentheses you can use:

(2018)
[Infographic]
(New Data)
[Report]
(Case Study)
(Proven Tips)

You get the idea 🙂

Use Numbers (And Not Just on List Posts)


The data from several sources (including BuzzSumo) is clear: numbers improve CTR.

The best part?

You can use numbers in your title… even if your content isn’t a list post.

For example, last year I published this case study:

Titles with numbers

As you can see, I included not one, but TWO numbers in the title.

Sprinkle Power Words Into Your Title Tags


Power Words are terms that pack a serious emotional punch.

You guessed it: using Power Words will help your title stand out and get more clicks.

Here’s a list of some of my all-time favorite Power Words:

Effective
Insane
That Will
Case Study
Examples
Proven
Study
New
Powerful

Don’t Forget to Optimize Your Description Tag for CTR


Yes, description tags don’t directly help with SEO anymore. That said, I’ve found that an optimized description can significantly boost your CTR.

Here’s how to create a description tag that gets results:

1

First, make it emotional.

Just like with a title tag, you want your description tag to convey some emotion.

Here’s an example:

Add emotion to titles
2

Next, sell WHY someone should click on your result.

Is your content comprehensive? Based on research? Funny? Sell that in your description:

Sell your blog post
3

Then, copy words and phrases that paid ads (AdWords) use.

For example, when I search for “bone broth” I see this phrase appear in two ads:

Ad words and phrases

So you’d want to include the phrase “grass fed” in your meta description.

4

Finally, include your target keyword.

Google will make it bold, which can help your result stand out:

Include target keyword

That’s all there is to it.

Chapter 5:How to Optimize Your Content
for Bounce Rate and Dwell Time

Optimize Content for Bounce Rate

OK so you used my CTR-boosting tips. And more people are clicking on your result than ever before.

Now what? Well, you need to show Google that your result makes their users happy.

And the best way to do that? Improve your dwell time.

Does Google REALLY Use Dwell Time? Yup!


Dwell time is the amount of time a Google searcher spends on your site after clicking on your result.

Obviously, the longer someone spends on your page, the better. This tells Google: “Man, people are LOVING this result. Let’s bump it up a few spots”.

And if someone bounces from your site after 2 seconds, that tells Google: “This result stinks! Let’s drop it down a few spots”.

So it’s logical that RankBrain would measure Dwell Time — and shuffle the results around based on this signal.

In fact, a Google employee recently said that Google used to rely 100% on off-page signals (especially backlinks). Even though Google still uses backlinks, this employee pointed out that:

Google machine learning

And the data backs this up. When we analyzed a massive set of Google search results we found a correlation between high rankings and low bounce rate:

High rankings and bounce rate

How to Reduce Bounce Rate and Boost Dwell Time


Now it’s time for me to share a few simple strategies that you can use to increase your site’s dwell time.

1

Push Your Content Above the Fold

When someone clicks on your site from Google, they want their question answered NOW.

In other words, they don’t want to scroll down to read your content.

That’s why I highly recommend removing anything that pushes your content below the fold, like this:

Content below fold

Instead, you want the first sentence of your content front-and-center:

Content above fold

That way, you’ll hook your reader right off the bat.

2

Use Short Intros (5-10 Sentences MAX)

Believe it or not, but I spend MORE time on my intros than my headlines.

That’s because your intro is where 90% of your readers decide to stay… or go.

And after A LOT of testing I’ve found that short intros work best.

Why?

When someone searches for something in Google, they already know about that topic. So there’s no need for a massive intro.

Instead, use your intro to sell the content they’re about to read, like this:

Short intros

When someone searches for “white hat SEO” reads that intro they think: “Awesome! I’m in the right place.”

3

Publish Long, In-Depth Content

I’ve tested this ten ways to Tuesday. And I can tell you with confidence that:

Longer content=better Dwell Time.

Obviously, it takes longer to read a 2000-word guide than a 400-word blog post. But that’s only part of the equation.

The other reason that long form content improves Dwell Time is the fact that longer content can fully answer a searcher’s query.

For example, let’s say that you search for “how to run a marathon”.

Publish long content

And the first result that you click on is a 300-word post. It kinda sorta answers your question… but leaves you wanting more.

Pogosticking

So you click on your back button to find something better (as you might remember, Google calls this “Pogo-sticking”).

And this time you hit the jackpot.

You find a comprehensive guide that covers EVERYTHING you need to know about running a marathon.

Publish comprehensive guides

So you grab a cup of coffee and read the guide from start to finish. You even re-read certain sections. All this reading is racking up serious Dwell Time.

Long form content works so well that I tend to ONLY publish content that’s at least 2,000 words.

4

Break Up Your Content Into Bite Size Chunks

Let’s face it:

Reading 2,000 words is HARD.

And it’s even harder if those 2,000 words are presented as a giant wall of text.

Fortunately, there’s a simple way to get around this problem: subheaders.

Subheaders break up your content into digestible, bite-size chunks. This improves readability, and therefore, Dwell Time.

I use LOTS of subheaders at Backlinko for this exact reason:

Break up content into chunks

Specifically, I try to toss in a subheader for every 200 words of content.

Pro Tip: Avoid boring subheaders like “Backhand Drills” or “Stay Hydrated”. Instead, pack your subheaders with emotion. For example: “3 Simple Backhand Drills The Pros Use” and “What New Research Says About Staying Hydrated.”

Chapter 6:Bonus RankBrain Optimization
Strategies and Case Studies

RankBrain Optimization Strategies

In this chapter I’m going to cover a handful of quick strategies that you can use to optimize your site for RankBrain.

Increase Brand Awareness. Improve CTR


I already showed you how numbers, emotions and Power Words can improve your organic CTR.

But there’s another HUGE variable that I haven’t mentioned: brand awareness.

Needless to say, if someone knows your brand, they’re more likely to click on your site in the search results. In fact, data from WordStream found that brand awareness can increase CTR by up to 342%!

Increase brand awareness

For example, take a look at these search results:

Search Results

Which two sites are you most likely to click on? NYTimes.com and Simply Recipes of course!

In other words, you want people to know about your brand BEFORE they search in Google.

How can you increase your brand’s awareness?

1

First, try Facebook ads.

Even if people don’t click and convert, Facebook ads can put your brand in front of lots of eyeballs.

Facebook Ads

And when those eyeballs are scanning the search results, they’re MUCH more likely to click on your result.

2

Also, create an insanely valuable email newsletter.

Nothing increases brand awareness more than sending valuable content to people’s inboxes.

In fact, my open rates are well above industry average because I only send good stuff:

Valuable content

Needless to say, my subscribers have learned that my material is the best in the business. So when Backlinko shows up on page 1, they’re much more likely to click on my result.

3

Finally, do a “Content Blitz”.

A “Content Blitz” is where you release a ton of content in a short period of time. And trust me: this is WAY more powerful than dripping content over the course of the year.

In fact, I used a Content Blitz when I first started Backlinko.

I published guest posts:

Publish guest posts

I went on Podcasts:

Go on podcasts

I even co-authored a guide with Neil Patel:

Advanced guides

(All within a span of a few months)

And this helped take Backlinko from “What’s that?” to “What an awesome site!” in record time.

Turn “Zeros” to “Heros”


Do you have a page on your site that didn’t do as well as you’d hoped?

I have great news: if you go back and optimize that page for RankBrain, you can give it a SERIOUS rankings boost.

For example, Sean from Proven.com had a huge guide on his site that was doing OK… but wasn’t ranking as well as he had hoped.

Improve CTR

And Sean realized his page’s title tag wasn’t compelling to click on:

Not compelling

So he added a number, a Power Word and parentheses to his title tag:

Power words

And this single change increased Sean’s organic traffic to that page by nearly 128%:

Improve Organic Traffic

Yes, some of that traffic boost was due to the simple fact that more people were clicking on Sean’s result.

But the BIG part of the story was that RankBrain noticed the CTR increase… and nudged Sean’s page up a few spots:

RankBrain CTR

Use LSI Keywords to Fill in “Content Gaps”


LSI Keywords are words and phrases related to your content’s main topic.

Why are LSI Keywords important? Well, they give RankBrain the context they need to fully understand your page.

For example, let’s say that you’re writing a guide about link building.

LSI Keywords are things like:

  • Backlinks
  • Domain Authority
  • Email outreach
  • Anchor text

And when RankBrain sees that your content includes these terms, they’re confident that your page is about link building…

…which means you’re more likely to rank for keywords related to that topic.

You can uncover LSI keywords with the Watson Natural Language Understanding Tool.

This tool analyzes content that you give it for concepts, entities and categories.

For example, when I pasted in the first draft of this guide, it spit out concepts that were related to RankBrain.

Watson guide

The interesting part is that I didn’t mention many of these terms in the guide. Like RankBrain, Watson understands what my content is about. Very cool.

And when you sprinkle these LSI keywords into your post, you’ll confirm to RankBrain that your content is comprehensive.

Now It’s Your Turn

Conclusion

Phew! I put A TON of work into this guide. So I hope you enjoyed it.

Now I’d like to hear what you have to say.

What’s the #1 tip that you’re going to implement?

Are you going to focus on CTR? Use LSI keywords? Or improve your content’s Dwell Time?

Let me know by leaving a comment below.

836 Comments

  1. I just dropped by today and just found this great new guide on Rankbrain.
    Another epic post as always I must say. You don’t post often but I must say you put a lot of effort into it when you do.
    Keep up the great work Brian

    1. Thanks Joeri. Yup, I don’t publish that often so I can focus 100% on quality. Creating guides like these ain’t easy 🙂

        1. yup! i remember when i also had a dream of having 1000 visitors per day but i had hardly 50 users p/d at that time them i found one and only backlinko and now 2500 visitors/D and it is increasing every single day. thanx brain dean and backlinko !

    2. Hey Joeri,

      You ain’t kidding on the awesome post!

      Not that you haven’t:

      But make sure to follow the LSI key.

      I sprinkled some of those bad boys into my content and saw a huge increase from my organic reach.

      Just keep in mind, make sure it’s natural and you’re doing it to benefit your readers.

      Thanks,

      Chris Pontine

      1. Hi Brian, I have one question:

        Targeting medium tail keywords but it is hard to rank for them. What should I do in a competitive industry?

        Any resources you have published or liked on the web?

      1. Hey Brian,

        Have you written about the way you go about doing that with your team in the past? I’d be really keen to hear about it! Really like the approach you have taken with the visual elements in your posts.

  2. After I read articles about SEO, usually they make me more confused or they keep repeating the same stuff. No with this website, all the time useful and original content. Great job!

  3. Excellent article Brian!

    I think once you cover a topic, other SEOs must just not be touching that topic for getting backlinks. How can any SEO convince anyone who has linked to Brian’s article to link to his/her article?

  4. Brian, small business owner here (law firm) and I do all my own SEO. This is an excellent primer on RankBrain, and it will save me hours in avoiding unnecessary near-duplicate long-tail pages. Thanks for putting it together.

    1. You’re welcome, Michael. If I could help you avoid that, I’ve done my job. Creating too much content is a HUGE time-waster.

  5. Wow what a great in depth article Brian – thanks so much for creating these great pieces.

    I often find that I come back to these again and again and…, yes you know it – again. Sometimes I print them out and share.

    I am really going to try to break up my content in more sizable chunks…

    1. You’re welcome, Scott. You can never really go wrong with breaking up your content. So hopefully that helps your rankings!

    1. Not to be too negative, but if it’s the first article that you’ve read about Rankbrain, how do you know that you’ve got all the possible information about it? Just wondering.

    1. Cheers, Patrick. It takes a ton of time to plan, outline, and edit guides like these. But I find that they’re much more valuable than a simple blog post.

      1. Speaking of which Brian, how long does it usually take you to publish such a post? And do you do all of it yourself (keyword research, outline, writing, design etc) or do you have a team that helps out?

        1. Hey Rafael, I actually don’t keep track of how long it takes to create a guide like this. But its A LOT of time from me and my team.

          1. Well, fantastic job man. You’re one of my goto resources I keep in mind when writing & designing content for users.

            And indeed, my tests have shown that improving on-page user signals (pleasing RankBrain) can make you rank with little to-no backlinks.

            By the way, just thought you should know that your website for some reason doesn’t play nice with the Evernote extension on desktop browsers.

  6. I had read your SEO in 2018 guide sometimes back and that’s when I realized the importance of RankBrain. Have been reading more about it and I have to say that this is the most authoritative guide on the topic I have come across. Kudos to you Brian for creating this guide 🙂

    1. Thanks, Baidhurya. That’s actually when I realized that I needed to write this guide. The 2018 guide touched on RankBrain, but as you saw today, there’s A LOT more to RankBrain than I covered in my SEO 2018 guide.

  7. Thanks for always being on top of your game Brain. This is extremely helpful! We have seen some fluctuations in our own site as well as our clients and I am definitely going to implement these strategies to hopefully improve the CTR. Sometimes you spend so much time putting together strong content for your site and you forget to focus on the main title that attracts the user to the page in the first place.

    Thanks again!

    1. You’re welcome, Kyle. I’ve definitely noticed way more fluctuations this year than in 2016 or 2015. I think that RankBrain is constantly tweaking the algo, which results in more shifts than before.

    2. That’s a great article Brian. To the point, concise, yet covered the entire info in the most engaging way. I am sure you must be getting a really high dwell time on this page and all others.

  8. Awesome stuff as usual Brian! I agree 100% about ditching long tail keywords. It’s a welcome paradigm shift from making a gazillion different pages for every possible search phrase.

    1. I’m with you 100% on that, Gregory. I was doing SEO back in the long tail days. I don’t miss them…and I don’t think Big G does either!

  9. Well Done, Brain.

    Thanks for such wonderful post. It will help us to stay up to dated in the new year (2018) with SEO aspects.

    1. You’re welcome, Harry. You’re right: RankBrain is going to be important in 2018. So this guide should help you get higher rankings in 2018.

  10. Hi Brian,

    Loved this guide. I have been following your link building guide and after that the rank brain which is the 3rd most important ranking factor is now left to conquer. Thanks. Tweeted it.

    1. You’re welcome, Phil. Content was the other ranking factor that Google said was in the top 3. Maybe my next guide should cover that (it would have to be a MONSTER though).

  11. Seriously awesome guide! Thanks, Brian. I esp. appreciate the parts on Medium Tail Keywords and using parentheses in titles.

    Also some helpful (and fun) visuals. Kudos to your graphics person/team.

    1. I’m with you, Heenay: our graphics team (and CTO who ultimately codes the page) did a really nice job with this one.

    1. You’re welcome, Mark. Visual content like this is harder to create. But I think it helps make the content easier to understand and comprehend. So it’s worth it.

  12. I couldn’t agree more. Long tail keywords are really dead.
    Plus it’s better to create one content rich page that targets a good medium tail keyword instead of creating multiple low value pages that targets similar long tail keywords.

    Thanks for this awesome guide Brian

    1. Well said, Ayden. Long tails used to work. But for some reason people still cling to the idea that lots of pages=lots of traffic. As you said, ONE amazing piece of content works much better than a bunch of lame pages that target long tail keywords.

  13. Bang!! Love it Brian. As always top notch content.

    I like the point about breaking up the content with headers. You’re right – you need to engage people & keep the momentum going to keep them hooked.

    1. Sounds good, Casey. Let me know if you think anything is missing from the guide. I want to keep this thing updated.

  14. Awesome guide, Brian! Got to learn a lot from it. I really love reading the stuff you post on Backlinko. As compared to others, it’s far more valuable.

    Will try using these ideas for my site and let’s see what happens 🙂

    1. Hey Roger, you’re welcome. It definitely wasn’t easy to distill all the RankBrain-related knowledge out there into one guide. But I did my best.

    1. Hey Liam, you’re welcome. Yup, optimizing for Medium Tails is definitely easier/simpler than trying to rank for 100 long tail terms (and it works better, too!).

    1. You’re welcome, Pat. The SEO space is competitive so I need to bring the noise with every guide. Plus its way more fun 🙂

  15. As usual, its amazing post Brian!, I like the medium tail keyword concept, its just make sense for Me. I need to re-read 2 or 3 times of this page because RankBrain is very very imporytant to understand..

    1. Thank you, Ganjar. Yup, there’s a lot to take in and digest in this guide (it’s 4k words). I hope it helps you get more traffic this year.

  16. Let me tell you the honest truth here, most of the times I just ignore newsletters but today I was having ‘nothing’ to do and your email popped up on my mobile screen and I decided to give it a read.

    And I couldn’t get my eyes off from this awesome guide.

    Awesome work!

    Backlinko’s silent follower and this is my first comment! 🙂

  17. Well, this is it. I am stopping right here and I don’t think I will ever read another SEO guide this year. Came in from an email I received from you 30 minutes ago and I have been glued to this reading on my phone. Thank you Brian.

    1. You’re welcome, Emmanuel. I have a few more pieces of content in the pipeline. So hopefully you’ll make an exception for those 🙂

  18. I’m in the process of building a new retail website and the information about the medium tail keywords and the content to increase dwell time will be invaluable. Thanks Brian. Once again, great practical advice we can follow easily.

  19. User interaction on the SERP is the key thing going forward, because Google’s search algorithm is evolving as an AI engine. It has the capability to learn and improve as a brain….Great post Brian.

    – Being focused on the reader problem is the underlying solution when it comes to on-page optimization.
    – Building a brand awareness is the underlying solution when it comes to off-page optimization.

    Using parentheses on Title is the #1 tip that I am interested to try…

    Thanks.

    1. Hey Ven, very well said. Google’s search algo is becoming an AI engine. It’ll be harder to optimize for. Harder… but still possible.

  20. Happy New Year Brian

    The way the Google algorithm is learning to discern ‘meaning’ from what is essentially raw data is completely fascinating (and slightly scary). I’m currently taking a data science course as I’m really interested in how all this will impact content marketing and SEO.

    Your content on this is great as always but I’m also loving the design and typography of your latest posts – they’re so easy to read.

    Best wishes

    Loz

    BTW – your podcast is still up there in my top 10 most listened to shows 🙂

  21. Yet another great article. Thank you Brian for time and effort and sharing this within the digital marketing community.

    One question… You haven’t mentioned Voice Search/SEO within this article?! I’m assuming RankBrain will be power force behind this new search facility?

    Cheers, L

    1. You’re welcome, Luke. Good call there. I agree: RB will probably do the heavy lifting to determine the intent behind voice searches. In fact, it probably already is.

  22. Very well put together guide Brian! I’ve been following your advice for over a year now and have seen some of my articles skyrocket to the first page because of quality content. I always suspected that Rank Brain was a big part of that. Your information confirms it. I really believe that the big benefit of YouTube is building out the brand too. Which then indirectly helps your SEO. I wonder if RankBrain directly looks at YouTube or not for other measurements.

    1. Glad to hear that, Scotty. It could be a combination of links (better content tends to generate more backlinks) and RB at play.

      I agree: having a presence on YouTube probably helps your Google rankings as well. Google definitely prefers to rank big brands. So the bigger brand you can appear in the eyes of Google, the better!

  23. Great post, thanks for that! I was wondering why one of my content is really ranking high on couple keywords these days without keywords being in the content. Seems it is the RankBrain!

    1. You’re welcome. yes, That’s likely RankBrain at work. It does of course look at the keywords in your content. But it goes beyond that.

  24. Brian, You always make things look so easy. Your gift is your ability to write WELL! That’s why there’s dwell time and content sharing (I’ve shared your articles on my tiny lil marketing website) and I continue to click through on your email campaigns. I know your content is GOOD. Thanks again. Love that you practice what you preach, my 2018 goal is to be more like Brian and do what I preach for my own site. Wish you the most successful and rich 2018. Gary

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Gary. It’s definitely not easy to rank in Google today. But hopefully the content I put out helps makes it a little bit easier.

  25. Just received an email from you and visited your new post. As always I learned some great stuff that I’m going to apply to my blog. Thank you for the effort.

  26. Love how RankBrain is making SEO about “quality content” and “satisfying search queries” rather than simply stuffing the right keywords in the right spots. As always, great stuff Brian!

    1. Thanks Philip. Lots of old-school SEO peeps DON’T love that change because they have to actually provide value (as opposed to gaming the system). But I’m with you: RB is a welcome shift in how Google works.

  27. Great guide, just what I needed to read. I’m about to launch a new website and what better time to review & revise before it goes live using your tips and expert notes.

  28. You never cease to impress me sir.
    The way each of your content is crafted speaks volumes of your research and sheer grit that goes into creating it.
    Well I loved this content so much so that I’m gonna share it multiple places.( I never do that!)

    Thank you! Thanks a ton for this FREE information.

    Keep up the amazing work.
    Will wait for more such SEO contents!
    Cheers 🙂

    1. You’re welcome, Akhil. You’re right: these guides aren’t easy or cheap to put together. But they’re really fun to make.

  29. You’ve done it once again!

    You don’t post that often, but when you do it, it’s always awesome content and I’m always learning something new from you.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Rasmus, you’re welcome. Yup, I definitely subscribe to the “quality over quantity” approach to content marketing and SEO. In my experience it works better… plus its more fun!

  30. Hi Brian,
    This is a beast of a post. Thanks so much for this awesome guide to rank brain.

    If I may suggest you something, I’d request you educate us with a guide to build a brand out of a blog. Like how to grow authority or brandof a blog.

    Thanks Brian.
    -Swadhin

    1. You’re welcome, Swadhim. And thanks for the suggestion. I’ll add it to my list of potential blog post topics.

  31. I read every single line of this post!! Now going to go back and note action items for my next post. Thank you soooo much. You write the most useful stuff, Brian.

  32. Great post.

    I read this as email arrive in my inbox. Great design and the exact thing that Google want. Now I try to improve old post for “User Satisfaction”. I also see that page rank in Google for term “How to get Job” is from meduim.com because it fully satisfied users.

    Thanks..

    1. Good idea, Shiva. You can definitely go back and improve older content for CTR, user intent etc. I’ve done it a lot for posts on this blog and it works well.

  33. I’m excited to implement your advice on “pogo-sticking” – I know my site’s blog pages are not engaging and the header is too big. I also loved your straight-forward tips on emotional headline writing and medium-tail keywords. Also, side note, I think the visual aspect of this guide is awesome and I’m jealous! Great work as always!

  34. Great Post!

    The way I think about your Medium Tail / Long Tail judgement is intent. Looked at another way, there are 3 ways of mapping out your SEO strategy and tactics:

    1. Focus on pages. Least valuable because Google isn’t page focused.

    2. Focus on keywords. Used to be valuable because it used to be how Google works. But, as you point out, no longer. Just because keywords are different in a LITERAL sense doesn’t make them different in a CONCEPTUAL sense.

    3. Focus on intent. This is the winner in today’s Rankbrain world. Go through the keywords your research uncovers and divide them up by intent. Once you have those groupings, you can choose the balance of volume and difficulty you prefer to target.

    Now what’s missing are the software tools to help SEO’s manage that kind of strategy. Maybe I’ll write some!

    1. Very well said, Bob. “Intent” is definitely the future of SEO in many ways. Metrics like CTR, bounce rate, dwell time etc. are proxy ways of measuring intent. So the closer you can get to making Google users happy, the higher you’ll rank. And I’d be down to test out that software 🙂

  35. This is such an eye opener! We love your tips and will be implementing them into our future blogs. However, do you have advice on how one can use your guide from a selling standpoint? It is hard to put emotion into a product name, but I feel if we are using the most relevant the keywords in the page title, url, meta description, and within the 1st few sentences of the main description, then we are in a good position. What are your thoughts? Is this a totally different beast, or is there a technique you suggest?

  36. LOVE. THIS. First thing I’m going to do is reevaluate the page that brings the most traffic to my client’s website. The content needs to be more in depth and it has a terrible bounce rate b/c it doesn’t really say anything. So, better content first, then optimize for CTR w/better title tags, etc. I can’t wait to try it out! THANK YOU!

  37. I’ve been a long time “lurking” reader of Backlinko, and I didn’t even know I signed up for newsletter. (So imagine my surprise today).

    Brian, this seriously is some valuable information here that filled in some gaps in my knowledge and I will totally implement these tips on my new Digital World Beauty website.

    1) For example, seems like I will have to change the theme … Initially I chose OneTheme b/c I was told it’s light and fast but the content is not above the fold unfortunately.

    I do see the difference when you showed an example using your own website.

    2) Also, seems like I will need to work more on titles (and somehow intuitively I felt the power of brackets, so now I will definitely use them!)

    3) Not to mention LSI! I kept hearing about it but didn’t fully understand it’s importance.

    I am so glad my site has only 8 articles lol, hopefully I will be done pretty soon with the changes.

    Thank you, Brian!!!

    1. Happy to see your comment, Zarina. Welcome to the Backlinko community!

      And I love how you outlined a few action steps that you’ll put into practice right away. Most people skim guides like this and never put the advice into practice. Props!

      1. Thanks for your support, Brian! Appreciate hearing it from you and definitely am excited to see the outcome of the changes I am about to implement.
        P.S. Am now your huge fan 🙂

  38. Great stuff Brian – almost an all-around general seo guide. Would love to see you do something indepth on schema markup for answers to popular questions for “0 ranking” above the organic search results.

    1. Thanks Justin. I’m actually running some tests on ranking in the Knowledge Graph (#0) soon. And I’ll share what I learn with the Backlinko community (assuming I find out some cool stuff).

  39. Yesterday I guessed why you haven’t posted anything this new near, then I understand that you’re there writing any killer article like you do before.
    I learn lot’s of things on this post, it’s very helpful. I guess you already know 😉

  40. Thanks Brian! You are god as always 👍
    There is a lot of stuff that I need to try as soon as possible.
    I especially like that you put your CTR tips in a one place and of course give us something new.
    Keep an awesome work.

  41. Hey Brian,

    Awesome tips man! Had to comment 🙂 Everything of yours I implement gets me ranked I love it. Your stuff is A+, I’m going to try out the emotions and brackets on titles!

    1. You’re right, Hannah. A lot of work went into this guide (from me personally and my team to edit, proofread, design and code it up). Not to brag… but I think it came out great 😀

    1. Thanks Sandy. I recommend focusing on case studies. That way you show that you get results… without giving away the farm on how you did it.

  42. Hey Brian or RankBrian,
    Great stuff as always. Really like the new look of the website. Optimize Around Medium Tail Keywords I noticed this too from my GSC and I wrote in my article as the “keyword umbrella” just like to share that with you on that thought.

    Your stuff is always great. Thanks for sharing again.

  43. Thanks Brian….
    I had one question that Google respect the user experience… And the user has to keep searching for his query in such a long post…. He may get lost….

    Instead of 1 long post if we create specific post and interlink all chunks of long post … It enhance the user experience…. What you think about it? Will it work?

  44. Nice job on this one. I’ve been optimizing titles for a while and it’s kind of fun once you get into it. Using power words really helps. I also like adding something like “[SOLVED]” to titles of posts which answer a question.

    1. Very cool, Tony. Whenever I’m looking for help with a tech issue I always click on the results that say “[Solved]”. I can see how that sort of Power Word can be super effective.

  45. Brian! As always, I love your content. I like the idea of using brand awareness to drive CTR. I hadn’t really thought about it that way. But there are so many ways to do this, even with a modest budget. We’re using AdWords to drive brand awareness for a very low cost and noticing more organic traffic since starting that. Also really appreciate your advice about emotional headlines and descriptions. It all works together, and you put things in practical terms that work.

    1. Very cool, Russell. Thanks for sharing that. I’ve heard similar things from people that run lots of Adwords campaigns. Makes sense that it would drive brand awareness just like a display campaign.

  46. I have an e-commerce site and optimizing for Google with thousands of products is a pain. I’m sure practices work but it’s hard for a novice like myself to apply.

    1. That’s true, Lecarl. It’s hard to implement all of these tips on thousands of ecommerce product pages. I’d start with your top 10 high-priority pages and go from there.

    1. That’s very true, Steve. SEO is changing all the time. That’s one of the reasons it’s a fun industry to be a part of.

  47. Wow! Great article! Is it okay to share on Twitter? 🙂 I’m definitely going to implement improving my titles.. I also need to write better content and spread it out as it’s just pretty much all text.. Lots of work but it’ll be worth it 🙂 Thanks again for such a great article!

    1. Thanks Ibrahim. And yes, go ahead and share.

      Totally. The hardest part is writing the text. Breaking it up into chunks isn’t that hard. So the hardest part is done 🙂

  48. Great stuff again Brian!

    I always drop what I am doing and read your guide when the email comes through.

    If I was writing 2000 word Biographies, what is the best way not to create walls of texts and what table of contents plugin do you recommend?

    Thanks

    1. You’re welcome, Oge. I recommend breaking things up into sections with subheaders like “Early Life” etc. Similar to a Wikipedia entry for a person. I actually do the table of contents manually here so not sure what plugin works best.

  49. Hey Brian!

    I absolutely love your in-depth posts. In fact, everything I know about SEO at present (I am still a beginner) I learnt from your guides. And that knowledge helped me almost double my pageviews over the last 2 months! Thank you so much. 🙂

    I am now going to implement what you have shared in this post about RankBrain. In fact, I already use Coschedule’s headline analyzer for all my titles.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge so generously!

    1. Hey Ria, doubling your pageviews in 2 months is no joke! Congrats on that 🙂

      And here’s to more pageviews in 2018!

    1. I’ll take that as a compliment 🙂

      But seriously, it wasn’t easy to distill the info out there on RanBrain into a handful of concepts and tips. Glad you enjoyed the guide, Sam!

  50. This is especially good for people who create great content. Webmasters and affiliates have been abusing Google’s algorithms, for quite some time now by getting thousands of backlinks from various sources. One had to actually get his hands dirty to compete with such people.

    But, now as the search is getting smarter, backlinks are slowly losing the value. This gives a chance for even the new websites to get traffic from Google, provided they have some great content, and it satisfies the Google’s user.

    Also, the searches these days are getting more of “question-based” because people ask direct questions to their personal assistants as more than half of the search traffic comes from mobile phones.

    For e.g. one of my websites is ranking for the keyword “take me to work” on the first page. It has a search volume of 49000 per month, but, I get only 2 3 clicks from it. Why?

    Because the first result is a little form by Google Maps, asking for the destination. The user gets satisfied with the first result itself. There are many such examples such weather or flights etc.

    1. Very well said, Anoop. Backlinks are still important, but becoming less so as Google adds more ranking factors into the mix. So the experience you shared here (where your CTR is low for a competitive term) is more common. Larry Kim has some data on this (if you Google “winner takes all Larry Kim” you should find it).

    1. Hey Philip, you can actually use any keyword research tool to find them. The key is to focus on keywords that get a medium amount of search volume (relative to other keywords in your industry).

  51. Hi Brain, this is amazing content, I have not heard about Rankbrain before. I have learned a lot from you when it comes to SEO which has helped my blog, thanks for sharing your uncommon experience.I have not heard from you since, but this blog post came at the right time to learn more about SEO in 2018.You are blessed.

  52. Hi Brian, I always take more time as I read your stuff, and I make side notes on implementation as I go along. Power punching H1 tags and LSI keywords are my first priority, then E mail marketing, which I have neglected so far. Explaining these tips to my clients really does help to differentiate us from the competition. More please (in your time of course….!!)

  53. Brian, you are a genius!

    This RankBrain information is immensely useful, but this now a norm that any post from Brian Dean will be epic.

    The new thing is that with every new post you raise the standard of content writing to a next level. This is how content should be written.

    I am lucky to have found you early in 2014 and since then I have learnt a lot form you.
    Thanks a ton!

    Question for you:

    Given the unpredictability and difficulty to rank on Google in future with RankBrain, voice search and many other changes will SEO as a service make sense in next 5 to 10 years? Because most businesses would want relatively predictable ROI through SEM. What would be your recommendation for SEO consultants and agencies to succeed in future?

    Lastly, do you think that there is a real use case of blockchain technology to disrupt the online marketing domain by removing the intermediaries such as Google/FB?

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Yuvraj. I think that, as long as there are search engine, there will be search engine optimization.

      That said, SEO in the traditional sense (optimizing title tags for keywords) will become much less important in 5-10 years. It’ll be more art than science.

      They have flaws for sure, but those intermediaries do provide a valuable service that can’t be eliminated by blockchain or crowdsourcing. That’s my opinion at least.

    1. Matt, Power Words aren’t really a hack that exploits a loophole. They just make your title enticing to click on. Google would only take issue with it if the Power Words you chose didn’t represent the article.

  54. Hey Brian, awesome content as usual – this 100% speaks to writing for the USER and not the search engines these days.

    Curious about your ‘medium tail’ keywords and shying away from long-tail. We’ve got an interesting case study where we target a keyword our business is about – it’s basically our #1 target. We have 3 beast posts about that keyword tweaked slightly for different (higher-volume) longer tail terms. As of right now, each individual post is on page one for it’s corresponding keyword (for instance, one is a question, one is a tutorial/walk-through that people search for, and one goes for the medium/head keyword). So for this particular case, attacking longer tail ‘related’ terms has worked out for us.

    Thanks again for this info – super valuable

    1. You’re welcome, James. And thanks for sharing that insight and example. In that case do the 3 different keywords have different intent? In that case they may work best as separate posts. My take on long tails is more not to create 3 posts around variations of the same term/intent. Does that make sense?

  55. Thanks Brian. This is an excellent example to us all in that you have given us this information before but you have given it to us again in a different way that exactly illustrates many of the points above.

    Like a lot of agencies we sometimes forget to move on and just stay with the same old same old even though the effectiveness is diminishing. You always provide timely reminders to kick ourselves in the ass. 🙂

    Nice work and thank you.

    1. Thanks Hippi. There’s nothing wrong with sticking with old school strategies as long as they work. But yeah, as SEO pros it’s important to try out new stuff as SEO changes (which it tends to all the time!).

  56. Great content as always Brian! We noticed some of our projects to move up in the end of December and it was actually correlated to the CTR metrics because we added rich snippet formating for some pages to test. The RB presence is highly noticeable.

    Cheers!
    Linards

    1. Very cool, Linards. RB loves pages that get a high CTR. So it makes sense that featured snippets in the SERPs would help you rank. Keep it up!

  57. Nice post Brian!

    Does this mean that it’s actually easier to rank, IF, your article is truly the best article?

    For example, let’s say my dwell time, CTR, and bounce rate is superior to my competition. However, my competitor has more backlinks. Who wins?

    It would appear that it may be easier to rank if you truly can create the best piece of content in the world. Would you agree?

    1. Great question, Dylan.

      Yes, it’s MUCH easier to rank if your article is the best. But it’s not a one-way ticket to the #1 spot. Google takes factors like links, on-page SEO, brand signals etc. into account.

      So yes, definitely create the best article out there. That’s a must with RankBrain. Then, get out there and promote the heck out of it.

  58. As always, awesome guide / plenty of actionable tips! Will defo be adding these tips to my to-do list.
    With so many jargon filled posts out there on rank brain. It’s refreshing reading something you can actually use.

    1. Thanks Jason. I had the same experience when I looked for info on RB. Lots of jargon… little to now practical tips.

  59. I never fully understood what Rank Brain means and because of this guide, I finally have a much deeper understanding of how Google’s Rankbrain algorithm works. Thanks Brian for sharing such an in-depth piece.

  60. Brian, what a fantastic article. I had no idea what RankBrain was and it makes a lot of sense now to me after reading your informative post. I will follow your recommendations.

  61. Good stuff here, thanks for sharing. How does the new, expanded word-count limit for meta descriptions in SERPs (you call this description tags here) affect things?

    1. Thanks Peter. Good question. It affects things in the sense that you have more “room” to play with. That said, I’ve found that in some cases short descriptions work best for CTR. And others really long ones get a higher CTR. So I don’t think you necessarily have to go out and lengthen meta descriptions. But it’s worth testing if you’re in the top 5.

  62. Love it Brian! I have been following a lot of these strageties from an on page Ahrefs blog post that put me on the right path. The copy for titles and tags are extremely helpful and my weakest part of this guide. I usually put bland titles and descriptions as I am attempting to optimize the keyword I’m targeting. Time to put these tips to work 👍

    1. Awesome, Mark. Creating titles that are optimized for keywords, CTR etc. isn’t easy. But it’s a skill that’s super important for SEO right now.

  63. once again, great content Brian! Now that meta-descriptions have gotten longer I’ll be concentrating on/rewriting all of those to better “sell” the click.

    1. Good idea, Bill. I’ve found that longer descriptions can help boost CTR. Other times, shorter descriptions work better. But yeah, worth testing for sure.

  64. This guide is amazing, thank you so much for sharing.
    I’ve just started my blog (strategybeast.com) so i’m looking for every piece of advice i can get on how to improve my content performance.
    Definitely gonna share it, is a must-read.

    1. You’re welcome, Phillip. I’m a visual learner too and it’s probably one of the reasons I enjoy creating these guides.

  65. Wow! Wow! and Simply Wow!
    This will surely change the dimension of traditional keyword research.
    I really enjoyed a lot while reading this guide and appreciate your efforts that you have given to dig out such authentic information.

  66. Nicely put together. Really helpful and clear. I found myself looking at some of my material while I was reading for improvements I should be making. Thanks

  67. Hey, thank you so much for this amazing guide. You have explained the whole RankBrain concept so well. I’m definitely gonna keep in mind all the points that you have mentioned here. Also, I’m just working on my very first website and I’m an aspiring Digital Marketer. Thanks a ton!

    PS. My website is still under construction and is pretty awkward now.

  68. Wow, I slowly scrolled down and read the whole thing as the information is great. Full and easy to understand and by the end i realized this is a really GREAT example of what you are talking about. And how to write a great article. I am a current customer of your STW program and like to say Great stuff as always !!!

  69. What an incredible guide, Brian… as usual. I think of you when I need to assuage my guilt about my infrequent posting – against 99% of the advice out there. One just can’t create useful material in a short time.

    I especially love your chapter on Bounce Rate and Dwell Time. And, researching Rankbrain has been on my list. Thanks for saving me the research time. GOLD! It’s all GOLD!

    1. Hey Holly, I experience the same guilt. Everyone else is posting and you think: “Man, I need to put SOMETHING out there”. So that’s natural. The key is to focus on the GOLD 🙂

  70. Wow! Thank you so much for all the amazing tips! I have a couple pages of notes from this article! I am finally narrowing my niche so Brand awareness and dwell time are two area I need to improve on! Thank you for sharing!

  71. Great work. Quick question, how does Google measure Bounce Rate, or Dwell time, or any other UX metric? For example, does it do so for users only using Google Chrome where it can use the browser to track a user’s behavior? Alternatively, with “Pogo-Sticking” your use case talks about a user who clicks links and enters and leaves in the same browser session/window. What about users who open up links in new tabs? How would Google measure the bounce rate, dwell time, etc?

    If it were done via the browser such as Chrome, that would make sense, but otherwise, it would seem like the only way to track a user would be when they were on Google’s SERP, where they ID the user, and then track the link they click, but cannot track them until they have re-identified themselves by heading back to the SERP.

    1. Good question, Jay. These metrics are measured from someone performing a Google search. So if someone visits your site directly and then bounces, Google won’t hold that against you (even though, as you said, they can measure it via Chrome). Hope that makes sense.

      1. Thank you Brian for this great article. I was wondering the same as Jay B about what you said about Pogo-Sticking, How does Rankbrain view it when a user opens search results in different tabs?

        I think I do this too, Instead of going back and forth on the serp, I open the results in different tabs and then navigate through tabs till I find the right content.

  72. Thank you so much for this guide, Brian. I have a few pages which are not performing as good as I’d like them to. But with the changes that this guide suggests, I hope they’ll improve. Cheers.

  73. Only you can craft this kind of piece, Brian. Now, I don’t think I would need anything else to read for my website. And believe me, I am so inspired that I am trying to implement most of it at this hour. However, I was wondering how backlinks would be considered now? Would you mind sharing your thoughts on what kind of synergy RankBrain would have with the Backlinks?

    1. This hour? Nice! Backlinks are still key. They get you to the first page so that RankBrain can analyze/measure all this stuff.

  74. Awesome post with tons of great takeaways! Putting brackets in titles was super interesting – I am going to try that!

  75. Hey Brian
    I always count on you to keep me up to date on the latest Google is doing. I read a fraction of the posts i get but I always actually read yours. Thanks for sharing all this in such an easy to understand format

    1. You’re welcome, Bill. There’s definitely a lot of SEO info out there (most of it is fluff). So I do my best to only publish awesome stuff.

  76. Just incredible!
    How you can live? I mean.. Yours guides are always huge of content, but I never seen one ebook or product…
    I understood so many things! I prepare to launch my Shopify in few weeks and yours articles help me. Really!
    Thank you so much for your work.
    (My english isn’t perfect… Basically, I speak french.) 🙂

  77. Excellent summation, Brian. I have been tinkering with using brackets in the title tags & descriptions since your last video and have seen great results. Thanks for all you’ve done for the SEO community!

  78. Brian, you continue to raise the bar! I just wrote a 2000 word blog post that I realized (after reading this) has a dash between the main thought and the subthought in the title. I am going to use parentheses as we speak. C’mon CTR! 😉

  79. Loved reading that and have printed it out for bedtime reading too! (when my wife’s gone to sleep obviously!)

    There’s been quite a backlash against LSI’s on Facebook and LinkedIn from some of your friends and contemporaries. What’s your take on this Brian?

    1. Whoa cool! That’s good bedtime reading 🙂

      I can only speak from my own testing and experience: LSI keywords help.

  80. This is gold. So much if this is easy to implement. Using parentheses and numbers. Short intros. These don’t require extra effort. Writing 2K words posts may. I tend to want to write longer posts anyway and edit them down. Maybe I stop chopping so much off. Thanks Brian!

    1. Hey Jason, there’s nothing wrong with editing things down. But if more content helps the user, it’ll help you too!

  81. Brian, this is amazing. Having created infographics myself for my blog, I know first hand the kind of effort that goes it something like this. I believe my dwell time was around 30 minutes. Needless to say, rankbrain loves this.

    1. Thanks Faisal. You’re right: this is a huge project. That’s why I don’t publish more than once every month. These are HUGE projects!

  82. I was actually doing something else when I saw this email pop up. Clicking through make me see the long tail page and I thought I won’t last on it, but I couldn’t stop. This is really great thank you for this.

    I noticed I’ve been ranking high for the emotional titles lately, just like you said. I mostly use the brackets and I guess this is one of the reason why am being ranked for that post.

    Thanks once again!

    1. Awesome, David! Yup, I’d be willing to get that your emotional titles and brackets are helping with your rankings.

  83. This was awesome! Thankfully I already practice quite a bit of this and have seen some great results with CTR with easy title tags and changes — but I guess now I need to test out brackets and parentheses, I never heard of that ! Thanks so much Brian!

  84. Another plug for your Newsletter 🙂

    I have been thinking a while about the use of emotive words in titles; as you say this is not a new idea. I have a travel website that aims to provide information (travel tips, suggestions, reviews, etc.) for people who like visiting archaeology sites and museums. Looking at the search queries in Search Console, the best keywords for best posts are quite basic – acropolis opening hours, colosseum tickets, pompeii entrance fee … you get the picture.

    While I agree wholeheartedly some posts I write can make effective use of emotive words in titles. am I wrong to dismiss this in other situations. People wanting simple information about how much is the ticket for the Acropolis might be pulled by clever use of numbers in the titles (I often try to add the year, am sure you suggested that a while back), but the use of emotive words is just going to be a turn off – or am I still not thinking outside the box enough?

    Thanks for a great, easy to read and informative post.

    1. Hey Thomas, I think you’re doing the right thing. In many cases making your titles emotional simple won’t make sense. You’re better off doing what you’re doing (adding the current year). So yeah, I wouldn’t make your titles emotional unless you can think of a way it’ll make sense for your site.

  85. OMG – woke up this morning to find this article in my inbox and I absolutely LOVE it. So full of insights and useful info. The best SEO article I’ve read in three years and I will be re-reading again later to adjust my own practice correctly. Thank you – you obviously put a LOT of work into it. 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻🦄

  86. Thank you for a lot of great information. I noticed you include a lot of color breaks in your content, is that something that also helps keep a reader on a page longer (because it is easier to read)?

    1. Hi Shannon, good question. That’s more for aesthetics. But the color breaks may make the content easier to read too.

  87. This is the best new year gift for any digital marketer & I feel blessed to be the part of your mailing list. So, every time there is a new post I discuss it with my team. A quick question from a CTR perspective, do you think using special characters in Title & Description would help in CTR? For eg: lll➤ Digital Agency that Keeps Promises

    1. Thanks! Good question. I think they can help in certain circumstances. I recommend testing them in a few pages and see how it works out.

    1. You’re welcome, Julius. We’ll probably open up enrollment for SEO That Works in early February. I can’t wait!

  88. Thank you brian for this wonderful thorough guide. For someone non-tech like me, your articles and way of presentation makes my blogging journey interesting and intriguing.

    1. You’re welcome, Lubna. I’m also not super technical, so that probably helps me explain things in simple terms 🙂

  89. Amazing guide, Brian. You wrote about optimizing content around medium tail keywords. But what about mobile searches / voice searches? People have to tend using long tail keywords (long queries), I guess.

    1. Good question. Long tail searches are still common (as you said, many voice searches are long). It’s just that Google doesn’t only look for pages that are 100% optimized around that term. Does that make sense?

    1. Hey Jay, you might be right about that. From my testing I’ve found that Answer Box results come from authoritative pages, which aren’t generally long tail focused.

  90. Hey there Brian,
    I literally stumbled across Backlinko.com and the concept Rankbrain a couple of hours ago and have not been able to stop researching. Many a source I have found in my wanderings (and beautiful phrasing and use of language!), however, your guide is most likely the best piece of “tech” writing I have ever read. Comprehensive, witty, self-deprecating, smart….thank you very much! I truly appreciate the hours of research that must have gone into this.
    All the best,
    Susanne

  91. Brian,
    I think if you want to learn something you should learn from the best. This post proves again that you are the best.

    I will start implementing all these tips like I did with all your other guides.
    All I can say is that your tips work!!
    Thanks for sharing this.
    Eddie

  92. Great work. İ fully red it and will implement some of your tips.
    İ have a question btw. u can maybe help me. İ have the turkey’s biggest compression stockings web site with a bounce rate of 20-25% My pr is 0 and my keyword is varis corabi. mu site name is variscorabi(dot)com i really dont understand why i cannot rank in first 3 lines. İf someone searches with the brand name My site will come up in first 3 resuts. But if they only search compression stockings my site will show on second page. Lets say if you search [bran name] varis corabi i rank very well. but if you only search varis corabi my site sucks. any idea? thanks in advance

  93. Wow, that’s a lot of great information in one single post. I’m going to talk about this during my sessions. And, of course, share it.
    This is the real SEO stuff. You win my confidence and vote – every time.

  94. SEO is dead?

    No f*cking way!

    And this amazing comprehensive guide (once again) proves it.

    One question: Is it correct to assume that RankBrain influences all of Google’s “search options”, e. g. local? Would love to hear your opinion on that…

    1. SEO has been dead for 5 years 😉

      I actually haven’t got a straight answer on that from Google. My take: yes, RankBrain probably affects everything search-related.

      1. Great article Brian! Thank you for taking the time to put all of this together.

        I was going to say some of these concepts can apply to local search. As soon as I was done reading I did a “cmd + f” for “local” to see if anyone was thinking about ways this could apply to local search (and if it did).

        One way I try to apply this is to look at pages/search queries from search console with below average CTR and try to make the UX as best as possible, reorganize the content, add headers, quotes, interviews, videos, awards etc. From there I look at Google Search Console data at overall impressions, clicks and CTR, and make comparisons over time and do the same for individual queries from that report.

        On one account from September when I made all the changes to December impressions were up 167% and clicks were up 69%. SEMRush and Ahrefs were showing traffic for my target keywords. With more examples, I can only assume it applies. At the least, it gives me something new to talk about and to try (but its gotta work)!

        One strategy that I think I remember reading from you was to run sponsored Facebook post with target pages in hopes that the user engagement and referral traffic will increase organic rankings and search traffic. Is this a strategy you are familiar with or tried? Thanks!

        1. You’re welcome, Desmond. That’s a great example of how big of an impact a few tweaks (in other words, making content better) can have on rankings thanks to RankBrain. I’m familiar with that strategy but haven’t tested it out myself.

  95. Brian,

    First off your content is amazing, and you have been a lot of help to me and my company.

    My question is what if the content you are trying to push is niche. I work for a chemical supplier and am in charge of SEO. I am using keywords that are products lets say caustic soda, and the page I am optimizing goes as far as product descriptions, weight … scientific data that is open source to everyone.

    What do you suggest is the best way to tackle going about niche products with lack of proprietary information?

    Thank you for your time! Keep up the good work!

    Harrison

    1. Happy to help, Harrison. Good question. In that case I’d do your best to write unique content for each chemical (like describing ways the chemical can be used). Hope that helps.

  96. Hi there Brian,

    Repeat from posters above but again a great read that gets your mind going. Still struggling to convert these tactics towards an ecommerce website with products. I cant shake the feeling this is more geared towards blogs etc. That sort if type.

    Any push to get my thoughts in the right direction?

    Best regards

    1. Hey Michael, you’re right: some of these strategies are designed for blogs. That said, a successful blog is one of the best ways to grow an ecom site, so hopefully these strategies can help your ecommerce site too. For more ecommerce-focused strategies, I’d check this out: https://backlinko.com/ecommerce-seo

    1. That’s one way they figure that out. They also look at whether or not you clicked on the result in the first place. If an above-average amount of people click on a result, that shows Google that the result is probably a good one.

  97. I always find something useful and to the point in your work. Thank you for all you do.
    I love that you emphasized pushing the content above the fold because of the user’s experience. The trend to post huge header images always bothered me. One: everyone is doing the same thing, two: it is not useful to the user at all.
    And thanks for the Watson tool, I’ll be definitely using it.

    1. You’re welcome, Etela. I’m with you: they’re ugly and bad for UX. So even forgetting SEO, those huge headers make no sense.

  98. I love to read your posts, Brian. I tested some of your tips /better descriptions and LSI keywords mainly/ on my posts recently and I experienced jumps in the rankings which were even 10 spots . Thank you

  99. Among all the ranking factors which I was not paying attention is that first paragraph needs to be very interesting (value giver) and secondly you have to cover all the required content/solution that a user is looking for.

    Awesome guide. Thanks Brian for sharing in a very simple language.

    1. You’re welcome. Intros are an underrated element of great content so its cool to see that you’re going to focus on them.

  100. Thanks backlinko for such a comprehensive list, always worth the time investment!

    Some real golden nuggets in there.

    I will definitely take some of your advice on board and run with it.

    Loved the use of power words and emotive intros as standout takeaways.

    Keep up the great work!

    Regards
    Rich

  101. This is a value bomb! As always, absolutely love your content and this one is no exception. I love how you explained Rank Brain.

    Is there a video coming up for this post? 🙂

    1. Hey Alim, thank you. Hmmm, I may include some of this content in a future video but it’s not in the pipeline right now.

  102. Great, article Brian. Of course, the medium keyword factor testing is a good idea. There are lot of information on this article, I bookmarked it for further reference. As earlier, I will start using (not testing) these techniques.

  103. Thanks Brian, you’ve a real knack for engagement and had me read top to bottom. I just don’t do that often.

    Cool guide and will be implementing your suggestions now.

    Marcus

  104. Thanks Brian, this post saved my weeks of work. I love your amazing explanation with beautiful graphics. I know that probably takes you weeks or even months. We are really grateful for your help!

  105. This was hugely helpful. Thank you!

    One question: I have lots of long rom (1000ish word) articles on one particular area, each focused on a slightly different keyword. I have concluded from this, as you say long tail keyword rankings are dead. Would it be better to combine those long form articles into a smaller collection of much longer articles or to simply optimise them around fewer (duplicate) keywords?

    Thanks again!

    1. Hey Darryl. It depends. If that approach is working for you, I wouldn’t mess with it too much. But if you feel that those pages could get more traffic, then yes, I’d consolidate them into longer pieces of content that are more thorough.

  106. I always find your guides and posts so easy to read and helpful. I’ve learned a lot from you and your writing style.

    It’s effortless to breeze through a huge piece of content and somehow you make me want to continue reading.

    Very good skill to have. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks Rob. I appreciate that. I worked as a copywriter before I got into SEO. So that probably helped improve my writing skills.

  107. Thanks Brian, good staff as always. One thing – if you could do examples on boring industries, that would be awesome. SEO, diets , blogs , etc. are cool and all, but writing Emotional Titles for Heavy machinery or Industrial lubricants and such are not the same as bla bla traffic 738.48% bla bla in 12 days. I’m sure there are many of your followers in such industries. Thanks in Advance

    1. You’re welcome, Raquel. I try to break things down so they’re easy to understand (and most important) implement.

  108. Thank you so much for this article!! I first am implementing the title and medium tail keywords. Unfortunately I am an artist and it is not as easy to think of words in parenthesis and numbers. Artist block, haha.

  109. I laughed so much when you said “grab a cup of coffee”… I poured myself a cup of tea and grabbed some cookies before sitting to carefully read your article, as always… 😀 Thanks!

  110. Hey Brian, I’m doing SEO for up to 100 sites as part of an agency. We love the 80/20 principle and currently value links more than content. We obviously try to fill with some decent content, but do you think there’s a scalable way to publish great content for 100s of clients and get results?

    Supremely up for improving rankings through good content but still not convinced it’s going to go well with my clients.

    1. Hey Rowan, there is…but it takes A LOT of people. I’d reserve top-level of content for clients that are in insanely competitive industries. Doing that for 100 sites is going to be super hard.

  111. Brian, this is (as usual) a really great guide from you. Really makes me re-think my current content. As a matter of fact, right after I finish this comment, I’m logging into my site to try and implement some of these tips! Thank you! 🙂

  112. Awesome article Brian. Excited to implement some of the CTR boosters and Power Words within old and new content titles. Best post on Google Rankbrain that I have come across by far! Thanks for writing man!

  113. Thank you for another great guide, Brian! I’ve probably read all of your blog post 4 times each and then some! 😁 I was actually already optimizing my content around more than one medium tail keyword and making as in-depth as I could. Anyway, keep up the awesome work!

  114. Hi Brian,
    Thanks a bunch for the guide. I feel honored to be on your email list.
    My question: Wouldn’t medium tail keywords be hard to rank for since they would most likely have a high density?

    1. Good question. That’s true: they’re harder to rank for than long tails. So if your site is brand new, you might want to target a long tail and make that content amazing.

  115. Thanks for all your hard work putting this together. You are a high ranking brain! I’m keen to try some of this stuff now. Especially…Watson, for some of my existing articles about finding wellness through wildness. Best wishes.

  116. Hello Brian,
    once again this is a top nutch article, clear and very interesting.
    thanks again.
    i remember being in a dead end back in 2014 for my seo strategy and then enlisted to your course.
    I have reached 53 000 visitors last december, have 3 employees now and just launched my new english webstore.
    thanks for all your knowledge and energy shared so efficiently.
    regards

    1. Hey Nicolas, your comment made my day. Congrats on your success! Please keep me posted on how things go for you in 2018.

  117. I so rarely comment on articles but I am making an exception because this insight blew me away. Brian – thank you. It is not only powerful information it is so well presented and so clearly explained.

    I seriously use to follow over 100 SEO/Marketing blogs etc but have slowly wound that down to three. Yourself, Rand Fishkin & Neil Patel. I find that this is all the insight I need amongst all the noise.

    Thanks again 🙂

  118. Always understandable SEO information, always puts tips in simple jargon-free terms, always give clear and correct guidelines as to what to do, always hits the mark. Nice one Bri, every time you post I learn that bit more about SEO to keep ahead of my competitors and keep my customers’ sites ranking well. Great work my friend as always.

  119. This was an extremely well thought out and put together post.

    I got started with my website back around 2009 and things sure have changed from white hat SEO tactics to where they are today.

    Without having the time to keep up with everything taking place with algorithms this piece took what is traditionally a complex, bland topic and broke it down in easily digestible bites while being jam-packed with actionable tips and advice.

    I especially liked the concept of telling readers what they are going to get out of the article and why it will be worth their time to stay around.

    Also will have to use brackets and truly become a copywriter for all intents and purposes to wet the appetite of visitors in the search engine results page with titles, descriptions, etc.

    Plus, I second the previous person who commented it would be great to learn a bit of how you go from a Google Doc of text to graphics, lists, infographics, quotes, etc to jazz up the page before publishing.

    1. Thanks Jason. Glad you found so much value in the guide.

      I might do a post on turning text content into these guides. But the short answer it: help from talented people.

  120. Great post (yet again)!

    How would google physically track dwell time?

    I can see the case for pogo sticking, but in order to measure duration (dwell) you need a start AND an end point. Maybe they could do this for chrome browsers? Even google analytics doesn’t measure bounce or dwell time accurately without a hyper custom event tracking implementation.

    Personally, I think they measure CTR, pogo sticking and the absence of pogo sticking. I hope this comment is taken constructively… Your work is amazing.

  121. Wow! Another great guide, Brian. Can’t believe the work that’s gone into this. I have a query please, rather a clarification. You seem to mention title tags and headlines interchangeably, whereas I think of a headline as the H1 tag at the top of the post or page. I’ve noticed this before but never thought to ask. Thanks for all you do!

    1. Thanks Lynnaire. Good question. You’re right: that can be confusing because in WordPress the “headline/title” can be an H1 that’s not the title tag. In this case I’m talking about the title tag.

  122. Great content as usual Brian! I am definitely going to be working on improving my CTR’s with better headlines and descriptions. I am curious what percentage I should be aiming for as a good CTR on my post. Keep up the good work!

  123. Hey Brain,

    Thank you for providing solid SEO information for a wide variety of skill levels to learn from. The references you provide in your posts are priceless as well. I have been focusing more on tapping into emotions with my descriptions, but not so much in the title. (Time to test this “hack” out now).

  124. Bryan,

    This is an outstanding guide, and I agree with another comment above — visually stunning. After reading this today, I am beginning to implement these techniques. I have two questions that have been plaguing me for a while, if you have a free second to share your expertise.

    1. I have had been including my brand at the end of my title tags for quite sometime. However, for the homepage, Google is moving the brand (site name) to the front of my title. I can’t figure out why; in my opinion, their format makes my listing less appealing. Google does not do this for any of my inner pages. I have wondered if there is something within my html that the algorithm is latching on to, or if my title is simply junk that needs to be revised.

    2) How might a product listing on any given landing page affect the metrics that you discuss (e.g., dwell time, etc., if a user quickly leaves via a product link).

    1. Thanks Chris. 1. Google does tweak the title tag in certain cases. Unfortunately, not much you can do about it. It’s Google’s call. 2. That’s OK. As long as the Google user doesn’t pop back to the search results, you’re good.

  125. Hey Brian, I am big fan of your contents. I always wait for your new posts. Super awesome information about Rank Brain. Kudos to you. Keep up the great work always. Thank you.

  126. Thanks for another great guide, but how does this apply to ecommerce sites?

    I run a small business and would like to improve my rankings, but I can’t afford to pay the sorts of prices that are being asked. Also Adwords and Facebook etc are too expensive to compete with the big companies.

    Getting backlinks doesn’t help much either when they have a hundred backlinks to each one of mine… 🙁

  127. Hi Brian,
    You’ve put really an amazing and detailed guide as always.
    I am gonna implement what you told especially catchy title and description tag to increase my CTR.
    But, I have a question for you. Is ‘hub and spoke model’ in writing still works or not?

  128. Great post, again! I really enjoy reading your articles. It helps me understand SEO better and your tips are always practical and produce real result!

    Using your tips, I’ve managed to bring some of my page to page one. Thank you so much!

    1. Wade, good call there. I didn’t get into that here (ran outta room). But you’re right: if your result is the last click, that’s a great sign that your the best result for that keyword.

  129. Hey Brian!

    I’m super impressed with this EPIC guide. It’s super insightful and it really teaches well what we all (blog and website owners) need to know.

    Google plays a huge part in the organic traffic growth of a blog, and SEO is an important subject for every blogger. This is the first time I’m learning about Rank Brain.

    Your epic post here is much appreciated!

    Best regards! 😀

  130. Awesome article… I was looking for such kind of info. And a doubt popped up while I was reading the long-tail keyword section. As there are more voice searches nowadays, don’t we need to focus on long-tail keywords? Thanks for your article.

    1. Good question. Voice searches definitely can=longer searches. The point is more that you don’t need to create a page for every single long tail.

  131. Hi Brian,
    Thanks for the awesome content.
    I am in office. And it took almost 1 hour to complete your post through my different tasks.
    And i am satisfied.
    I Will follow your tips obviously. And Rankbrain gonna my top important list for SEO.
    And to improve CTR i will focus on LSI and long post as well.
    Thanks for the awesome post. Cheers!!

  132. I read many articles about AI based search and machine to machine searching concept but I understood more in details only with your example and case study how you have explained here and provided with detailed examples. I may need to read again with my team and do some tweak with mid-tail keywords what you have explained. I appreciated your time for bringing this information in front of us. Thank you very much

  133. Hey Brian,

    Thanks for yet another amazing piece of a guide. Whenever I received a mail from you, I know that you have come up with something which gonna help me out & guess what? – YOU have. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  134. Outstanding man 🙂 This man really knows how things move in SERPs BTW this Guide is solely for “link Reators” not for noobs lol

  135. Great great content on new SEO technologies, i have learned a lot from you, Brian! Thank you very much to share so excellent articles. Did you updated your STW courses? I’m ready to buy it.

  136. I am having some issues with my organic rankings as they dropped from 2nd position to 4th. I will definitely take these into consideration and share my results too.

  137. What an awesome epic article!
    Learned a lot. You content quality & structure always amazes me!
    Thanks Brian for giving quality values time by time.

    Few Questions.
    If I give dofollow outbound link, will that decrease my that pages link juice? Should I make it nofollow?
    How many dofollow outbound link should I give from one post at most?

    1. Good question. I’d link out to sites that make sense for the article. As long as you have less than dofollow OBLs, you’re good

  138. Hello Brian,

    Agree, Quality Content and keyword plays a great role in increase user engagement and site performance in Search Engines.

    I have some doubt, how new websites will manage to get visible that has no data (CTR, bounce rate)?

    Truly insightful. Totally worth reading each word.

  139. Really awesome man! You’re the best. Now I am clear to Google RankBrain EVEN got a pro TIP that I NEVER know was LSI keywords importance and overview: Now, of course, you’ve cleared it and it really needs to be added for SEO in 2018 with RankBrain 🙂

    Thank you so much for all your efforts for us!

  140. You seriously do have the best stuff in the biz Brian. Rich rich content. Each line is concise and each topic is crystal clear. Keep up the amazing work! And thank you so much.

    1. You’re welcome, Joseph. I put a lot of work into every line so I’m glad to hear that you notice the work that goes into a guide like this 🙂

  141. As always, you made it this time also. This one is very useful specially the tool you mentioned for Natural Language Understanding. Thanks Brian for sharing your knowledge.

  142. Hey Brian,
    Great Post As Usual
    This is a very interesting topic “Rank Brain”.
    I wanted to ask you something related to it.
    Is this an AI?
    If yes, will AI change the SEO scenario in future?
    And How will it effect us (SEO’s)?

    Regards

  143. I am very happy to be here. This is the best simplified article on Rank brain i have read over the months.

    But, i think this guide mainly benefits to blogs but didn’t get how to implement this on E-commerce website which have lots of dynamic pages.

    Can you provide one guide about how rank brain works in E-commerce industries with examples? It’s great for me.

    One more outside question – Are having tabs in webpage consider as a hidden text or not?

    Waiting for your valuable response.

  144. Thanks Brian for this amazing post. You put so much value and work to help all of u. Thank you so much!! God bless you…

  145. Hey Brian, i keep on learning lots of things from your each post and keep on applying on my blog to see the results… I am improving myself each day…. And all credit goes to you.. Thanks

  146. Awesome as always!…

    Like Watson is there any other tool in the market which tells how compelling is my article in eyes of google as compared to my competitor content when targeting the same keyword.

  147. Thanks Brian, you made my day. The best trick (I was not using yet) brackets. I will start implementing by today.

    Thanks for inspiring me to do good work.

  148. Hi Brian,

    I would like to thank you for this wonderful post. So helpful. You have mentioned great points to increase overall position for a particular site. I have also subscribed to your YouTube channel and see each of your videos. Again thanks for sharing your important thoughts and looking forward for more such articles.

    Thanks.

  149. Thank you for another great article 🙂
    Lots of good pointers and tips to try out.

    Keep making awesome content Brian !

  150. Brian, dude you are amazing. This is amazing content. This is exactly what every blogger/webmaster must do. Your contents are like artworks. I shared on my facebook wall and i rarely post something on my facebook. Thanks again.

  151. Definitely need to work on my titles and meta descriptions. Thanks so much for VERY valuable information, will most certainly bookmark this post to check any future posts against!