Google RankBrain: The Definitive Guide

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:

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.

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.

906 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

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

      1. Mayur Chandpara Avatar Mayur Chandparasays:

        keep going with the good work… I don’t know when will I have 1000 people coming to my site per day… or its just in my dreams?

        1. tanveer hussain Avatar tanveer hussainsays:

          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 !

    1. 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. Brian,
      I agree with Joeri! I have been reading and watching your content for years. This is another one of your great masterpieces!

      Thanks for keeping us tuned in!

      1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

        You’re welcome, Joe. I try 🙂

  2. Amazing guide Brian. Your work is always on point. Thanks for taking the time to write this up.

    -Alex

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Alex. Glad you learned some new stuff from the guide.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Boom!

  3. Wow. Thanks a lot. Great and usefull information.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Pedro.

      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?

  4. Awesome stuff Brian. Very Informative Article. Great content and visually stunning 🙂

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Harish. I have to hand it to my team: they turned my Google Doc into a beautiful guide.

      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.

        1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

          Hey Shaun, I actually haven’t shared that process before.

  5. Once again, amazing post! I agree about a newsletter. That’s where I came from to read this.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Steven. Yup! A newsletter is an underrated SEO tool.

  6. Antonio Avatar Antoniosays:

    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!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      That’s how I roll Antonio 🙂

  7. 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?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Maanas 🙂

  8. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  9. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

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

  10. This is the first time I’m reading an article about Rankbrain, and its something i got all the possible informations within a few minutes.
    Thank you Brian

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Awesome!

    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.

  11. Brian, your articles are top-notch and so easy to read and understand. Keep up the great work.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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. Rafael Avatar Rafaelsays:

        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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

          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.

  12. Fo Rankbrain to work in your favours you need to have strong On Page SEO, And you have got all right Brian. Great Insights. Thanks

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Very true, Viren. You need traditional on-page SEO and new on-page factors (like Dwell Time).

  13. WOW! Brian, to say 100% quality is an understatment, this is 100% AWESOME. Great post, super insightful. Sharing instantly.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Dan. This was a beast to put together. But I thought the SEO community needed a go-to guide for RankBrain.

  14. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  15. Awesome content as always. Feel motivated to stop complaining and start DOING just right. Time to implement your tips at our sites asap. Thanks!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You can totally do it Guillermo!

  16. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

    1. 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.

  17. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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!

  18. Harrry Avatar Harrrysays:

    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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  19. I am going to improve my CTR and Dwell time, first. Then every detail n this post. awesome guide. It has changed the way I look at things. Thanks

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Nice!

  20. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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).

  21. Marcel Avatar Marcelsays:

    Hey Brian,

    Thanks for the top post. You got some great stuff covered!
    Keep it coming!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Marcel. More cool guides on the way.

  22. Heenay Avatar Heenaysays:

    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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

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

  23. Mark Avatar Marksays:

    Wow, Brian, what an epic post. Extremely well laid out and easy to read AND very informative.

    Thank you.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  24. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  25. As always awesome post, Brian.

    Google’s RankBrain and Maccabees updates will surely make a big change in 2018 in the SEO World.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Gaurav.

  26. This is such a massive dump of quality insights but so simply and beautifully explained. Lots to share, test and measure!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Paul. Yup, there’s A LOT here. But I did my best to make the key points easy to digest.

  27. I really liked the idea about creating and optimising content around medium tailed keywords. Let me try that and see what the result entails. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Sounds good. Let me know how it goes.

  28. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Tony. Great observation there. Headers are an underrated SEO strategy.

  29. Bobby P Avatar Bobby Psays:

    Always stop what I’m doing when a BL email comes through and read immediately – never disappointed.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Awesome Bobby! 🚀🚀🚀

  30. Thanks Dean, I will be keeping this one bookmarked so I can study it over and over again. I appreciate the quality work.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

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

  31. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Sounds good, Harshit. Keep me posted on how things go.

  32. Brian, another exceptional post! thank you for sharing your findings, I think this is the clearest explanation of how to optimise for Rank brain…

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  33. Love this Brian, thanks. Targetting medium tail keywords makes a lot of sense (as well as making our lives a little easier).

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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!).

  34. Thanks Brian,This post is really comprehensive really in-depth info. AS always you go beyond the call of duty with your super info

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

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

  35. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  36. Matt Avatar Mattsays:

    Nice post Brian. How is everything going man?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Matt. Life is good (in Key West atm) 🙂

  37. Arjan Avatar Arjansays:

    Great post! It’s understandable and complete. Thanks!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Arjan. That’s my goal with every guide 🙂

  38. joey Avatar joeysays:

    I notice you don’t talk about links or online pr, will this be covered in another guide or is not as important

  39. 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! 🙂

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Awesome, Kuldeep! Happy to have you as a subscriber.

  40. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

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

  41. 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.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Awesome, Barry! Best of luck with the new site.

  42. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  43. 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 🙂

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Good to hear from you, Loz. Very cool. Please keep me posted on what you learn in that course.

      Happy 2018!

  44. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  45. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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!

  46. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  47. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  48. 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.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Rufat. Glad you liked it.

  49. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *