In 2015, Google announced RankBrain. This was a step into artificial intelligence and machine learning. It studies all of the hundreds of millions of search engine results that people select in response to their queries to learn what sites people think best answer the questions behind those queries. And it can learn from rarely asked questions and long tail queries to generate results that are ever more effective. Google’s RankBrain uses this information to evaluate the quality of content, based on the criteria RankBrain generates as it learns from user questions and the content they select to answer them.

How Does This Affect Your SEO Efforts?

How does Google’s use of AI affect search engine optimization? Click on My Site to Boost It Doesn’t Help Like It Did Unless you set up a campaign for thousands of people to enter long tail search criteria that your site is tailored to and click on your site, RankBrain is effectively immune to page rank improvement campaigns. Those prior efforts involved people searching on a key search term and selecting your site in order to bolster its rankings. This still has some effect, but not as much as it used to.

Quality Content Matters More

Google’s AI is learning what quality content, and as it does, the importance of quality content matters much more. And content that matches user intent grows in importance relative to keyword relevance. For example, the January 2016 algorithm changes to focus on quality content shifted search engine top spots from content that ranked high with brand keywords to sites that are actually affiliated with that brand. For example, company X ranks higher than the site that mentions company X over and over again.

Your Content Must Be Your Own – and Google Knows When It Isn’t

One problem many websites face is that they cannot rely on sharing others’ quality content and rank well in Google’s search results. I’m not referring to duplicate content in this case. Instead, Google’s AI is able to recognize and penalize aggregate content, and it is severely punished with the Panda algorithm change. You can use content from others to enrich your site by partially displaying it, but you can’t build a high ranking site by aggregating all of the industry news on your site and hope to build your search engine rankings.

Intent Wins Over Content

The AI learning human behavior and puzzling out their intent has led to many shifts in SEO results. Many educational websites win as AI improves its ability to link search results to intent. If someone’s query suggests they want to practice multiplication tables, it takes them to an online education game to improve those skills. If someone’s query suggests they need a service performed, it takes them to a list of local service providers. You can check how your site fares with the algorithm shift. Content that answers the user’s intended question certainly scores well in this scenario. Likewise, content that immediately answers the question or gives step by step instructions with pictures scores better. Quality long form content that goes in depth usually wins, but too long content that drives away users in search of a short and sweet answer hurts you. So balance the length of your content with the type of answer people want given the question they are implying with their search.

Age Matters – But Not As It Did

Domain age has changed, and the Google algorithm no longer gives preference to older websites unless the new site is totally brand new. It has learned not to assign you a higher ranking because your site is six months older than the competition’s. What does hurt you in the AI driven algorithms is classic content that is old, because Google assumes these older content pieces are not as valuable. Updating the content, even if it is evergreen, can help you in this matter. Perform the changes in conjunction with tailoring the content to answer context sensitive queries to make the most of the effort. This is one of the benefits of the rollout of HTML5 and CSS. It forces you to upgrade your site to mobile ready HTML pages and Javascript code, gives you a reason to update all the pages and delete those that can’t be updated to modern SEO standards and forces you to review tags and webpage titles often overlooked when there is a push to simply put out new search engine optimized content.

Deeper Analysis of Link Building

Google has gained the capacity to study where all of the links to your site come from, compare the quality of those sites to yours and how many links there are from your site to others. Your site gains more from a few links on high authority sites than it does to links scattered all over the web. It benefits more from links that others choose to share via social media than link spam. In short, earn your links with quality content others share than pushing the link out to those who aren’t interested and don’t click on it.

App Indexing

Google has stated that it is working on App Indexing to re-engage app users with Google search. The apps will bring Google’s AI to their smart phone, doing things like finishing user’s sentences. It brings up content related to the auto-completed question. This makes mobile ready websites search engine optimized for mobile users, especially location based SEO and GPS coordinate information in maps, ideally suited to exploiting this functionality. As of 2016, App Indexing was only available for Android and the iOS 9, but that is the vast majority of the market. And why should you look at building app indexing into any apps related to your business? Because Google punishes any search fields on your own website, while rewarding you for encouraging them to search through your app with Google’s search engine, even if it is of your own content.

Google Panda Is Core – and Happening Faster

The Panda update to Google became a core function by early 2016, a permanent addition to the algorithm. As Moore’s Law of doubling computing capacity every 18 months has led to far faster computing, Google has as dramatically boost its analytic abilities. The AI learning what quality content is (and isn’t) is one significant change to Google’s algorithm. The evolution of its AI on ever faster platforms means the quality content reviews are coming faster when you make an update, new content is ranked sooner, and older pages are getting reviewed more regularly.