When Google introduced RankBrain as its third most important ranking signal, it caught many people off guard. It also frightened many SEO providers who were afraid they might have to completely overhaul their approach to optimization. And in many cases, they were right.
Anyone who approached SEO from a perspective of trying to play off algorithms or guess how to best game the system is in trouble, because the system is no longer one with which we can keep up. RankBrain processes too much data too quickly for tricks to work. As artificial intelligence gains and increases its foothold in Search Engine Rankings, SEO webmasters will need to replace gamesmanship with quality. And some tactics that once yielded some dividends will no longer accomplish much.
Keyword Play Will Have Less Effect
Google and Bing have long been cracking down on the practice of keyword stuffing, so at first glance this one is not a huge deal. But RankBrain goes further. SEO writers have still focused on figuring out the right percentage for a keyword phrase to occur, and have still focused on ranking high for the right keyword search phrases. This will still have some impact, but as AI increases in importance, it will have less. Search results are moving more toward what the person searching wants to find, rather than the phrasing with which that search is created.
To some extent, of course, these ideas are related. Search queries reflect intent, and word choices matter. But Google has become better at using different ways of phrasing the same concept to reach results that relate more to the concept and less to the specific words—or word order—employed. Searches for Obama’s wife are returning results for Michelle Obama before they return searches about Barack Obama, for example. The concept is the key, and keywords more than ever are just ways to get you toward that concept.
Again, keywords have not ceased to matter, but they need to be selected and employed from the perspective of the searcher, rather than the site. Your writing should drive toward the ideas and thoughts that truly represent what you and your site are about, because that is how people genuinely interested in what you have to provide will find you.
Quantity Is Less than Quality for Backlinks
Backlinks, similarly, have long been a focus for Google’s algorithm. Both the number of backlinks and the quality of those links, measured in terms of both relevance to your site and reliability in the industry space you occupy, impact your page rankings. Get quality backlinks, and your rankings will increase. Try to shove thousands of junk links through, and you will be punished.
So what is different now? In short, the processing power of RankBrain and other AI tools under development dwarfs what was previously available. Smart webmasters looking for shortcuts could plant backlinks in different places and weave a complex web that created the appearance of legitimacy for sites. Now, though, AI gives search engines greater ability than ever to untangle the web. The complex shortcuts to success that were still working before no longer get the job done.
Instead, backlinks need to come from where they always should have come: hard, honest work and networking. Instead of finding links, the best SEO webmasters will find partnerships and allies. Earning backlinks from people you truly respect will earn greater rewards that endure.Buying links that do not relate to your site and do not come from sources you would yourself trust moves you in precisely the wrong direction.
Writing to the System Is Futile
In every field, some people have always tried to figure out the systems and patterns involved so they can beat the system. This kind of analysis has served SEO webmasters well for a long time.Every time an algorithm gets tweaked, setbacks occur. But smart people have responded to those setbacks by stepping back, analyzing the new landscape, and finding the new patterns that set them up for success. This is an approach that leads to positive results in almost every field, and webmasters and site owners cannot be faulted for trying to make it work here.
With artificial intelligence, though, the rules are set to change in much bigger ways. Moving from understanding the right percentage of keyword placement to understanding that keywords do not matter in the ways that they once did represents a monumental shift in thinking. In some ways, it means the rules are much more complex; the number of calculations and analytic decisions that AI makes in an hour dwarfs what a team of people could make in a month. It is simply too much to try to track, analyze, and keep up with, no matter how smart you are.
On the other hand, the proper response to AI in search engine analysis is deceptively simple: be better. Most of us know someone from our high school or college days who put inordinate efforts into finding a way not to do work. They would spend hours analyzing, calculating, daydreaming, and testing ideas, hours that far exceeded what would have been required to just do the expected work or study for the test at hand. Efforts to game the SEO system have become similarly ridiculous in recent years, and now have reached the point of almost complete futility. Rather than trying to learn a vast array of changing data points and vector analyses, the answer is to write what people want to read.
There remains an important place in Online Marketing for SEO web writing and design in a world of artificial intelligence. The skills required, though, come through understanding the customers and industry in which a site owner operates, and then creating an online experience that those customers want when seeking information. Search engines have reached the point of being able to connect people better than ever to the content they want. Great SEO work, then, comes down just to that: give them what they want. Managing the data of short-tail and long-tail keywords can be challenging at scale. Use a tool like Linko to keep various keywords organized.