Every year, Google makes hundreds of updates to its various algorithms; either to enhance the ranking software, penalize sites with erring backlinks and generally improve user search experience.
Some of these updates are announced ahead of time, while others fly under the radar- like an impromptu audit. Whichever it is, many sites usually end up with a weakened SEO ranking after a Google algorithm update. This leaves webmasters scurrying to make amends and reinstate their websites in the aftermath of the exercise.
The usual suspects are three major algorithms; Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird (although there are dozens more). As SEO-copy experts, we are already familiar with the functions and effects of these three, so we create content accordingly.
But in October 2015, a new sheriff came into town and changed the structure of Google’s ranking process as we knew it. That sheriff was Rankbrain.
What is Google RankBrain and how does it work?
Understandably, Google is ‘closeted’ when it comes to sharing the specifics of its search engine algorithms. Total disclosures in the past led to abuse of the system by unscrupulous webmasters. This filled the internet with low-quality content caused by:
- Link selling
- Text hiding
- Keyword stuffing
- Spammy backlinks
However, what we know about RankBrain is that it is a machine learning ranking program, also referred to as a Google “top ranking factor”. In fact, it is Google’s third most important ranking algorithm. This Artificial Intelligence system works with other relevant algorithms to enhance user’s search query.
It does this by using mathematical processes and a complex understanding of language semantics to study how and why people search, and use those answers for future search results. This makes it more advanced than most algorithms we are used to.
Another factor that sets RankBrain apart is that it updates itself. This means, without warning, you might notice significant changes to the ranking position of certain pages on your site. Even the most professional copywriters must always be at their SEO best. But there is nothing to worry about. If you maintain all the rules for writing quality content- and some, your site should be in good order.
How to write copy specifically for RankBrain
There is no doubt that good content is one of the most essential features of SEO in general, or that RankBrain is enhancing the value of quality content. Although it has been touted as one of Google’s most complex algorithms, the SEO community has had more than a year to understand its operations.
Here are some tips to guide your SEO copywriting for RankBrain:
Create powerful snippets
Ensure that you improve the organic click-through rate of your pages to increase the chances of success. This advice was recommended by Larry Kim, the founder and Chief Tech Officer of WordStream. This is because he believes RankBrain’s “Relevance Score” may be akin to AdWords’ “Quality Score.”
If your click-through rates are not that great, work on improving the snippets on Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Ensure the page titles and meta descriptions resonate with the searcher’s needs, and stand out from other results to lure the user. Also, streamline the URL to boost its value to users and Google web crawlers.
Google recognises certain site as authorities in their niche and automatically ranks them favourably. Therefor it is worth looking at these sites and mimicking their copy process. Please note that the emphasis is on “process”. Do not duplicate their copy, or you will fall foul of RankBrain, which is antithetical to the aim of this post.
In the financial webosphere, Google recognises sites like BankRate and Investopedia as authorities. It might be worth studying the structure of their site and modelling yours after them. For instance, keep your topics niche, because largely diverse topics confuse RankBrain for which audience needs them.
Reimagine the use of keywords (stop stuffing)
In the early days of SEO, when keywords were the “order of the day”, many sites were guilty of stuffing their posts with keywords to mislead web crawlers. This resulted in content that was written specifically for robots, not humans. The quality was poor and it made readability almost impossible. When Google got wind of it, the Panda algorithm was revamped.
Unfortunately, many sites today are guilty of the same practice. RankBrain works in a more sophisticated way, so it immediately detects the slightest hint of keyword stuffing. Try writing a semantic kernel of your targeted keywords, their variations and other related words.
Write in a conversational way
The danger of writing copy strictly with algorithms in mind is that it leads to incomprehensible content. Write first for your audience, then with some SEO consideration. The easiest way to do this is to write as you would talk to someone in a diner with you. Make it casual, conversational and clear. Avoid technical jargon because even those can sound ambiguous to bots.
Focus your attention on delivering a better user experience by analysing your audience behaviour and making corrections accordingly. Don’t worry if you don’t have that writing knack, you can contact professional copywriters with SEO skills. If people deem your content relevant, so will the algorithms.
Understand the primary ranking factors in your industry
The founder of Moz, Rand Fishkin has said there is no on-formula-fits-all when it comes to ranking factors. I couldn’t agree more. The whole SEO landscape has evolved and Google algorithms now target ranking based on niche industries. RankBrain seems to be doing exactly just that. According to Fishkin, it weighs various ranking factors based on industry, search intent, and so on, as suggested by the query.
This means that although we may not be able to optimise for RankBrain, we can still optimise our content with RankBrain in mind. Do more research for your SEO strategy; find out what signals or keyword group RankBrain prioritises in your industry.
Write content for a specific audience
RankBrain is designed to help Google retrieve more appropriate results, so your content should be tailored towards a specific audience. Remember, I said that websites with many diversified topics (like “How To” sites) are in danger of being unranked because RankBrain finds it difficult to determine which group of people search for them.
Keep your topics focused on a niche. If you serve the travel industry, ensure your content revolves around such topics as travel, adventure, flight, hotel accommodation and the like. This tells RankBrain to pull up your site for someone making “vacation” related queries.
Make your content more detailed and longform
Steve Baldwin (not the actor) of Didit.com says, RankBrain uses co-occurrence to serve users with the most relevant results. Co-occurrence is the number of times certain terms or related groups of words occur in a specific material.
So, if someone is searching for articles on “increasing conversion rate with CTA”, Google, in collaboration with RankBrain will produce results that contain related terms.
The best way to increase co-occurrence of your “keywords” and thus probability of a high search ranking is to write meaty, longform content. This ensures proper distribution and strategic placements of terms that matter. How long is long? Consider 2000 – 3,500 words and above.
Include references from white papers, case studies and authoritative website
RankBrain’s key objective is to refine search so that users can get subjects most relevant to their query. It therefore equips search engines with an advanced ability to read in between the lines. Google search engines, with help from RankBrain, can determine whether a user who types in “conversion” is searching for sales conversion or the transformation of something to a different state.
To make RankBrain work in your favour, do include references from sources with high-authority. For instance, if you are writing a case study for your animal park, quoting references from National Geographic will go a long way to boost its online visibility.
Use Longtail Keyword Phrases
If you have been scouting the web with a fine tooth-comb for single word keywords, you should stop. RankBrain has changed the game with its advanced understanding of language semantics. Instead of the usual tight knit keywords like “travel”, and “destination travel”, it identifies relevant terms as a group of related words.
Use longtail keyword phrases and be specific in your content. Avoid stuffing too because it doesn’t help. Consider an article for an article about Apple tech products. All it takes RankBrain is to recognise related words such as Apple Watch, iPhoneX, Tim Cook or a phrase like “The cost of an iPhone 8 in Deutschmarks”, to know that it should present it in an Apple query.
Optimise your web copy for schema markups
Let us assume that the keyword “professionalwebcopy” appears in your blogpost. The search engine does not recognise “professionalwebcopy” as a Rank Tracking Tool, but as a random word tossed into the blogpost.
However, if you surround the word with the appropriate schema markup, the search engine will identify it as a Rank Tracking Tool. Schema markup is available for the following:
The list goes on. One easy way to implement a schema markup is by tagging the HTML code directly on your web pages. This can be done with Google Tag Manager. It is free! Marketers can use it to update or add tags, even with rudimentary coding skills.
Optimise your content for voice search
Many marketers have been focused on text search for mobile and desktop, but have you considered what a voice-search optimised content would do for your search rankings? If you didn’t already know, voice search application is growing at a very fast pace. About 55% of teens and 41% of adults are using it every day.
With the production of more sophisticated smartphones, voice search will only increase in application. How do you optimise for voice search?
- Focus on long tail keywords (naturally)
- Optimise for microdata
- Write an FAQs page
If it sounds confusing, don’t worry, you can contact an SEO copywriting professional to voice-optimise your content.
Write edifying and intuitive content
Besides the technical aspects of crafting amazing content, keeping a focus on content that is properly researched and informative is vital to earning SEO and ranking recognition. Content that overcomes objections and triggers emotions in users are often perceived as valuable and deserving of high ranking search results.
The article should be thoughtfully written to interest the reader. For example, Ecommerce sites should consider writing FAQ pages that answer shoppers’ major concerns about delivery policy and other issues.
Write content that is error-free and easy to understand
RankBrain, like most Google algorithms, is sensitive to the quality of content on a web page. Content filled with grammatical mistakes and typos automatically loses its credibility. The bounce rate for such pages will be high, thus flagging it as below quality standard.
Ensure you proof read your content before publishing it live on your site. Some useful copywriting tools such as Grammarly® can help improve your content by suggesting better construction and highlighting mistakes.
Unique content is extremely important
How original is your content? From the point of view of quality page, duplicate content is an indicator of low-quality. Boilerplate text, that is, unsourced material with credibility concerns, is another sign of low quality. If your website is fraught with these practices, it will not be picked by RankBrain.
- If your page has duplicates elsewhere on the web, it is non-RankBrain compliant
- If you have online material with bogus claims, it is non-RankBrain compliant
- If you have questionable backlinks, it is a big no no.
Create mobile-optimised content
This may sound more like a design than copywriting tip, but it is also necessary. Since more search is now being performed on mobile, you want site visitors to get the best UX from your web page. Instead of writing text in large blocks, consider breaking them up in short readable paragraphs.
How is the font size? Hopefully, not too small that it is illegible. Consider bold titles and sub-headings. Other tips include:
- Scrolling from top-down, not left to right
- Use bullet points to emphasise points
- Place call to action buttons at the right position
- Make the site-design generally easy to look at.
Hire a professional today
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