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AI and Google – An SEO Guide

Google includes within its fundamental missions ‘bringing the benefits of AI to everyone’, marketers saw the launch of Google RankBrain back in 2015, plus machine learning and intelligent algorithms are a necessity in the world of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

But what does AI mean for SEO in 2018 and beyond?

This is what I will explore in detail and look to answer this post.

Bringing the benefits of AI to everyone

First, let’s clarify what is meant by Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the ability of a computer controlled bot (robot) or a digital computer to complete tasks typically associated with needing human / intelligent being involvement. In effect, AI is the simulation of intelligence within an artificial/computer environment.

Common characteristics and features of AI include:

What does Google have to do with AI?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is what enables Google to function at a pace, accuracy, and understanding inaccessible by any other means, and Google aspire to bring AI to everyone!

In a quote from GoogleAI

“Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful, and AI is enabling us to do that in incredible new ways – solving problems for our users, our customers, and the world.

AI makes it easier for you to do things every day, whether it’s searching for photos of people you love, breaking down language barriers, or helping you get things done with your own personal digital assistant. But it’s also providing us with new ways of looking at old problems and helping transform how we work and live, and we think the biggest impact will come when everyone can access it.”

Google RankBrain and SEO

In October 2015 Google, AI and the SEO world were formally introduced. Google has built its search empire on intelligent algorithms and AI was always going to be a natural path for the data and information giant.

For digital marketers and marketing experts, some of the core questions surrounding RankBrain included:

So let’s answer some of these questions…

What is RankBrain?

RankBrain is a form of Artificial intelligence which processes a large proportion of Google search queries, building on the previous core search platform update – Hummingbird. Like Hummingbird before it, RankBrain was created to interpret the intent and meaning behind user search queries and provide the most relevant results based on that contextualization.

In a previous post I created on RankBrain, soon after its inception, I commented that:

“RankBrain has a core function of effectively answering new search queries and understanding what results should appear for topics with limited, if any, historical data to base relevancy and therefore ranking on.”

What impact will RankBrain have on SEO?

When you consider the main characteristics of RankBrain (examples below), ironically AI actually wants very humanistic signals to effectively work with.

RainkBrain features include:

To rank well with RankBrain in mind, you need to put your audience (real people) first.

Content needs to be created that is valuable to your niche, reflects your expertise, trust, and authority within the industry, and ideally, have a unique stance and clear purpose for being (outside of content for SEO).

Technically content should be marked up with schema (where appropriate), quick to access, readable by search engines, and perform on all devices and locations.

External trust (links, mentions) matter. These help RankBrain assess authority with limited data to go on.

When you think holistically about your website John Mueller put it well when he Tweeted:

Here is a guide I wrote on creating content with RankBrain in mind which I hope will also help with your practical next steps.

A new era of SEO and AI

The impact of Artificial Intelligence for search engine optimization goes much further than ticking the right boxes for RankBrain. AI, machine learning, intelligent algorithms and Google are a much bigger opportunity than this.

AI and machine learning empower digital marketing teams to:

Practical examples of AI in the travel sector

To help contextualize some of the varied approaches and applications of AI to SEO and the wider marketing industry, here are some tips, insights, and snippets from a recent blog post the company I work for (Vertical Leap) created discussing AI in the travel industry.


In this post, we have helped demystify Google and AI, explored RankBrain, and provided some practical insights into the approaches SEO agencies and experts can take by working with AI, machine learning, and intelligent algorithms.

Ultimately AI, Google, and SEO always come back to a few core factors, and the user remains paramount.

If you are creating an approach to SEO that reflects your audience needs, matches your expertise areas, and works with data to provide a comprehensive and thorough approach to delivering SEO (on a scale insurmountable without effective human/computer collaboration), then you are likely to be on the right track.

I’ve been leading digital marketing teams since the early 2000’s, and headed up the SEO department for a top 10 leading search and digital agency (VerticalLeap) from 2010 to present. In 2016, I had my first solely authored industry book published (Tactical SEO – the theory and practice of search marketing).

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