CHAPTER 1: RankBrain & User Experience Signals
“In the few months it has been deployed, RankBrain has become the third-most important signal contributing to the result of a search query.”
And as Google refines its algorithm, RankBrain is going to become even MORE important in 2018.
The question is:
What is RankBrain, exactly? And how can you optimize for it?
Google RankBrain: a Dead-Simple Explanation
RankBrain is a machine learning system that helps Google sort their search results.
That might sound complicated, but it isn’t.
RankBrain simply measures how users interact with the search results…
…and ranks them accordingly.
For example, let’s say you search for “cold brew coffee” on Google.
The #4 result looks especially enticing. So you quickly click on it.
And when you get there…wow! It’s the best darn article about coffee you’ve ever read. So you devour every word.
RankBrain is going to take note…and likely give that #4 result a rankings boost.
On the other hand, let’s say that you do the same search. But this time, you click on the #1 result without even looking.
But the content is TERRIBLE. So you bounce off the page after a few seconds. And you click on the #4 result to find something about coffee that’s actually worth reading.
RankBrain will also notice this. And if enough people quickly bounce from that result, Google will boot it from the #1 spot.
As you can see, RankBrain focuses on two things:
1. How long someone spends on your page (Dwell Time)
2. The percentage of people that click on your result (Click Through Rate)
Let’s break each of these down.
RankBrain and Dwell Time
Dwell Time=how long a Google searcher spends on your page.
As it turns out, RankBrain pays A LOT of attention to Dwell Time.
In fact, the head of Google Brain in Canada recently confirmed that Google uses Dwell Time as a ranking signal. He stated that RankBrain measures when:
“someone clicks on a page and stays on that page when they go back”
If you’ve spent any time digging through your Google Analytics, you know that a 3+ minute Dwell Time is legit.
And it’s no coincidence that pages with awesome Dwell Time tend to rank best. In fact, RankBrain is up ranking these pages for that exact reason.
This makes sense if you think about it:
If you spend a long time on a page, you probably like the content on that page.
And if enough people feel the same way, Google will uprank that content to make it easier to find.
If you want to improve your site’s Dwell Time, check out this video:
RankBrain and Organic Click Through Rate (CTR)
Google Engineer Paul Haahr caused a stir in the SEO world when he put up this slide at a conference:
This slide basically says:
“RankBrain sometimes ranks pages higher up than they “should” rank.
And if that page gets an above-average CTR, we use that as a sign that the page should get permanent rankings boost.”
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, if no one clicks on your result, why would Google keep it on the first page?
And if your site is getting clicked on like there’s no tomorrow, why would Google keep it buried in the #9 spot?
If you want a few simple strategies that you can use to boost CTR, check out this infographic that I recently made with Larry Kim.
(Click Here for Full Image)
Speaking of click-through rate…
CHAPTER 2: Become a CTR Jedi
Yes, because of RankBrain.
But also because of:
And most deadly of all:
In fact, one industry study found that organic CTR is down 37% since 2015.
It’s no secret why: Google is crowding out the organic search results with Answer Boxes, Ads, Carousels, “People also ask” sections, and more.
And to stand out, your result needs to scream “click on me!”…or else it’ll be ignored.
This video will help you boost your CTR using what I call “The Click Magnet Method”:
CHAPTER 3: Comprehensive, In-Depth
In other words, they focused 100% on your page’s content. So the Google spider would visit your page to check if your keyword appeared in your:
- Title tag
- Image ALT text
- Description tag
- H1 tag
To be fair, they still look at that stuff. But today’s Google is MUCH smarter than it used to be.
So instead of only measuring content, they now focus on context.
What do I mean?
Remember: Google’s #1 job is to show their user the BEST result. And in most cases, the “best” result isn’t a piece of keyword-stuffed content.
Instead, the best pages cover an entire topic in-depth.
With in-depth content, a Google searcher gets everything they need in one place (one stop shopping).
In fact, my recent ranking factors study found that in-depth content tends to rank best in Google.
How To Write Comprehensive, In-Depth contents
: how can you write the type of in-depth content that Google wants to see?First, publish content that’s at least 2,000 words. That way, you can cover everything a Google searcher needs to know about that topic.In fact, our ranking factors study found that longer content (like ultimate guides and long-form blog posts) outranked short articles in Google:
Add LSI Keywords to Your Content
Once you’ve put the finishing touches on your 2,000-word monster, add LSI keywords to it.
LSI keywords are words and phrases that are strongly associated with your page’s topic.
For example, let’s say that you just published an article about The Paleo Diet.
LSI keywords would be terms like:
- Weight loss
And when Google sees these LSI keywords on your page, they think: “Awesome! This page obviously covers this topic really well.”
How do you find LSI keywords? Here are three simple ways to find ‘em:
First, use a nifty free tool called LSI Graph.
Just enter your target keyword into the tool, and it’ll show you a bunch of LSI keywords that are associated with that term:
Add any of these that make sense to your content.
Second, use good ol’ Google. Just search for your target keyword. Then check out the “Searches related to…” section at the bottom of the search results.
The words in bold here are LSI keywords.
Finally, you can hack the Google Keyword Planner for LSI keyword ideas. Here’s how:
Pop your keyword into the Google Keyword Planner. And click “Get Ideas”.
Then, scan the results. Many of these are LSI keywords.
Just like the other strategies I showed you, sprinkle LSI keywords from the Google Keyword Planner into your content.
CHAPTER 4: Get Ready for Google’s Mobile-first Index
In other words, Google will consider the mobile version of your site the “real” version. And this will be the case even if someone searches from a desktop.
This move makes sense. Today, 60% of Google searches are from a mobile device. And that’s only going to grow in the future.
Even though Google’s Mobile-first index isn’t live yet, it’s coming any day now. That’s why I recommend prepping for it now.
How to Prepare for Google’s Mobile-First Index: 3 Simple Steps
1 Make Your Content Consistent Across Desktop and Mobile
You know how sometimes people hide content on the mobile version of their page?
Here’s an example:
Well, that’s going to be a BIG problem when Google unveils their mobile-first algo.
Once Google goes mobile-first they’re going to consider the mobile version of your page the “true” version. That hidden content is going to be 100% ignored by Big G.
That’s why you want to display 100% of the content from your desktop version to mobile folks too.
For example, when you visit this post on the Backlinko blog from an iPhone, you get the same amazing content that desktop users get 🙂
As you can see, there’s nothing hidden behind buttons, menus, or expandable sections.
2 Move From m. to Responsive Design
Do you have a mobile “M.” version of your site? Google recommends switching over to responsive design.
So do I.
3 Make Sure Your Site Kicks Butt On Mobile
I see lots of sites that technically work on a phone or tablet. But they’re a huge pain to actually use.
As I talked about in Chapter 1, RankBrain closely measures how Google users interact with your site.
And if peeps have a hard time using your site with their phone, they’re going to hit their “back” button without thinking twice.
How do you know if your site is legit mobile friendly?
I recommend checking out the nifty Mobile-Friendly Test tool from Google. Just enter a URL into it, and the tool will let you know if your site is mobile-friendly:
They’ll even hook you up with recommendations that you can use to up your mobile game.
CHAPTER 5:Go-All In With Video (Or Get
In fact, according to Cisco, online video will make up 80% of all online traffic by 2021.
And that may still not satiate the world’s demand for video.
Despite the fact that there are more videos out there than ever, HubSpot states that 43% of people want to see MORE video content.
If you’re not creating video content, you’re missing out. Here’s how to take advantage of video’s SEO benefits in 2018:
Tap Into YouTube
YouTube is already the world’s 2nd largest search engine.
And like any online video platform, it’s growing fast (The Huffington Post reports that the amount of time that people spend on YouTube is up 60% compared to last year).
In short, more and more people are searching for stuff on YouTube… and skipping Google altogether.
So if you want to get more traffic from SEO in 2018, I recommend creating and optimizing content specifically for YouTube.
It’s a search engine that’s too big to ignore.
The best part? Most marketers are too lazy to make videos. So it’s pretty easy to get your videos seen (assuming you know what you’re doing).
For example, my channel has fewer than 20 total videos. And those 20 videos generate over 100k views per month.
(And as you might expect, a good chunk of those viewers turn into website visitors, leads, and customers).
It gets better: when you publish SEO-optimized YouTube videos, you’ll own more Google real estate.
Why? Well, for starters: 55% of all Google search results contain at least one video.
(And almost all of those videos are from YouTube).
Here’s an example of what I mean:
And considering that Google owns YouTube, expect even MORE YouTube videos in the search results in 2018.
In fact, Google has started to blend YouTube results into Google Image search:
Embed Video Content Into Text-Based Blog Posts
If people want to see more video, why not give it to them?
That’s why I recommend embedding video content into your blog posts. In my experience, this can give you a serious dwell time boost.
Here’s an example of this in action: