Google has announced that for the last few months a percentage of the queries entered into its search engine have been interpreted by artificial intelligence rather than human engineers. The system is called RankBrain and has been designed to effectively filter results to show the most relevant ones. In tests the AI outperformed human engineers in showing which pages would rank the highest for unique queries, getting it right 80% of the time against 70% success.
RankBrain uses artificial intelligence to embed written language into mathematical entities (called vectors) it can understand. This means that it can decide what listings to show when searches are entered. It also gives the system the ability to show results when it receives a query it has never encountered. It does this by looking at words and phrases with a similar meaning and filtering results, effectively learning how to answer queries on its own. This makes it better equipped to handle unique searches than a human engineer writing code.
The RankBrain has already become an important signal that contributes to what results are shown when a search is entered. In order to keep it up to date new data needs to be entered occasionally, including slang terms so the system can understand what is being searched for and data to help with reasoning.
Google is one of the leading investors in AI technology and the decision to trust RankBrain with its search engine shows just how much faith they have in it. The results of the tests are positive and users tend to agree, finding that their search results are damaged if they turn the feature off. The performance means you can expect AI to appear more frequently in the future with Google products.
The introduction of RankBrain is a good thing for search users. Marketers may be concerned about the impact it will have on their SEO strategies but those doing the right things don’t need to worry about getting penalised. Well designed pages that load quickly and display good content will still be rewarded. In the future people with incoreect SEO practises could be penalised by the system as it will look for the most relevant pages.