When RankBrain was first officially announced in October 2015, it was only being used in 15 percent of queries. But in June of 2016, Google Senior Fellow Jeff Dean revealed that Google’s new machine learning artificial intelligence (AI) system is now being used in "every query."

RankBrain may still be a relatively new addition to Google’s algorithm, but its impact on search is growing steadily. As the third most important ranking signal for searches, it is vital that eCommerce retailers adapt their SEO strategy to RankBrain—or risk falling behind their competitors.


What Is RankBrain and How Does It Impact eCommerce Retailers?

First, let’s go over what RankBrain actually is. RankBrain is an artificial intelligence system that uses machine learning to process search results to provide web users with better answers to their search queries. It does this by analyzing language use across the web and relying on mathematical processes to deduce user intent, and then later applies these findings to future search results.

Basically, we now have a search engine that is no longer pre-programmed to find results based on a specific set of criteria. Instead, it is able to use additional search queries from web users to guess a user’s intent and only becomes better as time goes on. Rather than rely completely on backlinks and social media signals to produce search results that people want, RankBrain gives the user more influence on determining search results.


What It Means for eCommerce SEO

So, what does all this mean for your eCommerce SEO strategy? While the impact of RankBrain may not be as enormous as some previously predicted, it has had some effect on how many digital marketers approach SEO.

For starters, it means that eCommerce site owners can’t rely on a customer’s actions alone. Now, they must become adept at analyzing their customer’s intent. As RankBrain focuses more on user intent, online merchants will need to make sure that their websites reflect this type of search as well.

If you think about it, this is what search marketers should be doing anyway. Instead of falling back on tricky SEO tactics, online store owners need to really think about what their target audience wants and deliver the content they desire. Now that RankBrain is involved in most searches, SEO has become humanized, forcing eCommerce store owners to focus more heavily on the needs of their customers.


Best Ways to Optimize Your eCommerce SEO Strategy for RankBrain

Google announced that RankBrain is the third most important ranking signal—just below content and links, as Google’s Andrey Lipattsev revealed in a Q&A in March. This is important for eCommerce retailers to keep in mind as they tailor their SEO strategy to adapt to this latest Google update.

Here are some suggestions for how you might alter your eCommerce SEO tactics to optimize for RankBrain:

Create Content That Sounds Conversational

In a post-RankBrain era, writing quality content for your eCommerce site that sounds natural is key. As RankBrain becomes better at deciphering what people mean in their searches, users will search for answers using natural language. Before, a user had to think about how to phrase their query in order to achieve the best result. Thus, creating content that sounds natural will have a greater chance at capturing conversational searches.

Rethink Your Keyword Strategy

A long time ago, stuffing keywords into your content was an effective way to manipulate your rankings in search engines. While this practice became obsolete, the importance of keyword research remained.

With RankBrain’s ability to connect similar keywords and phrases, SEOs will no longer focus on a single keyword or phrase in their content. Now, it is critical to find multiple keyword phrases for a single page on your site and see what phrases Google generates when that main phrase is searched. Your goal is to then build content around all of these phrases—not just the one main phrase.

Look at Your CTR and Bounce Rate

While it isn’t certain, there is substantial evidence which indicates that RankBrain increases the rankings of pages that have higher organic CTRs and fewer bounce rates. Because of this, eCommerce owners need to be paying extra attention to how their users engage with their site. Online merchants with a Magento site can benefit by using the official Optimizely extension to track engagement, clicks, conversions, and many other metrics that can help them keep visitors on their website.

Don’t Forget Your Off-Page Strategy

To fully optimize for RankBrain, you shouldn’t be thinking only about your on-page strategy. As mentioned, there are two ranking signals above RankBrain—one of which is links. Getting high-quality backlinks through high-quality content is critical to your eCommerce SEO success. While this isn’t new, it is possibly more important with the addition of RankBrain to the Hummingbird update.

As RankBrain continues to learn, it will get better at finding the content that is being frequently linked to by web users. There will be no shortcuts to take in your link building strategy with this new update, so it is important that you stick to producing content that is easily linkable so that your page rankings will get a boost.


Conclusion

If you want to bring that precious organic traffic to your website, optimizing for RankBrain is a must. Even if Google’s algorithm update doesn’t make the enormous impact that some SEO experts predicted, the changes that you make to your eCommerce SEO strategy won’t go to waste. By creating pages and content that focus more on the searcher’s intent rather than their actual search, you will automatically boost your rankings in search results and gain high-quality traffic to your eCommerce store.