Optimising for RankBrain: Tips For Singapore SEO

Singapore business owners should take RankBrain into consideration when planning their SEO strategy.

In 2015 Google released what is now considered to be it’s top ranking factor, RankBrain. And ever since then, SEO experts have been paying close attention to it’s every move. So it’s no surprise that Singapore website owners are wondering about the best ways to optimise their site for it.


Here’s the thing, RankBrain is nothing like mobile-friendliness or links. You can’t optimise for it. It’s an algorithm that is deep learning and it creates its own rules. In fact, it’s said that even Google’s engineers aren’t entirely sure how it works exactly. So this leads us back to the same advice that has been offered for the past few years, “you need to provide valuable content.” You can also make a few changes in the way you think about your content. Let’s discuss a few SEO Tips.


1. Create awesome snippets


There is a good chance that RankBrain’s Relevance Score is identical to your Adwords’ Quality Score. Just as is the case with RankBrain, Adwords doesn’t need external signals in order to rank your ads for how relevant they are. This means that your goal should not be to beat out your competitors with longer content, more links, better social metrics, costly keywords, it should be to have a higher click-through rate than theirs.


But what if your click-through rates are extremely low? The answer is simple, you need to focus on creating better snippets for the SERPs. You need to ensure that your meta descriptions and titles reflect what the user needs. Your snippets need to compel people to click. Make sure that your URLs are very simple so that it is pleasing to both the user and Google. You should also do your best to get your snippets featured.


2. Follow the leader


If you truly want to get the most out of your SEO marketing and get into RankBrain’s head, then you will duplicate what the pros are doing. More specifically, you will model both your site and content after the websites that Google consider to be experts or thought leaders. For example, in the soft drink industry, Google knows that a website like Coca-Cola is reputable.


This is one that they would prefer to have at the top of their search results. So any other soft drink website that is structured like Coca-Cola will be viewed favourably. In the same way, any website that looks like a low quality soft drink’s website is bound to seem spammy. Keep in mind that if your website covers a large variety of topics then it will likely be viewed as spam because RankBrain can’t figure out who you are and who is looking for you.


3. Rethink your keywords


Of all of the elements that have experienced the most change over the years, keywords have probably experienced the most. And with the addition of RankBrain, it is even more important that Singapore businesses pay attention to their keywords and how they use them. Not only that, but you should change the way you view your keywords entirely.


You should stop creating your pages and content that is centered around one keyword or phrase. In order to get the most out of your digital marketing, you have to use variations of your keywords. You also need to use words that commonly appear within the same context as the targeted keywords.


At this point, it’s not about the keywords you use, rather it’s about concepts. So when doing your keyword research you need to gather and group them into clusters. By doing this, you will be able to come up with a search phrase that you can target. And when done correctly, this phrase will represent hundreds of keywords that are similar.  


4. Write in conversational tones


Sure, you need to take optimisation into account, but you should never forget that you are ultimately writing for real-life people, not RankBrain. The bulk of your attention to go towards offering a quality user experience, analysing user behaviour and then making changes based on that behaviour. In order to gain favour with the algorithms, you must first gain favour with people.


So how do you gain the favour of people? Simple–you create content that comes across as human. Writing like a machine will only confuse RankBrain and ultimately hurt your ranking. Don’t just write content, read it aloud to find out if it sounds natural and conversational. Get the opinions of others. Is this language that is used in everyday conversation? If it is then the content is officially ready for RankBrain. If it’s not then you may need to create another draft.


Just keep in mind that although your approach needs to be human, you can always benefit from replicating the process of a machine. This means that even though your content should focus on pleasing the user, you should always be aware of good UX design and SEO. In the best case scenario, there would be a balance between the two: understand RankBrain, but always do what is best for the user.


5. Determine your ranking priorities


When it comes to ranking factors, many Singapore business owners don’t realise that there is no longer one set anymore. One size does not fit all. In fact, ranking factors tend to be weighed differently based on what industry is involved, the user intent as so much more. All queries are treated differently.


Depending on your industry you may need a lot of fresh content. Or perhaps you need content that is very in-depth. Maybe you need a lot of user engagement, maybe not. In certain instances, you will need to provide a lot of links and have anchor text and in others, you won’t. So as you can see, it’s impossible to optimise for RankBrain, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. However, you can optimise your page with it in mind.

What Should be Your Priority

This means you need to spend more time monitoring the search engine results.  Besides Googling keywords to find out if they will be good for your next digital marketing campaign, you should also consider whether or not the top ranking pages are fresh. If they are from years ago, then RankBrain may rank new content over the old.

Consider whether or not the top rankings have a ton of links and linking domains. In some cases, RankBrain could be prioritising both authority and backlinks. Finally, not only should you find which keywords are the most popular but you should pay attention to placement. Do these words show up in every meta or title?




Most experts can agree that RankBrain is making Google more intelligent by the day. And they also agree that it is not the same as a keyword or link, so it can’t be optimised. However, it is a fundamental cog in Google’s wheel, so it’s worth exploring its ins and outs.


If it seems that RankBrain is doing more harm than good to your website, then you need to take a serious look at your content. Is it helpful? Does it appear to be engaging your audience? Does it target more than one keyword? You can also look at the pages that are performing well. This can help to give you insight into what you need to do with those that are not.

About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.


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