- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On November 18, 2015
You’ve probably heard of RankBrain, Google’s artificial intelligence system that helps process search results. Its reveal prompted more than a small number of Terminator jokes and inspired a lot of questions without nearly as many answers.
The basic facts of RankBrain are well known. We know that it’s part of Google’s Hummingbird search algorithm and that it helps process the roughly 450 million new search queries Google sees every single day. We also know that, somehow, it’s the “third-most important signal” determining where a given page ranks in search results.
Practically, RankBrain isn’t going to change much about how you do SEO, but the never-before-seen search queries it processes could be of particular relevance in the healthcare space.
Smarter results for brand new searches
According to Google, 15 percent of all searches have never been seen before. There’s no data breaking those searches down by industry, but it makes sense that that percentage would be highest in fields filled with complex language and other jargon—like healthcare.
77 percent of patients use search engines before making an appointment, and most of those people start with non-branded terms including conditions or diseases (49 percent), symptoms (35 percent), and treatments or procedures (6 percent). But patients don’t always know what diseases are called or how their symptoms are typically described. RankBrain will help Google understand the queries they type in everyday language—or attempt to type in unfamiliar medical terms—and deliver results that make sense.
Better processing of long tail keywords
Another way that RankBrain will help patients find answers is with long tail keywords—those strings containing several different keywords that can each mean one thing on their own but another when taken together. These kinds of keywords are especially common with voice searches, an area that’s growing rapidly thanks to smartphones.
When typing, many people strip out unnecessary language as they think about the keywords they want to find, but when searching with their voices, all those words are back in play. If they’re unable to use the terms that might be used to describe a condition on a hospital’s website, they might use unexpected words as they search or even start thinking out loud, making the search algorithm work harder to process their queries.
What’s a hospital marketer to do?
Is RankBrain going to dramatically affect your incoming traffic from search results or force you to adjust the way you do SEO? No. And no amount of keyword research will identify keywords that have never been used before.
But RankBrain is all about delivering better results to users, and for everyone who wants to be found, that means publishing better content. Good content, not good enough content. Content that answers patients’ questions in language they understand, not medical jargon. Content that helps them feel like they’re in control of their health. Search algorithms are getting smarter, and marketers need to publish smarter content to keep up.
Read more about publishing better content and getting found in search results in our free ebook,13 Imperatives for Hospital Marketers from 13 Top Experts.