In October of 2015, Bloomberg broke the news that Google was using artificial intelligence called Rankbrain to interpret users queries in Google search. Whereas before search results were delivered according to over 100+ signals designed by Google's own engineers, Rankbrain was deployed to learn and interpret the user's queries in a way that is closer to a real person. As a result, Google can process nearly 15% of its search queries that are ambiguous or that its algorithm has never seen before.
Rankbrain allows to filter out results to deliver a SERP pages that are highly relevant to the user's questions and take signals such as context and intent into account.
For example, if a user google's “How many tablespoons in a cup?” RankBrain will favor different results in Australia versus the United States for that query because the measurements in each country are different, despite the similar names.
How Does Rankbrain Affect Your SEO?
First off, Rankbrain looks at the overall query (let's use plain English and call it a question) not just the keywords to understand what kind of answer the user is seeking. In other words, RankBrain can interpret whether a searcher who uses the word “consumer” means someone who purchases goods or someone who consumes food.
Think about how you use Google to search. Do you type in just one keyword when you are looking to solve a problem? If you think it's time to redesign your website, do you just type in "website"?
No, you type in things like, "how to redesign for mobile," "how much does it cost to redesign a website for mobile" or "tips to redesign a site for mobile."
Also, you expect your search results to speak to your question specifically. If you googled "how to redesign a website for mobile." you would expect to get results that specifically talk about designing websites for mobile, not a series of results talking about the cost of a website.
Why focus on search queries if I can just focus on longtail keywords?
Rankbrain is only going to grow in importance as it continues to learn. Google will continue to rank sites based on how people interact with them and let's face it, good content with good links are the basics of what most users are looking for. In other words: what the user wants, Google wants.
Stop thinking of SEO as a game where you have to beat the bot. Create content for your perfect customer in a conversational tone. Leverage detailed, high-quality content to incorporate multiple phrases and words in a conversational way, and you’ll begin seeing better SEO results.