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Nicole Wilson
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Meet the A.I. now Processing Searches: RankBrain

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For some, Wednesday may pose a midweek hurdle, but for dedicated experts at the forefront of the digital world, it’s just another day.

In this post we’ll be exploring some exciting news that caught our attention over the weekend, and that will no doubt continue to develop as the week progresses. It’s developments like these that inspire us to continue striving forward, no matter how low our caffeine intake, or how far away the weekend is.

A machine-learning artificial intelligence (AI), aptly named RankBrain, is encroaching on the search algorithm’s turf. That’s right, AI will now share the responsibility of deciphering our searches alongside the algorithm constructed by Google experts, known within the industry as the Hummingbird.

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The purpose of the Hummingbird is, as some of you will already know, to assess the different pages that appear when a particular search is made, determining which are most relevant. Whereas, the focus of RankBrain seems to be identifying what information an individual is searching for, and the many given ways in which that specific information may be searched for. Assumingly in an effort to refine the process further, this is an approach that, in theory, will make finding desired information faster and easier for users. In a post published by Search Engine Land on their official blog, they provided this example:

“Someone might search for ‘Barack.’ In the past, Google and other search engines might find pages with only that exact word. But over the past few years — and especially since Hummingbird launched in 2013 — Google’s gotten better at understanding relationships between words. A search for ‘Barack’ might bring back pages and information that also matches ‘US President,’ ‘Barack Obama,’ or even ‘Michelle Obama’s husband.’”

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And in a thoroughly informative interview with Bloomberg, senior research scientist Greg Corrado drew from his firsthand experience with RankBrain to answer all the tough questions. In this exert from the interview, featured below, it suggests the tool targets the way we process quires opposed to directly effecting ranking. Confirming our suspicions that RankBrain’s purpose is to work hand-in-hand with algorithms to refine search processes rather than replace it. Furthermore, although it is early days, results suggest these efforts are already bearing fruit.

“So far, RankBrain is living up to its AI hype. Google search engineers, who spend their days crafting the algorithms that underpin the search software, were asked to eyeball some pages and guess which they thought Google’s search engine technology would rank on top. While the humans guessed correctly 70 percent of the time, RankBrain had an 80 percent success rate.”


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Though information on this advancement is still surfacing, we’re keen to see how this exciting news develops, and what effects it has on accessing information online.

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By Nicole Wilson


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