In early 2016, Google changed search chief from Amit Singhal to John Giannandrea. This has implications for how Google search is moving forward. Giannandrea comes from the role of lead of Google’s AI efforts, which is a significant signal about the direction Google is taking.
Rankbrain is Google’s machine learning system built into search, and it predicts user intent with ever increasing success – often even when people type in the wrong thing.
The reason this is interesting is that this is a black box system. Not even Google themselves fully understand why and how the AI is drawing conclusions from the data – and the complexity will only increase over time.
This makes it increasingly harder to reverse engineer the SERPs to figure out what the ranking factors are.
So what implications does this have for SEOs? Pack up and find a new job?
Not necessarily. Regardless of how clever the AI gets, it’s still limited by crawler capacity. It needs to actually get all the web page data before it can do anything with it. There is more data out there than crawlers can get to by a huge margin.
It would take about 11 trillion years for you yourself to download all data there is on the internet. This means Google has several ways to filter and budget crawler activity.
In short, SEO seems to be changing again. But as long as there are search engines and people need to find something, SEO will never die.