Intelligent Search and What It Means for Organic Rankings

franchise marketing, intelligent searchBy Maggie Rodriguez

Relevancy is key for organic search to be successful. Organic search has often been the priority for businesses looking to see ranking results. Businesses who wanted to be found online by potential consumers used title tags, meta descriptions, and URLs sprinkled with the right number of industry-specific keywords to show up at the top of search results. As nearly all businesses worth knowing moved online, competition for top spots became increasingly stiff. Organic search got even more challenging with paid ads and maps which push organic results off the first page, the dreaded “below the fold” rejects of the digital age.

Organic search has continued to change over the past five years, due not only to the algorithms of search engines like Google but also to the preferences and search habits of consumers. In 2016, mobile device searches surpassed those on desktop for the first time. [Source] Having a website that transfers seamlessly from desktop to mobile is essential to modern consumers and something we work with our franchise marketing partners to achieve every day. While the basics of organic rankings are a still important, there are many more things to consider when trying to reach customers through search.

For the sake of this article, let’s assume we’re all using Google to search online (and by assume, I mean that I know you’re all using Google 99% of the time.) Google uses an artificial intelligence system called RankBrain to learn from data on the internet. As it “looks” at and sorts the massive amounts of data, it classifies information as “good” or “bad,” drawing conclusions to make predictions.

These predictions are presented to you and me as search results. For example, if you enter “Spinach wraps,” Google is able to retrieve websites that have been marked as positively relevant to those terms. And most of the time, you will find websites with popular recipes and restaurants that feature the sandwich alternative. You may find that even when you search vague terms, the search results will find the words for what you couldn’t articulate.

So how does Google seem to know what you’re thinking? Massive amounts of data and consumer habits have all helped create Intelligent Search. Intelligent Search is different from organic search because it considers more than the exact search terms entered. Google uses the term Assistance to explain how Intelligent Search works and how it’s different from organic.

Consider the job description for a human assistant: completes tasks for boss quickly and efficiently, stay up to date on schedules and events, finds answers immediately, and – eventually – solves the boss’s problems before being asked. Take that description, apply it to Google Search, and that’s the essence of Intelligent Search. As Google RankBrain deep learns the entire data footprint of a business, the function of search will become more like an assistant, giving consumers what they want when – and maybe someday before – they want it.

Matt Bush, Director of Agencies – Google UK, explained Intelligent Search best when he said this:

When people start to think of their mobile device as an assistant rather than a search terminal, it changes the kind of questions they ask. Instead of using keywords like ‘weather Paris today’, they might ask ‘do I need an umbrella’.

Intelligent Search goes deeper than retrieving websites that match the search terms you entered. It can identify intent and meaning to give you results that match what you’re looking for.

Based on research, blogs, and personal experience, here’s where I think Intelligent Search is headed:

  1. Reviews Responding to positive reviews and reaching out offline (if possible) is essential to maintaining a data footprint that Google will see as “good.” This is something most admins have known and do on a regular basis. But as Intelligent Search goes deeper, drawing conclusions from words like “best” for example could become significant. If someone searches “best pierogis Cleveland” not only will reviews with the word “best” written appear, but perhaps also only businesses rated 4 stars or higher. In my opinion, the importance and value of reviews will be huge.
  2. Voice – With built-in technology like Siri and stand-alone devices such as Google Home, consumers are using voice to search. Businesses need to structure their data around voice. As Matt Bush pointed out, we don’t necessary speak questions as we might type them. Considering what consumers want to know and how they might talk about your business will make you easier to find through increasingly popular voice search.
  3. Maps – Recently I was using Google Maps on my iPhone to find the closest coffee shop. I clicked on a business close to me and was prompted to open in Maps, Uber or Lyft, all apps I have on my phone. Since I was driving, I opened in maps. The integration possibilities between Intelligent Search and mobile apps, specifically Maps, seems like a logical progression. Businesses should include specific information like hours, location-specific photos, menus, delivery areas and other location-specific information.

Check out some of my resources to see what industry professionals and franchise marketing experts have to say about Intelligent Search. One thing is certain, smart search engines are going to keep getting smarter. Businesses who want to compete will have to adapt to stay on top.


About the Author

Maggie Rodriguez is a Digital Marketing Specialist for ChoiceLocal focusing on search engine optimization and franchise marketing. With a background in public relations, she is interested in enhancing client experience through quality interactions and content. Outside of the office, Maggie enjoys reading, going to spin class, and watching Cleveland Indians baseball.



Bush, Matt. “Search in the Age of Assistance.” think with Google, Mar. 2017, Accessed 13 July 2017.

Forrester, Duane. “Intelligent Search is Changing What It Means to Rank.” Search Engine Journal, 10 July 2017, Accessed 13 July 2017.

Rampton, John. “Artificial Intelligence is Changing SEO Faster Than You Think.” Tech Crunch, 4 June 2016, Accessed 13 July 2017.

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