Now, before you get too excited, he was still extremely vague. But, he did specifically name the 3 priorities that have been given the most importance. Do you think he would give us the order of the top 3, or clarify what each involves? Not a chance.
But, I'm still doing my happy dance because it really validates what all digital marketers have suspected and believed. In no particular order, the 3 main factors are:
Links, Content & RankBrain
Andrey did admit that RankBrain was the 3rd factor, but would not confirm whether links or content came first.
But, now we know. Let's look at the 3 in more detail.
As explained in detail by author Paddy Moogan in this link building guide, search engines give a huge weight to the number and quality of links your site has been awarded from other sites. When a search is conducted, the crawlers are not only looking at the content -- they're also factoring in how many links are pointing to your page from external sources, and they are also grading the quality of those sites. Essentially, your chance of appearing within the search results gets higher as you gain more and more high-quality links pointing towards your website.
Just as important (or perhaps more important -- Andrey wouldn't say) is your site's content. It's critical to have fresh, updated, relevant and coherent content if you want a real chance at being displayed amongst the top search results, for relevant searches. It's important to point out that you should be creating content with humans in mind, not the search engines. When you create rich, original and unique content that is valuable to your readers, they will reward you for it -- and so will Google.
This is where this explanation will go down hill. What exactly is RankBrain? This video interview from Bloomberg articulates it pretty well; I think this is as much detail as we're going to get. RankBrain represents just one of the many pieces that forms Google's algorithm, but it turns out it's a big piece of the pie. Essentially, it's what we would call machine learning, or Artificial Intelligence (AI). It's a computer program that is smart enough to interpret and generalize search queries. It's capable of interpreting the intent behind the query, and delivering the answers it believes the user is looking for. It's able to make generalizations and assumptions based on previous experiences and searches, which really explains a lot behind the chatter this past year regarding the algorithm changes that would deliver results based on what it thought the searcher's intent was.
So what does this mean for the content marketers of the world? Continue to make high-quality link-building and rich, unique content your top priorities. They are in fact, the two most important factors. As for figuring out RankBrain? We'll have to attempt that another day!