Local Search Update Helps Google Relate Search Terms to Concepts
In the digital age, there’s always a first time for everything. In an unprecedented move, Google officially confirmed an update to its local search algorithm this week which began rolling out globally in early November. So, what exactly is this update and what does it mean? For starters, the update, which is appropriately called the November 2019 Local Search Update, makes use of neural matching when generating local search results. Simply put, neural matching allows Google to better understand how words are related to concepts and understand the meaning behind users’ search queries and provide the most relevant local businesses in results – even if the keywords in the query are not actually included in a business’ name and description. https://twitter.com/searchliaison/status/1201549327144898567 “The use of neural matching means that Google can do a better job going beyond the exact words in business name or description to understand conceptually how it might be related to the words searchers use and their intents,” said Google Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, on Twitter. One of the most significant impacts of this update – which is being launched globally across all countries and languages – is that now, certain business listings will appear in search results that they wouldn’t have previously shown up in.
What Is Neural Matching?
Described by Google as a “super-synonym system,” neural matching is an AI-based system that Google began using in 2018. Its primary function is to help Google understand how words are related to concepts. So, for example, if someone were to search for “Why does my TV look strange?,” neural matching helps Google comprehend that this search query is related to the concept of “the soap opera effect,” and provide search results about the soap opera effect, even though these words weren’t actually used in the search query.
How Will This Affect Businesses?
Google wasn’t clear about how drastically local search results will be affected by this recent update, but indicated on Twitter that the use of neural matching in local search will not require any changes from businesses. Those looking to optimize for local search should continue to follow Google’s tried and true advice, which is to:
- Use Google My Business
- Update your business information regularly
- Enter complete and accurate information about your business
- Verify your business location
- Provide accurate, up to date hours of operation
- Manage and respond to reviews
- Add photos
Another important thing to note about this update is that although it has already finished rolling out, Google has noted that local search results as they are currently being displayed are not set in stone and just like all searches, can change over time.