Google announced this week that their algorithm was updated to include “Neural Matching” in local search results. This update began around November 7th and Google officially announced the update on December 2nd. You can read more on it here. Google is calling this the “Nov. 2019 Local Search Update”.
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…
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) December 2, 2019
What is “Neural Matching”?
“Neural matching” in Google’s own words is “an AI-based system Google began using in 2018 primarily to understand how words are related to concepts. It’s like a super-synonym system.”
What this means is that when someone searches for a specific term, Google is going to try to return search results that could be related to what you’re thinking and not necessarily results that match your term directly.
A good example would be someone searches “sue a bar for over serving a customer”. Google knows that this person is trying to learn more about Dram Shop Liability laws and will give them results related to that.
How Is This Affecting Search Results?
This update is affecting small and local businesses’ search results and Google Maps rankings. We have seen crazy fluctuations with clients losing and gaining map rankings for dozens of terms in a single day.
These charts illustrates what this looks like. The black is the amount of top 3 maps rankings this business had on a given day.
According to other experts in the SEO field, this kind of fluctuation is affecting all kinds of industries and markets.
So What is There To Do?
According to Google, “The use of neural matching in local search doesn’t require any changes on behalf of businesses.” and they go on to tell businesses to continue using best practices.
Google in the past has made drastic updates like this and then rolled them back to stop the fluctuations. Someone on Twitter asked Danny Sullivan, Google’s Search Liason, if the fluctuations would stop, and he did not give a definitive answer.
Neural matching is done. But that said, it’ll keep being improved. More important, we always have other updates. That’s what this part was covering: https://t.co/0zS8kcmIgG https://t.co/0zS8kcmIgG
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) December 2, 2019
So our best advice right now is to continue using best practices when it comes to your on-site SEO, updating LocalBusiness schema, post to GMB and make sure you update your photos on your GMB listing when you get new photos! As more information comes out about this update we will update on our blog.
If you are interested in receiving a Local Search Audit of where you stand in your market, please feel free to contact us to get started!