Late last week, Google announced a range of updates to search in their Search On live stream and blog. The updates that were covered during the event are focused on improving the AI that controls search, with the goal of providing the searcher with the most relevant search result. Key areas of focus included improvements to search algorithms, updates to how content will be ranked, and how video content will be displayed in search results. These updates are sure to influence how digital marketing professionals analyze and implement strategies for Search Engine Optimization.
The goal of Google Search is to provide a user the most relevant, expert, and timely result for any query. To do this, Google has developed algorithms aimed at understanding the language of search. Last year, Google introduced the BERT update, an algorithm update focused on understanding natural language patterns and context of a search. At the time BERT was reportedly being used in 10% of search queries. Now BERT is being used in nearly 100% of English language searches. Along with the widespread use of BERT Google has also introduced a new spelling algorithm aimed at understanding misspelled words. With one out of every ten queries having a misspelling this update is a huge step by Google to use AI to better answer search queries.
At a high level, these updates are clearly aimed at improving search for the everyday user, allowing for Google to understand the intricacies of language and the way we search. On a deeper level, this may be further indication of further movement toward voice search and voice-to-text search. With BERT being used in nearly 100% of English language searches Google is obviously confident that its search algorithm will be able to understand the context and differences across our regional and national English dialects These differences would need to be taken into consideration for voice based searches. The improvement to the spelling recognition algorithms could also lend a hand when our voice search enabled devices do not perfectly pick up our intended search. Whatever the result of these updates it will be interesting to watch how search recognition changes over the next year.
Search Indexing and Ranking
Google has also announced it will now index passages from webpages, not just the webpage as a whole. The goal of this update is to rank the specific sentence or passage which contains the answer to a user question. Google states 7% of search queries will be affected by this update. This change could create more competition due to more pages being eligible to rank. It also highlights the importance of creating clear concise contentment which accurately and efficiently addresses the topic of your page.
Subtopics were also mentioned as another area where updates were being made to search. The quote from Google states:
“We’ve applied neural nets to understand subtopics around an interest, which helps deliver a greater diversity of content when you search for something broad. As an example, if you search for ‘home exercise equipment,’ we can now understand relevant subtopics, such as budget equipment, premium picks, or small space ideas, and show a wider range of content for you on the search results page.”
In short, this means with added diversity of search results for broad keyword phrases it will be more difficult to rank for those terms. Optimizing a site with clear subtopic or niche pages may allow you to capture the more focused and more likely to convert users who are looking for the specific subtopics.
Updates to Video
As video content is becoming more ubiquitous across the web Google has also announced an update to the way Video content will be parsed and ranked. Similar to the passages and subtopics updates Google is aiming to use AI to understand different sections or “key moments” of the video. Google will analyze the video content, assign a tag to each section for description of its content and then send searchers to a specific section of the video based on their query. This is likely to impact the way that video content is created, with the focus being on creating videos with simple well-defined sections which clearly address the topics and subtopics of the subject. It could also signal changes to video structured markup. Marking up different video sections based on topic is a possible evolution of the existing structured markup practices.
The Search On livestream also covered other updates including new features in Lens and AR in Google Search, Google’s Data Commons project, and introduction of a Shazam like “hum to search” feature. While these updates are interesting the changes to search recognition algorithms, passage and subtopic ranking, and video parsing are the most substantial and impactful for the future of Search Engine Optimization. Anvil Media is dedicated to staying up to date with the latest news and changes from Google. Our team of experts understands the need to evolve with the changing world of search. For more information contact the Anvil Media SEO team and discover how we can help you optimize your web presence.