Last month, Google rolled out a new update in how it handles searches for local businesses. Now that it has been a month, we are able to understand the update better and explain what it means for local businesses trying to rank higher on Google. The update known as the “Bedlam Update”, focuses on the use of neural matching. So, before we can dive in and explain what the update does, we need to understand what neural matching is.
What is Neural Matching?
Neural Matching as defined by Danny Sullivan, a public liaison for Google, “[An] AI method to better connect words to concepts.” What this means is that, rather than focusing specifically on keyword match, it also focuses on web page text and matching it to the meaning behind a search query.
So What Does the Update Do?
Now that we understand what neural matching is, we can understand what that means for us as Google users. With this specific update, Google will be more inclined to understand the meaning behind our words. Rather than focusing specifically on the keywords, Google is attempting to scan web pages and find the content we are actually searching for.
Have you ever found something to be irrelevant to what you are looking for, despite the headers of the page matching your search terms? With this new update, Google is trying to avoid that. If a web page has what you are looking for, but doesn’t match your exact search terms, Google will be more thoughtful in trying to put that page in front of you. It’s not just about the keywords, but it’s now about the content surrounding them and the thoughts behind them.
To further this point, Stephanie Newton of BrightLocal says, “In short, the November update will help local businesses that are more relevant to the searcher’s intent rank, regardless of the name of the business…”
How Does this Affect Businesses?
As mentioned earlier, this Google update was specific in local search. Neural matching was something that has been a part of organic search for a while now. This new update is geared in changing the way you search for businesses within your proximity.
In particular, GMB categories will no longer make or break your ranking. You do not need to have every single category on your GMB to allow you to rank for a specific set of search terms. Joy Hawkins of Search Engine Land mentions as such: “Specifically, I’m noticing that Google is doing a lot better job of understanding a broader set of search terms that apply to a single business. Previously, Google has always weighted Google My Business categories extremely high. Having the right categories could either make or break your ranking. Similarly, the primary category would influence ranking at a much higher rate than the additional categories.”
Another way in which the update is changing how local business rank is based on business name. No longer does a business need keywords in them to rank well. Newton writes, “While Google once relied on keywords in names to provide relevant results, it will now use neural matching to pull results beyond just the business name.” This is great, as it will now allow people who don’t necessarily have their business names riddled with keywords to reach higher rankings they may not have been able to previously.
Overall, with this update Google is attempting to make it a bit easier for local businesses to rank within certain searches. Even if a business doesn’t have the exact keywords within their headings, as long as the content on the page is of a similar idea or topic, customers should be able to find them.