In November, many SEO experts started chatting about changes they were seeing in local search, leading many to believe that we were going through yet another algorithm change in Google.
And on December 2, 2019, Google confirmed this change:
In early November, we began making use of neural matching as part of the process of generating local search results. Neural matching allows us to better understand how words are related to concepts, as explained more here: https://t.co/ShQm7g9CvN
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) December 2, 2019
In short, this update was made so 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…” (Source)
And according to an article from local search expert Joy Hawkins, she notes that in early November she noticed a huge decrease in local search results, including features on Google maps. She decided to name this update Bedlam.
In her article, she also mentions how with the Bedlam change she noticed several other issues popping up in local search queries, including:
- Broken one-box/3-packs
- Increased spam listings
- Vanishing listings
What Bedlam Means for Marketers
For once, we get some good news. If you dive deeper into the local search forum linked above, you’ll see that other experts, such as Ben Fisher, share some great insights for marketing experts:
“The basics of this are not much has really changed ‘except’ for the fact that there is a more enhanced version of semantic search at play in local results, that is the HUGE part (well, along with an official word from Google about a local update). Google has always sought to identify and relate an entity to the meaning of words, phrases, and concepts. This is awesome for those who optimize for humans versus just search.
Also, [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…]
This statement alone is huge for those of us who felt that name stuffing was granting an unfair advantage. I believe it means that local is getting the treatment that organic had applied and that maybe keyword stuffing will not be as effective someday soon.”
Want to Improve Your Local Presence?
Google still advises that if you are looking to appear more prominently in local search to follow their advice. However, we also have numerous blog posts to give you some more detailed insights:
- Are You Covering Your Local Citation Bases?
- How Google My Business Is Influencing Your Rankings and How to Take Advantage
- 4 Tips for Improving Your Local SEO
- 6 Reasons Why Your Local Business Needs More Google Reviews
And if you need help with local SEO, feel free to reach out.