Google is Embracing AI to Provide Better Search Results
It’s hard to think back to the turn of the century. It was a time when the internet was young and listless. Back then, search results were unreliable. Even then, there was so much information to sort through, and finding the exact piece of information you sought was a chore.
In that archaic era, Google was just one of many search engines. It would be years before the company gained dominance over the market, becoming its own verb in the process. We never think about it because all of the details are hidden behind the search bar.
Search engines have become so adept at giving us what we are searching for. As the information in the world continues along with its insane pace, Google has managed to outpace it to answer questions more concisely, translate languages, and even perform a little arithmetic if asked nicely.
For online marketers, the algorithms that companies like Google use are like the holy grail. Getting closer to understanding them means coming closer to gaming the system. The more we know of the metrics involved, the more we tailor content to appeal to Google, increasing the coveted page rank.
The many changes that Google makes in how it prioritized content have trumpeted huge paradigm shifts in how the industry operates. Every time Google releases a new algorithm, SEO’s cower in fear that they will get dinged.
However, one of the things that marketers always seem to forget is the goal that Google has. Those patches and updates were never designed to punish marketers. Yes, that was a byproduct, but that is only because they were trying to take advantage. Trying to appeal to the machine has never gained an advantage for long. Google uses its considerable resources to bring the information we need within our grasp.
Google has used many tools on its quest to give the searcher exactly what they asked for. AI is the next step in the journey. The company recently announced a new release, with new features to help you find exactly what it is you were searching for. Let’s look at what’s changed in the offerings from google search.
Natural language understanding.
The ability to translate a human intent into a machine operation lies at the heart of what Google does. Knowing what the query is asking is critical to delivering relevant results. So much of the research that Google does goes into understanding human language.
BERT language understanding systems are the next iteration of that research. The company’s announcement stated that BERT will now be used for almost every query prompted in English.
Improvements included understanding misspelled words better, which is good because no matter how much I practice, I can never seem to avoid typos, and I’m not alone. Up to one in ten queries are misspelled. To get a better idea of what the true intent of the query was, Google’s new spelling algorithm uses deep neural networks to decode our mistakes. This will likely change how SEO is used with misspellings and decrease the effectiveness of using improper wordings to boost ranking.
Of particular interest to marketers will be the new passages feature. The google bot is now capable of indexing individual passages within a single page. This granular approach is designed to search through longer articles to weed out the specific nuggets of information you were looking for.
This may mean that splitting individual articles into sections using header tags will become even more important. It may also mean that webpages will have to fight harder to convince the searcher to click on their page. Content will have to provide a story and suck the reader in and provide a lot more value than just a few cursory facts.
Google will also use AI to understand how topics are related to each other. Subtopics are becoming more important and will be used to give narrow down an intent if a query is related to a broad topic. If you search for “skincare products,” Google will also be able to start providing you with related subtopics like budget-friendly deals, premium packages, or age-defying creams.
By the end of the year, these results will be added to the search page. This may allow consumers to narrow down their interests on the fly and more quickly discover products that they are interested in. This will be an interesting development for marketers to discover how best to approach these changes.
An interesting addition is the information that Google will now give us in relation to the novel coronavirus. Google will start giving us access to information about the places we go to in real-time. Some of the improvements include:
- Live updates on how busy certain places or businesses are. You can see how much foot traffic is going on around you to know if you will be able to safely social distance or if you may want to stay home.
- The business profile on google maps will be more helpful. Essential information about the businesses you are about to enter will be provided. This means whether or not they require masks, if they now require you to make an advance reservation, and letting you know what precautions the staff is taking.
- Businesses will have an easier time adjusting their business profiles to reflect current store hours and even inventory.
While these provisions are specific to the current crisis, it is interesting to consider how Google will use this technology in the future to help you interact with stores in real life. It’s hard to imagine that they would go to all this trouble to develop useful features like this and then abandon them.
Automatically parsing videos
Understanding plain text has always been easy for search engines. The hard characters make it clear what is on the page. Videos have been more difficult for computers to understand. While that has been the case in the past, there have been considerable advances in the ways that google analyzes video.
As the owner of the second largest search engine, Youtube, it’s only natural that this would be the next step. The use of AI will reportedly allow the search engine to understand what is happening in the video and grasp its meaning. It will also be able to identify the key moments and tag them so that they can be searched through, like chapters in a book.
This is one of the biggest game-changers in terms of using google to search video. This will also take the longest before we start seeing it in action. While most of the other features are fully live and already running, this one launches this year, but only 10% of content will be able to be searched like this by the end of 2020.
There is no doubt that having the ability to search for videos in the same manner as articles will have large ripples throughout the industry.
The search behemoth continues to innovate the concept of search. Google is making it easier than ever to find the information that searchers are looking for. The responsibility will likely fall on marketing professionals to adapt and to use these new features to help customers. The internet isn’t what it once was, and we are all having to adapt.
While the same tactics that once worked so well may fall short now, if we continue to keep the needs of the end-user in mind, they will continue to see great results.