Google Algorithm Update 2019: Google Confirms Nov. 2019 Local Search Update

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SEOs around the world have been discussing a probable Google algorithm update for local searches since the beginning of November. It all began when webmasters started gazing changes in their Google My Business rankings on SERPs. Also, we SEOs had unofficially named it Google Bedlam Update. We presumed that the update focused on the business’s category relevance rather than the proximity of users.

So, it seems that our assumptions on update were right as Google itself has confirmed about the Nov. 2019 local search update through their official Twitter handle, Search Liason.

As per Google’s conventional naming method, they have named it as Nov. 2019 Local Search Update.

What does Google say about the Local Search Update?

According to the above tweet, Google began rolling out this update early November (though they didn’t mention the exact date) and finished it on December 2, 2019. The update used neural matching AI technology to provide users with more relevant local search results. As neural matching is based on AI, webmasters around the world can expect continued fluctuations as the algorithm continues to learn.

This is a global algorithm update that implies to all countries using all the languages present in Google’s AI.

What is neural matching?

Neural matching is a Google algorithm that uses Google’s latest AI technology to provide the best search results to the users. Neural matching helps Google understand and analyse the search queries well, even if it doesn’t contain a business name or description to offer more user intent results.

Nov. 2019 Local Search Update Relates to a Past Neural Matching Update

Google started using neural matching in the year 2018 for non-local search queries, regarding which, Danny Sullivan had officially tweeted.

Nov. 2019 Local search update

Though it differs from RankBrain and Google BERT update, the intentions remain the same – enhancing results mapping to queries.

Key Takeaways:

Now we clearly know that it’s just not you who is experiencing ranking fluctuations in the local search results. Google says the use of neural matching in their AI to enhance the local queries, and hence, there might be abrupt changes in the local results.

Key Advice:

Google’s advice, like for all other Google algorithm update, remains the same: the key for ranking well on local search results is to keep your website prominent, relevant, and the vicinity of the users.

Businesses who think that they are hit by post this update should concentrate optimising your business website with following tips to rank for local search queries:

  • Add complete business information in addition to NAP
  • Verify locations (each of them, if it exists in multiple locations)
  • Respond to each of your reviews individually
  • Add high quality images of your business to GMB
  • Keep your working hours and NAP information accurate

Also, Danny says not to feel the pressure of losing business and start spamming Google by using keywords and stuff, but to pay attention to optimising it as per local search queries.

Conclusion: Google may give out more update on the same, so keep a tab on this page to know the latest information about Nov. 2019 Local Search Update.

If you are an SEO guy who keeps a tab on Twitter and forum discussions, then you probably have noticed a lot of chatter regarding a probable Google algorithm update in the last week from the search giant. It has become an endless topic of discussion among the SEO experts on Twitter and Local Search Forum. I have been reading each thread to know about changes in SERPs and ranking reports on various industries and locations. Due to its abrupt behaviour, Joy Hawkins, termed it as Bedlam update.

What is Bedlam?

Bedlam Update is not an official name or official announcement made by Google. But it’s an interesting name given by the Google My Business Product Experts Joy Hawkins, for the reason that it has caused a real ‘uproar and confusion’ in the local rankings

The Impacts of Bedlam Update

According to a discussion on local search forum, the some of the changes seen are:

  • GMB listings ranking well even when it is as far as 10 miles (when the search was done for 1 mile radius)
  • GMBs with unverified accounts or improper address are ranking on top
  • GMB listings appear on top with just a keyword and location which has no linked website

Here’s the screenshot of one of the well performing website facing a downturn from 6th November.

One Result Box Altered

There are several local searches for which Google showed only one result in the Google My Listings. It was the same until last week. But, since the Bedlam update, Google seems to have begun to show 3-pack local results.

Spam Business Have Risen Up

As I see some of the screenshots out on local search forum, Google have started ranking the businesses without considering the spam factor. After this Google algorithm update, the businesses with more spam score on Moz (as high as above 50% spam score) have ranked above others.

If your business site has a lot of spam, it’d really be a blessing for you.

New Listings Are Filtered

A lot of SEOs on forums are saying that local listing are vanished. If it is to believe them, it’s likely that your listing may also have been filtered. The multiple local business listings who are in the same location or share a website and phone number may have been hit by Bedlam and went down from the local SERPs.

Why Do You Care?

The Google bedlam update have caused major fluctuations on the local rankings, in which, most of the good businesses have lost the rankings to businesses with high spam score. If you are someone who has been impacted negatively, then you may miss out on some customers or you should shell something out on AdWords.

Whatever this is, we hope the Google reverts it as soon as possible to pull up good businesses on top of GMB listings.

Google BERT Update Explained Clearly

If you are a Twitterati, you may have recently seen a plethora of razzmatazz images, tweets, and GIFs about the word BERT.

It’s because, last week Google announced a forthcoming algorithmic update that will be rolled out affecting 10% of the queries and SERP results initially. Also, it’s going to affect the featured snippets in the countries it’s updated now.

Google called this as Google BERT Update, BERT being the acronym for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers.

It seems to be a major and probably the biggest ever update in search in almost five last five years as Google itself describes it as the largest update released after the Rankbrain.

Now the announcement of BERT and its imminent impact have resulted in kerfuffle among the SEO community as what it DOES, and what it means for the online communities.

With that said, let’s see what BERT is, need of BERT, issues that it’s aiming to fix, and current scenarios of SEO with it.

What Exactly is BERT?

To put it simply, BERT is a machine learning algorithm related to Natural Language Processing which allows Google AI to understand words in a sentence, with actual nuances of context and provide the results.

For some of you it may seem new, but it had already released as an academic research paper last year. After a year, now Google announced BERT update by linking to the academic research paper thereby accentuating the BERT’s intent of understanding the context of language, content, and queries to provide more user-friendly information.

What Are the Targets of Google BERT?

According to Google, the BERT will affect 10% of all search queries for now. Considering the billions of indexed pages in Google, 10% is a massive number. But it may not have made a perceptible stir to community standards yet. It’s most likely the reason being the update focuses on ‘longer conversation queries’, wherein SEOs don’t heavily rely on using these long queries in their content.

The cardinal doubt you may get now is, what kind of queries are these? What does the user want to find out? Well, here are some examples illustrating the Google BERT update’s impact.

Google Bert

By implementing BERT to both featured snippets and rankings in search, Google is trying to do a better job of rendering more user intent information. It mainly focuses on longer queries, or on searches with prepositions like ‘to’ and ‘for’ which matter a lot for the Google AI to understand the query contextually. In short, it provides natural Google surfing experience to the users.

It means now Google will understand 1 in 10 search queries contextually made in the US English to provide appropriate results. And Google will add more languages and locales in the near future.

How Does Google BERT Affect SEO?

YES, Google BERT affects SEO. Don’t judge me on it blatantly. Let me explain why. SEO is an ever-evolving process and any update made in search engine algorithms will influence the search engine optimization process. So, now, how can you optimize for BERT? Danny Sullivan, Google’s Analyst, entrepreneur, and technologist who helps the audience about the search, gives a pretty straightforward answer: you can do nothing new from today that you didn’t do before BERT update. However, he recommends one thing surely, which is writing the content for users rather than for search engines.

We all know that Google has been focusing more on content for a few years (for which Google Panda Update was released). So, it’s not the time to reinstate that ‘Content is King’ or to write both user and SEO friendly content. However, let’s see where SEO stands in accordance with BERT.

There are two things to be considered while knowing how the latest BERT update influences SEO.

Optimizing for Featured Snippets

Google says that BERT uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) to understand long user queries. Google highlights featured snippets (also called as answer boxes or Google’s direct answers) saying it’s the search intent result that responds exactly to the long queries very quickly.

For example, if you search Google, “what is the life span of a tortorise”

Optimizing for Featured Snippets

Have You Experienced Google BERT Effect on Your Website?

If your website traffic has come down from last couple of weeks, especially with less CTR’s from Voice searches and Featured Snippets, then it’s most likely that your site is impacted by the latest Google BERT update. As this is a content oriented update, there is a little probability that making technical improvements may enhance the rankings.

So, I suggest you developing content based on the user intent. Now the content and its style have a consequential role in SEO, hence, every content that goes on a website should qualify for the right audience to rank well on Google SERPs.

To see the changes in featured snippets post BERT update, here’s an example for a query, “parking on a hill with no curb”.

Experienced Google BERT Effect

Previously, Google used to give significance to ‘curb’ ignoring the ‘no’ which rendered parking on a hill with curb in the SERPs. Now, the BERT update fixes this issue. It understands each word in the query and rendered proper results.

So, how should you optimize for the answer boxes or featured snippets? It’s where the content comes in, roll further to read.

Here are the steps to optimize content that is relevant to the users as well as ranks well for your users to find it easily.

 Analysing Google SERPs

Each content optimization or keyword research should begin with a SERP an analysis including after competitor analysis. Content Optimizer tool helps in analysing the ranks and gives numerous insights on the analysed keywords. Doing this, you’ll know the popular search queries, search volumes, type of content that is already ranking, and how difficult it is to rank for a particular query.

Find New Keywords and Opportunities to Rank

It’s hard to find all the long user queries that your users may be searching with. But, you can discover the relevant queries that users might be interested in. Grab this opportunity and provide relevant content for most of their queries. You can use content optimizer or Ask The Public site to find the user queries. Make use of sections like site explorer and People Also Ask to discover user intent queries.

Final Insights on BERT and Search Engines

Search engines are vast compared to BERT and they have a long way to go. BERT is simply an improvement on the way, as a word’s context entirely differs from a user’s context, it was in line to be rolled out to resolve issues faced by the users.

However, SEOs still have the everlasting task of assisting search engine users to find the right way to meet their informational needs.

Digital PR & Online Media Planner at

An Online PR and outreach specialist working in the digital marketing speher from the last 4 years. Currently, works at Wolftain with the vision of supporting clients from various niches to out-beat their comtemporaries. He is keen about every Google algorithm update that rolls each day, thus, constantly participating major SEO forums like Webmasterworld and localsearchforum. He also loves to read novels and is a great admirer of Agatha Christie. You can reach out to him through Twitter or LinkedIn

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