Google Has Changed How Local Search Results are Generated

Until recently, searches for local businesses needed to have a business name and location included, which isn’t very helpful if you don’t know the exact business name. If you misspelled the name or completely butchered it, it was likely to not show up at all. This led to a lot of frustration for users that Google has finally addressed. Earlier in the year, Google announced some changes to searches. In November, Google rolled out a tweak for local searches and we think it’s a big relief for many.

November 2019 Local Search Update

It took the entire month to roll out the new update and so far, it’s working well. Many contribute it to the neural matching, but what is it? Google calls it a super-synonym system, we call it smart. Neural matching gives Google the chance to understand the meaning behind searches and match them to local businesses that are most relevant to the search. This gives some businesses a chance to be found when they may not have shown up previously. This also means that some businesses that dominated a keyword will show up less.

Artificial Intelligence Behind The Searches

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been used for a lot of different things and Google has been in the game for a while. Google Analytics is a perfect example of AI and its abilities.  It knows a person’s browser, location, what websites they visit the most, and how much time is spent on those websites. Google Maps is also using AI to help with travel. It gives you an ETA, alerts you of detours, and traffic jams. Maps even will give you the option of a new route to compensate for missing a turn or needing to avoid a traffic jam. The next step was to use AI in searches to simplify and streamline the user’s experience just as Google has always strived to do.

No More Multiple Listings For One Site

How many of us have typed in our search and seen six listings for Pinterest in the results? Or maybe we want to shop and we get a whole page of Amazon links. Annoying, isn’t it? Well, that was one of the reasons why the November 2019 Local Search Update was implemented. Many businesses weren’t getting the chance to be seen because other websites took up most of the first page. The likelihood of people making it to the second page isn’t very high. Users also don’t want to see just one business listed, they want the smorgasbord. Trust us, if they wanted to shop at Walmart or visit Pinterest, they would’ve gone straight to that site instead of Google. While the businesses that appear the most may not enjoy the shift, they will still be seen after the local businesses. We live in a society that is striving to go back to supporting local businesses. Google jumped on board and seems to support the very idea.

The Algorithm Effect

Many have wondered how this new update affects our usual searches. We all know that Google caters to the individual user. Searches are based on past searches and they show you what they think the user wants to see. But the update is now promoting more localized businesses, so how does that affect your future searches? Google says that searches will shift a bit but only to match the user’s new activity.

When these searches now show new information they haven’t seen before, they shift the algorithm when they investigate new pages. Let’s say you are searching for an old cookie recipe that your Grandma used to make. While a recipe site will appear, other local businesses relating to cookies and baking will appear. If you fall down the rabbit hole of looking at baking supplies from a store and the new bakery opening down the street, your algorithm will shift a bit. The more this happens with your searches, the more your algorithms shift to fit you as a user. So what does this mean for a business who is no longer appearing as much in searches? It means engagement could slow down or be lost.

Good For The User, Bad For Business?

Google has always been about the user and not so much the business. While the user will now see businesses they hadn’t seen before, this means that some businesses won’t be seen. So what does a business do if suddenly they see a drop in numbers? The same as they always have. They adjust their social media interactions and tweak their marketing plans. They look for new and innovative ways to bring people to their sites.

It isn’t a bad thing for business when Google rolls out these updates. The users have been asking for this change for a while and Google listened.  It can be frustrating for the business but it’s a situation you have to roll with. It helps to also re-think who you are interacting with. Maybe you need to refocus and market more towards your local audience. While Google is streamlining the experience for the user, it is also working to get the best matches for business as well. If you don’t want to lose that fabulous market you have built on the other side of the world, you can still work to keep them on board.

These updates are barely a month old and there will be a lot to witness over time. So far, the changes have had a positive response from the users. As algorithms shift and AI gets smarter, that will be when we really see how well the updates do. We believe it will make business with users better. Change is always a frustrating hurdle for businesses but fortunately, Google has been talking about this one a while. Hopefully, businesses have made flexible plans to keep their engagement and continue to grow.



New Snippet Settings Make Controlling Listings Easier

Google has added new snippet settings that allow webmasters to control how Google search displays their listings. The settings work either through a set of robots meta tags or an HTML attribute.

New Meta Tags to Settings Snippets

“Nosnippet” –  This old option has not changed. It allows webmasters to specify that they do not want any textual snippets shown for the page.

“Max-snippet:[number]”  -This new meta tag lets webmasters specify the maximum text length in the number of characters for the snippet of a page.

“Max video preview:[number]” –  This meta tag allows webmasters to specify a maximum duration in seconds of an animated video preview.

“Max image preview:[setting]” – This is a new meta tag that allows webmaster specify a maximum size of an image preview to be shown for the images on the page. You can set it to none, standard, or large.

It is possible to combine the meta tags if you want to control both the max length of the text and the video.

Here is an example:

<meta name=”robots”  content=”max-snippet:50, max-image-preview:large”>

HTML Attributes

If you’d rather, you can use these as HTML attributes rather than meta tags. This allows you to prevent that part of an HTML page from being shown within the text snippet on the page.

Here’s an example:

<p><span data-nosnippet>Text</span> additional text….</p>

Other Search Engines

As of right now, Bing and other search engines don’t currently support these new snippet settings. Because they are so new, even to Google, it could be awhile before we see them supported in other search engines, if at all.

Google is Using These as Directives

Google says these are directives the search engine bots will follow, rather than hints that it will consider, but possibly ignore.

Can You Preview the New Snippets?

Unfortunately not. Right now, there isn’t a way to preview how the snippet settings will work in live search. The only thing to do is to implement them and wait for Google to show them. Use the URL inspection tool to speed up crawling, and once Google has crawled your site, you should be able to see the new snippet in the search results.

This will be live in mid-to late October, and will take time to fully roll out. It could take over a week before everyone gets it.

Getting Ready for the Update

Google has provided about a month’s heads up to allow webmasters to implement the changes on our sites now and then see how it impacts the listings in Google results when it goes live.

Keep in mind if you restrict Google from showing certain information, it may impact whether you show up for Featured Snippet results. It may also impact how your search results look. Features require snippets to have a certain minimum number of characters to be displayed and if you opt to show less than that minimum, it may mean your pages do not qualify for the featured snippet position.

Content in structured data is eligible to be displayed as rich results in search. These kinds of results don’t conform to the limits declared in the metal robot settings but rather can be addressed more specifically by limiting or modifying the contents in the structured data itself.  For instance, if a recipe is included in structured data, the contents of that structured data may be presented in a recipe carousel in the search results. If an event is marked up with structured data it may be presented as such within the search results. To limit that presentation, a publisher can limit the amount and type of content in the structured data.

Some of the special features on search depend on the availability of preview content so limiting your previews may prevent your content from appearing in these areas. Featured snippets require certain amount of characters to be displayed.

This number can vary by language which is why there is no exact max snippets length Google can provide to ensure appearing in this feature. If you do not want to have content appear as featured snippets, you can experiment with lower Max snippet lengths. Those who want a guaranteed way to opt-out of featured snippets should use “no snippet”

It’s worth noting that you can also use these tags to control what size your images are shown in your AMP results. Publishers who do not want Google to use larger thumbnail images for their AMP pages can you use the settings to specify the max image preview of standard or none.

While these changes will not impact your overall Google web search rankings, it may impact your listing showing up with certain rich results or your site showing up as a featured snippet. However, Google will still crawl index and rank your page has the same way it did before so it will not impact your overall ranking in Google search.

One of the larger request webmasters, site owners, and search engine optimizers have wanted was more control over what Google shows for their listings in the search results. These new settings provide more flexibility in terms of what you do and do not want to show in your search results snippet on Google.