HERE IS ALL THAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE CHANGE
Google confirmed that the local search update has been rolled out, a project that began back in the early part of November 2019. It is being referred to as the November 2019 Local Search Update — shockingly creative!
What’s changing? Well… Google is now applying a neural-matching algorithm to local search results. They tweeted earlier this year and referred to that tweet to explain what neural matching is. They describe it as a super-synonym system. Whereas, RankBrain helps better relate pages to concepts, neural matching helps better relate words to searches.
For some context, here’s a definition of RankBrain — the master of all Google search algorithms.
“RankBrain uses artificial intelligence to embed vast amounts of written language into mathematical entities — called vectors — that the computer can understand. If RankBrain sees a word or phrase it isn’t familiar with, the machine can make a guess as to what words or phrases might have a similar meaning and filter the result accordingly, making it more effective at handling never-before-seen search queries.”
What the new local search basically means is that neural matching will allow Google to better parse meaning (or intent, in some way) from queries and match them to the most relevant local businesses. That applies even when keywords in the query are not included in the business name or description. What this likely implies is that some businesses that wouldn’t have shown up in previous searches might now show up under the new search paradigm. Maybe good, maybe not. Depends on the business.
Google also said that, while the update is complete, local search results are not fixed. Just like any other search, results for local can, and likely will, change over time.
As usual, Google holds their algorithm very close to the vest, and they have not said to what degree local search results will be affected by this update, or when necessarily. They did clarify that this is a global change and would affect all regions and languages.