In today’s SEO news roundup, we look at how Google is trying to solve this year’s Christmas travel issues, an indexing change that will make the web faster for everyone and how Google is using artificial intelligence to improve search for users and marketers alike.
Google’s tips for holiday travel amidst Covid-19
With Christmas hanging in the balance and the travel industry one of the worst-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, Google wants to help people plan whatever trips they can with confidence this holiday season.
The search giant has integrated several new features into Google Maps and Google Travel to help users stay up-to-date with the latest developments and book with confidence whenever appropriate.
Anyone hoping to visit family this holiday season or take a trip to kiss goodbye to 2020 can turn to Google for the following information:
- The latest info on travel restrictions and advisories for any locations searched, including the percentage of flights operating and hotels with rooms available where travel is allowed – as well as availability over the past six months to gauge local volatility.
- “Free cancellation” filter allows users to find properties offering free cancellation policies so they can book with confidence.
- Local Covid-19 information is now provided for locations in Google Maps so people can quickly check and compare places of interest.
- Safety alerts in Google Maps help keep travellers safe while they’re on the move and keep them in the loop with any developments.
All of these features are designed to help travellers book trips with confidence and find a way to live with the uncertainty of a global pandemic. Any help Google provides for potential travellers also helps travel brands who are among the worst-affected by the outbreak.
It’s crucial that travel brands keep up-to-date with the latest offerings from platforms like Google and take proactive steps to offer services like free cancellations where there are new opportunities to capture bookings.
How AI is making Google Search smarter & what it means for SEO
Google has made a lot of progress over the past few years with natural language processing (NLP) and other artificial intelligence technologies to understand search queries and content with greater accuracy.
In 2019, Google rolled out BERT as a neural network-based technique for NLP training, which allows its search algorithm to better understand the true meaning of complex search queries and the nuances of similar content.
Google says BERT is now applied to almost every search in English while it continues to use AI technology to improve the search experience for users – and expand SEO opportunities for businesses.
Understanding typos and spelling mistakes
Google says 10% of all queries typed include spelling mistakes and, last month, the search giant rolled out a new spelling algorithm to help it determine the intended keywords with greater accuracy.
“Today, we’re introducing a new spelling algorithm that uses a deep neural net to significantly improve our ability to decipher misspellings. In fact, this single change makes a greater improvement to spelling than all of our improvements over the last five years.”
Spelling mistakes make it more difficult for Google to deliver the most relevant content to users and they also limit the reliability for brands in terms of delivering their content to the right users. By improving its ability to interpret misspelt queries, Google can deliver relevant content in challenging situations and provide organic search opportunities that its previous algorithms would have been unable to.
Passages & subtopics
As Google itself explains, “very specific searches can be the hardest to get right” and one reason for this is that “the single sentence that answers your question might be buried deep in a web page”.
With Google’s AI systems getting smarter every day, new breakthroughs are becoming a regular thing and the search engine is now capable of not only ranking web pages, but also individual passages from pages that answer specific user questions.
According to Google, this new technology will “improve 7 percent of search queries across all languages as we roll it out globally”. This should mean users see fewer empty results pages for specific queries and also allow content creators to answer specific questions on pages covering broader topics, knowing they can still rank without creating separate pages for every question their target audience might have.
Another issue Google admits to having is the relationship of subtopics to broader subjects.
In the past, this has limited its ability to show content that’s related to the primary interest of users and may capture their attention in a more opportunistic way for brands. Once again, AI allows Google’s search algorithm to learn about the links between subjects and subtopics so that it can turn these sessions into opportunities.
“We’ve applied neural nets to understand subtopics around an interest, which helps deliver a greater diversity of content when you search for something broad.
“As an example, if you search for “home exercise equipment,” we can now understand relevant subtopics, such as budget equipment, premium picks, or small space ideas, and show a wider range of content for you on the search results page.”
Google says it will start rolling out this innovation by the end of the year.
Understanding key moments in videos
Video content is highly engaging but it has always posed a major problem for search algorithms that are unable to watch and understand footage in the same way as humans. Google has been working hard over the year on machine learning models to recognise objects in images and is now rolling out its first technology to understand the key moments in video content.
“Using a new AI-driven approach, we’re now able to understand the deep semantics of a video and automatically identify key moments. This lets us tag those moments in the video, so you can navigate them like chapters in a book. Whether you’re looking for that one step in a recipe tutorial, or the game-winning home run in a highlights reel, you can easily find those moments.”
Google has already started testing this technology and expects that 10% of all searches will be using it by the end of 2020.
Googlebot starts crawling with HTTP/2
Finally, Google has officially made the switch to HTTP/2, meaning Googlebot can now start downloading pages via the latest protocol. In practical terms, HTTP/2 makes the transfer of data between browsers and servers more robust, efficient, and faster so it’s good to see Google make the switch.
“In general, we expect this change to make crawling more efficient in terms of server resource usage. With h2, Googlebot is able to open a single TCP connection to the server and efficiently transfer multiple files over it in parallel, instead of requiring multiple connections. The fewer connections open, the fewer resources the server and Googlebot have to spend on crawling.”
During this first phase of adoption, Google says it will crawl a small number of sites over HTTP/2 and gradually ramp up to more sites over time. If you want to find out more about the latest HTTP protocol and how it might benefit your website, you can read this in-depth guide on the Google Developers site.
That wraps it up for today’s SEO news catch-up but you can follow us on @VerticalLeap to keep up with all the latest developments in search marketing, as well as advice, insights and tips for improving your campaigns. Or you can find out more about our SEO services and chat to us on 02392 830281.