Google’s neural matching versus RankBrain: How Google uses each in search

Google's neural matching versus RankBrain: How Google uses each in search

Recently we have been hearing more about Google’s neural matching but the truth is, we don’t know much from Google on what neural matching is and how Google uses it.

Google answered several questions for us, and posted those answers on the @SearchLiaison Twitter account to try to clarify what neural matching is and how it differs from RankBrain.

What is neural matching? Google explained “Neural matching is an AI-based system Google began using in 2018 primarily to understand how words are related to concepts.”

“It’s like a super synonym system. Synonyms are words that are closely related to other words,” Google added.

The first time Google Search Liason Danny Sullivan spoke about this was in a tweet around its 20th anniversary in September. Sullivan said a “big change in search” is the ability to understand synonyms. “How people search is often different from information that people write solutions about.”

Sullivan said Google had been using neural matching over the last few months, so roughly since late spring or early summer of 2018.

How does neural matching work? Google said it helps better relate words to searches. The example Google gave us was neural matching helps understand that a search for “why does my TV look strange” is related to the concept of “the soap opera effect.” In this case, Google is now able to return pages about the soap opera effect, “even if the exact words aren’t used,” Google said.

How much is neural matching used? Google said in September 2018 that neural matching impacts about 30 percent of all queries. We asked Google if that has increased, but have not received an update.

What is RankBrain? Isn’t it similar? Google told us in 2016 that RankBrain (see our RankBrain FAQ) is also an AI, machine learning-based system that helps Google understand queries.

Google said a good way to think about RankBrain is as an AI-based system it began using in 2016 primarily to understand how words are related to concepts. “It’s like a super synonym system. Synonyms are words that are closely related to other words.”

So what’s the difference between Neural matching and RankBrain? Google put it this way:

  • RankBrain helps Google better relate pages to concepts.
  • Neural matching helps Google better relate words to searches.

Why it matters. The truth is, there isn’t much a search marketer can do to better optimize for RankBrain, as we said in 2016. The same seems to apply for neural matching, there doesn’t seem like you can do anything special to do better here. This is more about Google understanding queries and content on a page better than it currently does right now.

That said, it seems to indicate that search marketers need to worry a bit less about making sure specific keywords are on their pages because Google is getting smarter at figuring out the words you use naturally on your pages and matching them to queries.

We asked Google if it has additional recommendations around neural matching and RankBrain and were told its advice has not changed: Simply “create useful, high quality content.”


About The Author

Barry Schwartz is Search Engine Land’s News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on SEM topics.

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What are you seeing? Help us analyze Google’s March 2019 core algorithm update

What are you seeing? Help us analyze Google's March 2019 core algorithm update

The March 12 2019 Google core update is still very fresh for most of us right now. It is still too early to tell exactly if there are any patterns or areas that this specific update hit harder than other areas.

What are you seeing? Please take our survey to let us know how this specific update impacted your web sites. Please fill it out for each site that you think was impacted on March 12th and ask your colleagues to do so as well.

If you’d like to wait for Search Console or other analytics tool to update before you submit the survey, feel free to wait a few days.

What’s next? After we collect enough data, we will review the data for any patterns or similarities. We will report back with any details or insights we find from the data.

So stay tuned. So make sure to stay tuned because we will be providing a more detailed analysis of the 3/12 Google core update in the upcoming week or so.

What can I do now? For now, sit tight, and look at our previous advice in our original story from Google.


About The Author

Barry Schwartz is Search Engine Land’s News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on SEM topics.

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Google’s Black Box Bidding Solution: A look under the hood

Google’s Black Box Bidding Solution: A look under the hood

Live WebinarIn today’s world, Google, Facebook and Amazon are the gatekeepers to digital shoppers. But activities that once differentiated savvy marketers from their peers – keyword research, ad copy and target URL creation – have fallen victim to these giants’ automated solutions, including Smart Bidding, Google Shopping and Responsive Search Ads. They also offer automated black box solutions for many paid search activities, leaving marketers with a difficult choice between campaign control or operational convenience.

Join Crealytics founder and CEO Andreas Reiffen and Third Door Media’s Editor-in-Chief Ginny Marvin as they discuss how leading retailers can survive – and thrive – in an era of broad access to automation tools.

Register today for “Google’s Black Box Bidding Solution: A look under the hood,” produced by Digital Marketing Depot and sponsored by Crealytics.

About The Author

Digital Marketing Depot is a resource center for digital marketing strategies and tactics. We feature hosted white papers and E-Books, original research, and webcasts on digital marketing topics — from advertising to analytics, SEO and PPC campaign management tools to social media management software, e-commerce to e-mail marketing, and much more about internet marketing. Digital Marketing Depot is a division of Third Door Media, publisher of Search Engine Land and Marketing Land, and producer of the conference series Search Marketing Expo and MarTech. Visit us at http://digitalmarketingdepot.com.

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