Google has now confirmed the numerous reports of a local search update that began in early November. The update is related to Google “making use of neural matching as part of the process of generating local search results,” Google said via the @SearchLiason twitter account.
The confirmation. Google confirmed it began using neural matching for local search results and subsequent local ranking changes at 12:10 PM ET Monday:
What it means. Neural matching allows Google to better understand when users’ queries have local search intent even when the business name or description aren’t included.
There are no required changes a business needs to make as a result of this update. Google directs businesses to the basic local ranking help document published long ago.
Global release. Google posted an update saying “this was a global launch covering countries and languages worldwide.” So this impacted not just U.S. regions but globally, in all countries and languages that Google is available in.
Neural matching at Google. Google said it began using neural matching in search back in 2018 to better understand queries. Similar to BERT and RankBrain algorithms, neural matching helps Google improve query mapping to results, though it differs in its function. Google’s Danny Sullivan has referred to neural matching as “a super synonym system.” See Google’s neural matching versus RankBrain: How Google uses each in search for more details.
Why we care. We now have clear evidence that it is not just your imagination or your data showing ranking changes with the local search results. Google is saying it now uses neural matching to better understand local queries and thus, Google may show different local results because of it. Last year, Sullivan said neural matching was impacting 30% of queries. That’s surely increased with the roll-out of it to local queries.
Google’s advice here remains the same: relevance, prominence and distance are the keys to ranking well in local. It’s just that Google’s understanding of relevance has now expanded with neural matching.
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.
If you have noticed a drop in your Facebook conversion reports this week — or are seeing unexpected fluctuations with your Custom Audiences or Dynamic Ads volume — you’re not alone. The company is confirming with advertisers that its Pixel, which makes it possible to retarget audiences on the platform, suffered an outage that may have impacted standard Pixel events from being logged.
The problem. Between September 16 and and September 17, Facebook Pixel stopped logging events for some advertisers, causing reporting errors that, according to Facebook, may have impacted data connected to conversions, Custom Audiences and Dynamic Ads volume.
Andrew Foxwell, co-founder of social media advisory Foxwell Digital, posted a screenshot Wednesday of the message he received from his Facebook representative about the outage:
Unresolved issues. While Facebook claims everything should be loading as expected now, Foxwell isn’t so sure.
“Reports are coming back in order, but not yet fully recovered,” he said Thursday, “We are currently working to understand if data will back-fill into reports.”
Foxwell also said that he believes the outage impacted more than just what Facebook listed in its message. His agency has noticed reporting issues on performance as well. Another advertiser, Christian Lovrecich of Lovrecich Media, replied to Foxwell’s tweet that he was still experiencing a massive drop in performance reports across multiple accounts.
We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment on the problem and how many advertisers may have been impacted, but have not yet received a response.
Facebook is following its efforts on Instagram and experimenting with removing “Like” counts from posts. The test was first spotted by app researcher Jane Manchun Wong.
“Currently, with this unreleased feature, the like/reaction count is hidden from anyone other than the creator of the post, just like how it works on Instagram,” wrote Wong, “The list of people who liked/reacted will still be accessible, but the amount will be hidden.”
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the company is considering hiding “Like” counts on Facebook, but had nothing further to share.
Why we should care
Social platforms are paying more attention to the benefits — or lack thereof — attached to vanity metrics. Reports that Instagram was considering removing “Like” counts from post began as early as April, with confirmation later in the year it was testing the feature in seven different countries. Last week, YouTube said it was beginning to phase out exact counts for public-facing subscriber numbers on channels with 1,000 or more followers.
News that Facebook is going down the same path it already started on Instagram increases the likelihood it could have a broader roll-out across both platforms. This move may not potentially have measurable impact for branded posts on Facebook, but it could affect the brand-influencer relationship — especially in terms of how brands and advertisers evaluate which influencers they may want to build partnerships with.
Influencers will have to craft more valuable content, no longer able to rely on “Likes” to catch the attention of a brand. And brands will need to become more invested in the evaluation process — looking beyond how popular someone’s posts may appear to be from the number of “Likes” they receive.
More on the news
After removing “Like” counts in Canada, Instagram confirmed to TechCrunch in July it was testing removing the metric in Ireland, Italy, Japan, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand.
When Instagram first began experimenting with removing “Likes,” the company said “exploring ways to reduce pressure” on the platform is something they’re always thinking about.