Today, Google shared an updated timeline for when Chrome apps will stop working on all platforms. June 2022 is when they’ll be gone for good, but it depends on which platform you’re on (via 9to5Google). Previously, we knew that Chrome apps someday wouldn’t work on Windows, macOS, and Linux, but today, Google revealed that Chrome apps will eventually stop working on Chrome OS, too.

A Chrome app is a web-based app that you can install in Chrome that looks and functions kind of like an app you’d launch from your desktop. Take this one for the read-it-later app Pocket, for example — when you install it, it opens in a separate window that makes it seem as if Pocket is functioning as its own app.

You probably don’t need to worry about the death of Chrome apps messing up your browsing experience too much. At this point, most apps on the web are just regular web apps, which is why you’ll be able to keep using Pocket without issue in much the same way by navigating to In rarer cases, you might also be using Progressive Web Apps, which are basically websites that are cached to your device so they can have some offline functionality and be launched like an app. Some Chrome apps you have installed may already redirect to websites, like many of Google’s apps. And Chrome extensions are also different from Chrome apps, and those will keep working just fine.

There’s a pretty decent chance you’re not using any real Chrome apps at all, even if you use web apps all the time. When Google first announced all the way back in 2016 that it would end support for Chrome apps on Windows, macOS, and Linux, it said approximately one percent of users on those platforms were actively using packaged Chrome apps. That was nearly four years ago, and web developers have moved on.

If you do use Chrome apps, they will stop working much sooner on Windows, macOS, or Linux than they will on Chrome OS. Here’s Google’s timeline:

March 2020: Chrome Web Store will stop accepting new Chrome Apps. Developers will be able to update existing Chrome Apps through June 2022.

June 2020: End support for Chrome Apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Customers who have Chrome Enterprise and Chrome Education Upgrade will have access to a policy to extend support through December 2020.

December 2020: End support for Chrome Apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

June 2021: End support for NaCl, PNaCl, and PPAPI APIs.

June 2021: End support for Chrome Apps on Chrome OS. Customers who have Chrome Enterprise and Chrome Education Upgrade will have access to a policy to extend support through June 2022.

June 2022: End support for Chrome Apps on Chrome OS for all customers.

To break that down a bit:

  • At some point in June 2020, Chrome apps will stop working on Windows, macOS, and Linux, unless you have Chrome Enterprise or Chrome Education Upgrade, which lets you use Chrome apps for six more months.
  • If you’re on Chrome OS, Chrome apps will work until June 2021. Again, if you have Chrome Enterprise or Chrome Education Upgrade, Google says you can use Chrome apps for an additional year.

Originally, Chrome apps were supposed to stop working on Windows, macOS, and Linux in early 2018, but in December 2017, when Google removed the Chrome apps section from the Chrome Web Store, it pushed that early 2018 deadline to an unspecified date in the future. Now, more than three years later, we finally know when Chrome apps won’t work on those platforms — and when they won’t work on any platform at all.


Third-party cookies have been living on borrowed time, given their increasing rejection by the major browsers. And today Google announced support for third-party cookies in its Chrome browser would be phased out “within two years.”

The company seeks to replace them with a browser-based mechanism as part of its “Privacy Sandbox” initiative. The Privacy Sandbox was introduced last August, following an earlier announcement at Google I/O. The initiative is arguably a response to increasing privacy pressure and partly a response to the rise of cookie-blocking by others.

Balancing personalization and privacy. Google’s stated objective is to create “a secure environment for personalization that also protects user privacy.” Google says this requires “new approaches to ensure that ads continue to be relevant for users, but user data shared with websites and advertisers would be minimized by anonymously aggregating user information, and keeping much more user information on-device only.”

The company argues that “large scale cookie blocking,” such as being done by Firefox and Safari, encourage tracking techniques like fingerprinting and undermine the publisher ecosystem by making ads less relevant, thereby reducing their revenues. The less precise the audience targeting, the lower the ad revenue.

Audience targeting strategies. The Privacy Sandbox system envisions targeting and conversion measurement happening within the browser environment through “privacy preserving APIs.” Google says that for ad targeting it’s “exploring how to deliver ads to large groups of similar people without letting individually identifying data ever leave [the] browser.” The company explains this is based on techniques and technologies such as Differential Privacy and Federated Learning. The latter would allow interest-based targeting at large-group scale to avoid revealing any individual’s information.

Conversion measurement. Here Google is more vague, saying, “Both Google and Apple have already published early-stage thinking to evaluate how one might address some of these use cases.” Reportedly, conversions would also be tracked inside Chrome and advertisers would be able to get conversion data through an API but without identifying any individual user.

Finally, Google said that starting in February, it’s going to treat cookies “that don’t include a SameSite label as first-party only, and require cookies labeled for third-party use to be accessed over HTTPS.” It’s also going to work to stop fingerprinting and other types of “covert tracking.”

Why we care. Google’s move, together with Firefox and Safari, is a major change (and challenge) for the industry. Google says it’s trying to find “a middle way” that empowers users but enables the advertising ecosystem to function effectively,” compared to what it considers the more blunt approach of Apple’s “Intelligent Tracking Prevention.”

Critics will accuse Google of trying to assert more control over digital advertising. However, for the approach to work, Google will need to build consensus among a broad community of publishers, advertisers, technology companies and even Apple and Mozilla. In principle, at least, it’s a thoughtful and reasonable approach that also plays to its strengths — a vast ecosystem coupled with powerful data collection and modeling capabilities — and will preserve its dominant position in the digital ad market.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land, a member of the programming team for SMX events and the VP, Market Insights at Uberall.


So I was recently asked why I prefer to use free and open source software over more conventional and popular proprietary software and services.

A few years ago I was an avid Google user. I was deeply embedded in the Google ecosystem and used their products everywhere. I used Gmail for email, Google Calendar and Contacts for PIM, YouTube for entertainment, Google Newsstand for news, Android for mobile, and Chrome as my web browser.

I would upload all of my family photos to Google Photos and all of my personal documents to Google Drive (which were all in Google Docs format). I used Google Domains to register my domain names for websites where I would keep track of my users using Google Analytics and monetize them using Google AdSense.

I used Google Hangouts (one of Google’s previous messaging plays) to communicate with friends and family and Google Wallet (with debit card) to buy things online and in-store.

My home is covered with Google Homes (1 in my office, 1 in my bedroom, 1 in the main living area) which I would use to play music on my Google Play Music subscription and podcasts from Google Podcasts.

I have easily invested thousands of dollars into my Google account to buy movies, TV shows, apps, and Google hardware devices. This was truly the Google life.

Then one day, I received an email from Google that changed everything.

“Your account has been suspended”

Just the thing you want to wake up to in the morning. An email from Google saying that your account has been suspended due to a perceived Terms of Use violation. No prior warning. No appeals process. No number to call. Trying to sign in to your Google account yields an error and all of your connected devices are signed out. All of your Google data, your photos, emails, contacts, calendars, purchased movies and TV shows. All gone.

I nearly had a heart attack, until I saw that the Google account that had been suspended was in fact not my main personal Google account, but a throwaway Gmail account that I created years prior for a project. I hadn’t touched the other account since creation and forgot it existed. Apparently my personal Gmail was listed as the recovery address for the throwaway account and that’s why I received the termination email.

Although I was able to breathe a sigh of relief this time, the email was wake up call. I was forced to critically reevaluate my dependence on a single company for all the tech products and services in my life.

I found myself to be a frog in a heating pot of water and I made the decision that I was going to jump out.

Leaving Google

Today there are plenty of lists on the internet providing alternatives to Google services such as this and this. Although the “DeGoogle” movement was still in its infancy when I was making the move.

The first Google service I decided to drop was Gmail, the heart of my online identity. I migrated to Fastmail with my own domain in case I needed to move again (hint: glad I did, now I self host my email). Fastmail also provided calendar and contacts solutions so that took care of leaving Google Calendar and Contacts.

Here are some other alternatives that I moved to:

Migrating away from Google was not a fast or easy process. It took years to get where I am now and there are still several Google services that I depend on: YouTube and Google Home.

Eventually, my Google Home’s will grow old and become unsupported at which point hopefully the Mycroft devices have matured and become available for purchase. YouTube may never be replaced (although I do hope for projects like PeerTube to succeed) but I find the compromise of using only one or two Google services to be acceptable.

At this point losing my Google account due to a mistake in their machine learning would largely be inconsequential and my focus has shifted to leaving Amazon which I use for most of my shopping and cloud services.

The reason that I moved to mostly FOSS applications is that it seems to be the only software ecosystem where everything works seamlessly together and I don’t have to cede control to any single company. Alternatively I could have simply split my service usage up evenly across Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple but I don’t feel that they would have worked as nicely together.

Overall I’m very happy with the open source ecosystem. I use Ubuntu with KDE on all of my computers and Android (no GApps) on my mobile phone. I’ve ordered the PinePhone “Brave Heart” and hope to one day be able to use it or one of its successors as a daily driver with Ubuntu Touch or Plasma Mobile.

I don’t want to give the impression that I exclusively use open source software either, I do use a number of proprietary apps including: Sublime Text, Typora, and Cloudron.


In the latest ad tech merger, Rubicon Project and Telaria have agreed to combine, the firms announced Thursday. In a stock-for-stock deal, the companies plan to operate one digital media buying platform that supports connected TV (CTV), desktop display, video, audio, and mobile inventory transactions.

Why we care

The companies said the combination of Rubicon Project’s ad exchange and Telaria’s yield optimization platform for video publishers will create the biggest independent sell-side programmatic ad platform (SSP).

Telaria, formerly Tremor Video, specializes in video and connected TV (CTV) advertising. The rebrand came after selling off its demand-side platform (DSP). The company moved into CTV and launched an ad server designed for CTV and analytics in 2018.

Connected TV (also referred to as over-the-top or OTT) ad revenues are expected to reach $3.8 billion this year, up 39%, according to Magna Global, reaching $5 billion by 2020.

The companies also noted that their combined forces could present an alternative to the so-called walled gardens of Google and Facebook. Google dominates the ad serving market. “Our businesses are highly complementary, and when combined, are a powerful, strategic alternative to the walled gardens, which have been frustrating both buyers and sellers due to their lack of transparency, innovation bottlenecks, and conflicted business models,” said Telaria CEO, Mark Zagorski.

More on the news

  • The companies said their combined revenue was $217 million over the 12-month period ending 2019, an increase of 32% year over year.
  • Michael Barrett will be named chief executive officer, Mark Zagorski will serve as president & chief operating officer and David Day will be named chief financial officer when the deal closes.
  • The deal is a stock-for-stock merger with Rubicon Project stockholders expected to own a majority of the combined company’s shares (to trade as $RUBI), at approximately 52.9%.

About The Author

Ginny Marvin is Third Door Media’s Editor-in-Chief, running the day to day editorial operations across all publications and overseeing paid media coverage. Ginny Marvin writes about paid digital advertising and analytics news and trends for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, Ginny has held both in-house and agency management positions. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.


Google is a marketing platform, but it’s also a digital marketing company that sells its own hardware, software, services and smart-home products. In that context the company is confronting the same privacy and data-constrained challenges that all digital marketers face: GDPR, CCPA, ITP.

Google has written a post that explains how the company itself is dealing with cookie-data and tracking challenges, trying to balance personalization and privacy. It’s designed to be instructive for other digital marketers.

Three marketing challenges Google faces. There are three fundamental challenges Google outlines in this new privacy-sensitive environment:

  • Audience targeting and list creation, with greater cookie and third party data restrictions
  • Ad frequency: ensuring that ads are not shown too many times despite the lack of cookie data
  • Ad performance and attribution with less available data

In response to these issues, Google says that it’s relying more heavily on firs- party data. “When people show interest in certain products by visiting the Google Store’s website — and have given us consent where appropriate — we can use that data to inform the ads we show them in the future.”

Machine learning and predictive modeling. It’s also using machine learning and predictive models to avoid over-exposing users to ads. The company explained in another blog post that it uses “traffic patterns where a third-party cookie is available, and [analyzes] them at an aggregated level across Google Ad Manager publishers . . . to create models to predict traffic patterns when a third-party cookie isn’t present.”

And when Google can’t “accurately determine someone’s interests and preferences to help personalize an ad,” it will use context to match ads to content. However, it says this isn’t like the AdSense of old; it’s more sophisticated.

Google contextually targeted ads

Headlines in ads for the Googe Home Mini adapt to the content on the page.

The post uses the example of an ad for Google Home Mini on The Guardian’s website. Ads were shown in the food section. Google analyzed the text of articles and changed ad copy to match or respond to page content.

Google also says that it has formed an internal team to focus on privacy, regulation and how future changes will impact the company’s marketing capabilities and tactics. “This team’s focus is forecasting the impact of each scenario on our campaigns and developing a game plan for how we would respond.”

Why we care. In some ways, Google is in the same boat as everyone else. In its post, the company expresses the uncertainty that most digital marketers feel today: “We expect more changes are coming, and it’s not entirely clear to what extent our digital marketing practices will need to evolve.” However, Google is also the largest digital media company in the world and has a wide range of scale, data and technology advantages, not shared by others, to weather the coming privacy storm.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He previously held leadership roles at LSA, The Kelsey Group and TechTV. Follow him Twitter or find him on LinkedIn.


We’ve all heard that “data is gold”, and this is no different when it comes to user experience design.

Vernon Joyce

The potential to use Google Analytics is a UX tool is easily overlooked. It’s relatively easy to understand, data rich and other than set up does not often require intervention from developers.

Google Analytics have several features that are relevant to the work we do as UX designers or researchers, and this article will unpack some of the use cases.

Disclaimers: None of the technical aspects of implementation are covered, but I have included some useful links at the end of this article. I will also occasionally refer to Google Analytics as GA for ease of reading.

Google Analytics standard is available for free and can be used on any web-based or native app.

To get started, register a free account on Google Analytics here, and follow the prompts. Once installed, open your website or app and head to the “Real time” section of Google Analytics. You should now see your activity being reported on.

Metrics and dimensions are the various data points within Analytics and are measured for all users. Dimensions can be explained as an attribute associated with a visitor (for example, their age) and a metric is what is used to measure these attributes (such as the amount of times they viewed a page).

Metrics and dimensions provide you not only with numbers, but they can also be compared over time periods or pulled into custom reports which make them very useful to UX designers for research and A/B testing.

Example of metrics available in GA.

The display of metrics and dimensions can also be modified in addition to comparing them. Some examples include changing the time frame (i.e. hourly, daily, weekly or monthly), sorting by metric or displaying the tables as graphs.

Not all of the out of the box data points are necessarily useful to a UX designer, but there are some key ones that can be indicative of user behavior:

  • Demographics (Audience): Google Analytics gives you access to several demographic data points like age, gender, location, language and interests which are very useful when trying to understand who your users are. These demographics are based on the data collected from users while logged into their Google account which means that it’s not necessarily a full view, so use this information qualitatively.
  • Browser, Operating System and Devices (Audience): Useful for determining cross-browser compatibility of your product, as well as studying behavior on different device types (like desktop versus mobile).
  • Time on page/screen: Indicator for whether users are engaging with a single page or screen in your product. Can also be useful for measuring whether or not your layout is too long (i.e. has an early drop-off) or too short (users don’t spend a lot of time on the page).
  • Session duration — The amount of time a user spent on your entire app or website in a single sitting. This is really useful for measuring the effectiveness of your user journeys. It can also be used in conjunction with bounce rate, exit rate and pages per session.
  • Landing page, Page depth, Next page path(s): Also useful for measuring user journeys; these dimensions provide a sense of where a user came from and where they are going.

It’s well known that the speed of an application is instrumental to a good user experience, and Google takes this seriously:

The “Speed Update,” as we’re calling it, will only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect a small percentage of queries. It applies the same standard to all pages, regardless of the technology used to build the page.

Google’s Site Speed feature is useful for analyzing high level performance**. It is paired with browser type by default, but can also be broken down to metrics like page views or bounce rate. The speed metric is based on a sampled average of your website which makes it useful for measuring individual pages.

Example of page views and load time for the top 4 browsers. In this example, Internet Explorer loads 29.53% faster than the site average — great news for your developers!

** Word of warning: Google Analytics will only track page speed after the page loads, which means that it might not necessarily give you the full picture. The data is also sampled, meaning that one bad load can potentially shift the average dramatically. I would therefore recommend using this data qualitatively to test some very high-level objectives as the data might not be completely accurate.

Marketing and UX teams often work in isolation without recognizing that there is a clear symbiosis. UX efforts can greatly inform marketing teams when it comes to marketing funnels for example, and digital marketing can be a great tool for user research and discovery.

Both Google Ads and SEO are very intent driven marketing mediums, which makes them good candidates for understanding your users. Both Google Ads and Google Search Console (Google’s SEO tool) can be connected directly to Google Analytics and gives you access to some new data points.

Search query for example is the query or sentence a user typed into Google to find your ad or website. It’s available for both Google Ads and Search Console (new sections you’ll find under Acquisition) and is perfect for researching user needs or intent. Other sections that might be useful is Display targeting which outlines how your advertisers are targeting users and can be useful for user research.

These users were looking for a free product specifically

The real power of connecting these data sources however, is using them in combination with other data points. Using search query in conjunction with session duration, bounce rate and page depth for example; will give you a clear indication of whether or not you addressed the user’s initial need or intent.

Events is likely one of the most underrated features in Google Analytics. An event, simply put, is any unique tracked action a user takes within your application or website.

Events consist of three dimensions: A category, a label and an action. Categories are useful for grouping events into themes or types and labels can be used to describe something about the event. Lastly, the action can describe the action a user takes. These three dimensions can be combined in several ways to provide detail on how your users interact with your product.

These three UX events track how users interact with some of this website’s eCommerce functionality.

As mentioned, events can consist of any interaction, but these are some examples that are especially useful to a UX practitioner:

  • Scroll depth: Measure how far a user scrolled down a page or screen; useful for gauging whether or not your pages are too long.
  • Interactions: Track whether users are clicking or tapping on certain elements like banners, buttons, menus etc. This could be used to test the effectiveness of UI components, or their placement.
  • Dynamic loading: Events could be useful when components or content in your application is loaded dynamically — for example a “Load More” button.
  • Form engagement: Form interactions can be tracked on multiple levels: Validation, completions and submissions
  • Content engagement: It is also possible to measure how users engage with your content by combining some metrics such as time on page and scroll depth
  • File downloads
  • Video plays
  • Third party: Events could also be used to track events on third party applications, such as Internet enabled IoT devices or point of sales systems.

Events are not set up by default and will require some up-front work. They can be implemented in a few ways but using Google Tag Manager will make your events more scale-able. It is also for this reason that events should be based on objectives.

Google Analytics has three tools for analyzing user flow and behavior: Navigation summary, Behavior Flow and User Explorer.

Navigation summary is a straight-forward view — it provides an overview of the page users came from and the page they are going to in relation to a specific page. It also demonstrates how many users viewed this page first, and how many exited from here. Navigation summary can be found under the Behavior section of GA when analyzing individual pages.

In this example, 30.51% of users came from the home page, and 9.57% of them returned to the home page. This could be an indication that they did not find what they were looking for.

Behavior Flow is an excellent feature and provides a lot of in depth detail of how users move through your application or website. This flow can be viewed based on a couple of dimensions (even events) and can be drilled into on multiple levels. The only draw back of this tool is how it groups pages, as it won’t necessary show you a flow chart of every single page on your website. That said though, you can get to this view by adding filters.

Example of how users moved through this website, from the Grade 5 Exam Maths page.

The Behavior Flow tool is very useful for getting a broad sense of how users move through your website or app, but User Explorer offers a much more granular view.

User Explorer provides an overview of a single anonymous user’s interactions based on their cookie ID.

There is a substantial amount of information available such as session duration, the amount of sessions and how the user found your product. From a UX perspective though, the most valuable data would be the ability to see the detail on each of the user’s interactions — and this includes all the events they triggered. It is also possible to export this data to JSON which can be consumed by third-party applications for visualization.

Cookies do have a few drawbacks: They are device dependent which means you can track the same user cross-device, and they can also be deleted by the user. There are some ways around these scenarios without impacting a user’s privacy but this implementation can be technical.

Example of a user’s interactions on a website

Sometimes you might want to report on data that is not available in GA by default, which is why it is also possible to create custom dimensions. Custom dimensions can be any data point and can come from any interaction. You might want to report on, as an example, how many of your users are married versus single.

In this example you could set up an event on a form that tracks every time a user selects their marital status. This event would then send this data to Google Analytics as a custom dimension, which would then become available for comparison with other metrics.

An example of adding an author name as a custom dimension.

User testing often requires prototyping and focus groups; and finding people can also be difficult or costly. Google solves for this through their free product called Optimize — a tool used for personalization and A/B testing with a direct integration into Google Analytics.

Optimize has what are called Experiences, and there are four types: A/B test, Multivariate test, Redirect test and Personalization.

A/B test is exactly what it sounds like; test two variants of almost anything in your application, whether it’s a button or a content section. A/B tests can have multiple variants and you can decide to what percentage this traffic should be split. Multivariate allows you to test two sections against one another, redirect tests redirects a set amount of traffic to a different page and personalization personalizes a users experience based on parameters.

What makes Optimize incredibly powerful is the ability to create these tests without making any changes to your application code. Optimize uses a visual editor that allows you to edit content, components and styles as if you were making changes to a live website. These changes are then only applied when the conditions are met.

There is also a paid for version of Optimize available (called Optimize 360) that would allow you to connect Google Analytics Audiences to an experiment for more precise targeting.

The last port of call is to present your data and findings and there are some options to automate this process. Google Analytics have built in reports that can be customized to show and compare data over time. An alternative option is Data Studio, a free data visualization product from Google. Connecting Google Analytics to Data Studio is relatively easy and allows you to visualize any metric or dimension in a variety of graphs and tables.

Google Analytics offers a tangible way to measure UX initiatives and can be a very useful tool in a UX designer’s arsenal. Remember though, that it only provides us with the data and that it is ultimately up to us to find the insights.

Follow me: Medium / / LinkedIn / Twitter

Courtesy Adobe Stock

Google Open Source is proud to announce Google Summer of Code (GSoC) 2020—the 16th year of the program! We look forward to introducing the 16th batch of student developers to the world of open source and matching them with open source projects, while earning a stipend so they can focus their summer on their project.

Over the last 15 years GSoC has provided over 15,000 university students, from 109 countries, with an opportunity to hone their skills by contributing to open source projects during their summer break.

And the ‘special sauce’ that has kept this program thriving for 16 years: the mentorship aspect of the program. Participants gain invaluable experience working directly with mentors who are dedicated members of these open source communities; mentors help bring students into their communities while teaching them, guiding them and helping them find their place in the world of open source.

We’re excited to keep the tradition going! Applications for interested open source project organizations open on January 14, 2020, and student applications open March 25.

Are you an open source project interested in learning more? Visit the program site and read the mentor guide to learn more about what it means to be a mentor organization, how to prepare your community and create appropriate project ideas, and tips for preparing your application. We welcome all types of organizations—large and small—and are very eager to involve first time projects. For 2020, we hope to welcome more organizations into GSoC than ever before and are looking to accept 40-50 new organizations into their first GSoC.

Are you a university student interested in learning how to prepare for the 2020 GSoC program? It’s never too early to start thinking about your proposal or about what type of open source organization you may want to work with. You should read the student guide for important tips on preparing your proposal and what to consider if you wish to apply for the program in mid-March. You can also get inspired by checking out the 200 organizations that participated in Google Summer of Code 2019, as well as the projects that students worked on.

We encourage you to explore other resources and you can learn more on the program website.

By Stephanie Taylor, Google Open Source


We can no longer pretend that Google is a positive force in the world.

There is a simple first step that every internet user can take to make things a little better. Seek out a better web browser to replace Google Chrome and tell everyone to do the same.

No to Chrome is designed as a starting point for anyone who uses the internet to send a message to Google that their relentless disregard for our rights, dignity, democracy and communities will not be tolerated.

There are many ways protest against Google ranging from Tweets to full boycotts but No to Chrome is designed to be for anyone who uses the internet to participate easily and immediately.

Other Google bear traps

Have a look at our Google products pages to see the problems with other Google products and what you can do about them.


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 name, “Nov. 2019 Local Search Update” follows the naming convention Google began using last year for Google core search algorithm updates.

The confirmation. Google confirmed it began using neural matching for local search results and subsequent local ranking changes at 12:10 PM ET Monday:

The use of neural matching means that Google can do a better job going beyond the exact words in business name or description to understand conceptually how it might be related to the words searchers use and their intents…

— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) December 2, 2019

The use of neural matching in local search doesn’t require any changes on behalf of businesses. Those looking to succeed should continue to follow the fundamental advice we offer here:

— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) December 2, 2019

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.


We’ve asked Google for comment. In the past, it explained that it used data to improve its services and gave users controls to manage and delete their info.

An investigation doesn’t necessarily guarantee the EU will file an antitrust case. However, officials have previously slapped Google with over €8 billion (about $8.8 billion) in fines over allegations of restrictive ad contracts, anti-competitive Android policies and similar claims. It wouldn’t be shocking if the Commission found issues with Google’s data gathering methods, especially when national regulators have already fined Google for reported GDPR violations.