The local algorithm update was rolled out in November 2019 and introduced neural matching (AI) to the local algorithm. As a result, businesses with titles and descriptions that vaguely relate to a business or industry may now appear within the top organic results as well as within the Local Pack. It is unrelated, but similar to, the BERT update as it enables Google’s local search to understand how words relate to concepts.
Neural matching allows Google to better understand the meaning behind queries and match them to the most relevant local businesses – even if the keywords in the query are not specifically included in the business name and description.
What Does It Mean?
Some people might lose local search traffic. If you lost traffic from this update, it could be that your local business listing wasn’t the closest listing to the users in your location who are making the local search queries. Results conducted by people within the industry have said that Google My Business listings that were closer to the searcher won out, while those that were further away lost traction.
What Should I Do?
The use of neural matching in local search doesn’t require any changes on behalf of businesses. If a business is negatively affected, it has been suggested that it may be better to use Google or Facebook adverts to try and compensate for lost traffic. These media allow you to set very precise parameters for your adverts.