In today’s Monday Memo, learn about Google’s new BERT search algorithm; TripAdvisor and Yelp’s consumer surveys; Google’s new CRM ad extensions and audience targeting features; Facebook’s updates to Stories and messaging; new foodie experiences in Uber Eats; and Hyundai’s self-driving taxi pilot.
Google launches BERT natural language search algorithm
Google has announced, and is reportedly already rolling out, a new search algorithm called BERT that uses neural networks and natural language processing to provide a better understanding of user queries that existing algorithms might misinterpret. The algorithm is projected to impact 1 in 10 queries on Google and will be aimed in particular at the process used to create featured snippets. BERT, which stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (whatever that means), represents the biggest change in Google search since the release of RankBrain five years ago.
RankBrain, as you might recall, also uses neural networks to improve search, but relies on analyzing prior search results to improve future ones. BERT appears to focus directly on the actual language of ambiguous and complex user queries. Google has provided several examples of BERT-enhanced search results, including those that trigger featured snippets. In the example below, BERT was able to provide a more relevant result for the query “parking on a hill with no curb.”
Though the SEO community is already asking how to optimize for BERT, the question may be misplaced. Given its ability to understand natural language more accurately, the best way to optimize for the new algorithm is simply to create useful content that is relevant to your intended audience.
TripAdvisor survey shows the influence of reviews on dining decisions
TripAdvisor has produced a new survey of more than 20,000 of its users, in collaboration with Ipsos MORI. The survey asks respondents to rate the importance of reviews in comparison with other factors when making purchase decisions. Notably, respondents said reviews were the most important factor in choosing a restaurant, more important than price or location. The average diner views 5 different restaurants and reads about 8 reviews per restaurant when deciding where to eat. More than a third of the survey’s respondents would not visit a restaurant that had no reviews. On the whole, respondents trusted the accuracy of TripAdvisor reviews, with 89% saying reviews on the site accurately described their own experience at a restaurant.
Number of Restaurants Viewed Before Making a Decision
Survey finds 97% of consumers transact with businesses they find on Yelp
A new survey from Yelp, in collaboration with SurveyMonkey, found that 97% of consumers spend money with businesses they find on the site, with 51% of respondents saying they made a purchase within a day of finding a business on Yelp and 90% saying they did so within a week. All of these figures have improved since a similar study was conducted in 2016. Respondents also noted that other factors were important in evaluating businesses, with 75% saying they valued seeing that a business had a license; 71% valued the ability to request a quote; 69% valued seeing pictures and cost estimates of completed projects; and 58% valued learning about a business’s unique characteristics, like being open late.
Google pilots CRM ad extensions, launches affinity and seasonal audiences
In another recent announcement, Google will now allow advertisers to target audiences by affinity and by season. As an example of affinity targeting, advertisers might choose to target ads for camping equipment to an audience of “Outdoor Enthusiasts.” As for seasonal targeting, this feature lets advertisers provide more timely offers to users who, for example, are searching for gifts around holidays like Valentine’s Day and Christmas.
Facebook launches new Story-building and messaging features
In an attempt to appeal to business users, Facebook has launched two new updates designed to help businesses create more engaging experiences for customers. The first is a set of templates that will make it easier for businesses to create full-screen Stories on Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. The second update will add a range of new features to messaging on Instagram, from preconfigured instant replies to labels, search, and folders intended to make it easier for businesses to organize their Instagram messaging activities.
Uber offers foodie experiences with Uber Eats
Uber has addeda Moments tab to Uber Eats for users in San Francisco that allows them to select from various foodie experiences, such as cooking classes and multi-course meals. The feature, which resembles the various “experiences” users can book via Airbnb, may represent another step in Uber’s attempt to create a range of services related to transportation, food, work, and other needs, thereby becoming “the operating system for your everyday life,” in the recent words of CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.
Hyundai to unveil BotRide robotaxis in Irvine
Hyundai is placing a fleet of electric, autonomous cars on the streets of Irvine starting November 4, in a venture called BotRide which is being launched in collaboration with China’s Pony.ai and the Via rideshare app. The cars will not be fully self-driving; a human safety driver will be present at all times. Via, a company specializing in the logistics of shared rides, currently operates shuttles in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New York. Hyundai says the Irvine pilot is intended as a study of consumer behavior in relation to an autonomous ride sharing service.