Monday Memo: Personalization Is Coming to Google Maps

Damian Rollison | May 24, 2021 4:09:39 AM

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This week, read about personalization in Google Maps; the power of the Shopping Graph; MUM, the newest AI-based advance in search; the return of the local 10-pack; search volatility in May; and the impact of de-emphasizing AMP pages. 

Personalization is coming to Google Maps

Google announced several updates to Google Maps at the I/O conference last week, including:

  • The addition of sidewalks, crosswalks, and stoplights in 50 new cities by the end of the year
  • A feature that shows users how busy a neighborhood is at a particular time of day, similar to busyness reports for individual businesses
  • Addition of street labels and landmarks to live view
  • Indoor navigation in train stations and airports
  • Eco-friendly routes and safer routing powered by AI

Among the slate of updates, perhaps the most interesting is personalization of map results based on factors like user location and time of day. As explained in the announcement, users will start seeing different results in the morning than in the evening, and results will also be different when you’re traveling then when you’re close to home. So for instance, in the morning Google might show you nearby coffee shops; if you’re on a trip, you might see local landmarks. Users can tap any location on the map to see more similar locations nearby.


Image courtesy Google


Google announces the “Shopping Graph”

Also at the I/O conference, Google announced the Shopping Graph, an extension of the Knowledge Graph that allows Google to connect information gathered from “websites, prices, reviews, videos and, most importantly, the product data we receive from brands and retailers directly,” according to Google’s Bill Ready. The Shopping Graph has been in evidence in Google search results for some time, but hasn’t been commonly referred to with this term until now. Using this technology, Google is able to showcase relevant product listings in search results and in the Google Shopping interface. 

The main difference between the Knowledge Graph proper and the Shopping Graph is the ability of merchants to influence the content Google indexes by contributing inventory feeds directly to Google via the Merchant Center. No other component of the Knowledge Graph can be contributed to directly in this way. 

In addition to the Shopping Graph, Google made several other shopping-related announcements, including:

  • A new prompt in Google Photos to search for products matching those displayed in screenshots
  • Cart reminders in Chrome for products users have recently shopped for
  • A “View products” button in YouTube videos
  • Integrations with loyalty programs for brands like Sephora
  • An expanded Shopify integration designed to help Shopify’s 1.7 million merchants showcase products across Google

Google says it now has information on 24 billion products. Since product feeds were made free last year, Google has seen an 80% increase in merchant contributions. 


The newest Google search advance: MUM

Finally in I/O news, Google has let us know that the company is working on a new AI model for search that is, supposedly, 1,000 times more powerful than BERT, the technology that currently helps Google improve search results by boosting comprehension of complex queries. The new technology is called Multitask Unified Model, or MUM for short, and it improves upon BERT in multiple ways, including the ability to multitask, to comprehend (and generate responses in) 75 languages, and to analyze not only text but also images and, eventually, audio and video. The ultimate goal of MUM, says Google, is to reduce the number of queries required to get a complete answer for a complex question, such as, “I’ve hiked Mt. Adams and now want to hike Mt. Fuji next fall, what should I do differently to prepare?” Though MUM promises to introduce big improvements in search, it’s still being tested by Google internally with as yet no specified release date. 


The return of the 10-pack?

More than one user sharing on Twitter has been able to reproduce a local search result with ten local listings, as opposed to the three-pack we’ve become familiar with in recent years. The local 10-pack is actually one of the earliest versions of local results Google developed, along with the 7-pack and other variations, but it hasn’t been seen in the wild for quite some time. As Google’s confidence has grown in being able to find the most relevant results for local queries, and as local results have shown up in more queries overall, the three-pack has become the default mode of showcasing local results in search. Some have suggested the recently sighted 10-packs are a bug, but Brodie Clark posted a video on Twitter that looks more like an experiment, with a 10-pack result for “car mechanic near me” showing an interesting right-rail feature that lets the user refine the results by choosing related searches. We’ll have to see if this rolls out more broadly.


May search volatility continues with biggest shakeup yet

Barry Schwartz and others have been reporting on a few rather dynamic ranking disruptions throughout the month of May; now, Schwartz says a shakeup on May 22 is the biggest yet, “at the levels of a core update or the old Penguin and Panda updates” according to his writeup. This comes just a couple of days after the last big disruption on May 19-20 and is approximately the sixth major ranking shakeup in a month that isn’t over yet. As yet there has been no confirmation of an intentional update, core or otherwise, from Google.

SEMRush results showing May 22 update, courtesy Search Engine RoundtableSEMRush results showing May 22 update, courtesy Search Engine Roundtable


The impact of de-emphasizing AMP

Lily Ray has a new piece in Search Engine Journal that explores the de-emphasis of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) that will come about in conjunction with Google’s upcoming Page Experience update. You’ll recall that the AMP standard has been in place for several years as a way for content publishers to get top rankings in mobile results. These Google-hosted versions of publisher web pages are created according to the AMP standard in order to load quickly and provide a strong mobile user experience, but are stripped down in terms of their supported features. 

Now the Page Experience will force the issue of getting all web pages to load as quickly as possible, Google is de-emphasizing AMP. Once Page Experience launches in June, Top Stories mobile results will include a mix of AMP pages and pages that pass Page Experience standards (as well as other requirements for Top Stories), and Google will retire the symbol that distinguished AMP pages from others. Ray notes that the AMP symbol has been demonstrated to increase click-through rates by about 12%-15%, so its demise will likely have an impact on publishers, perhaps causing many of them to pay more attention to Core Web Vitals.

Topics: Monday Memo

Damian Rollison

Damian Rollison

VP of Market Development and Strategic Partnerships

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