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Google’s neural matching: what is it, and can you optimise for it?

Neural matching – what’s that, then? No, it’s not some quirky new matchmaking technology that Tinder has been implementing – it’s referring to an AI technology which Google has recently started using to help people find the right content for queries that don’t include the right terminology.

While this spells good news for Google users, it isn’t quite so promising for marketers who may have heavily relied on keywords in their content. How are you supposed to optimise for neural matching?

What exactly is neural matching?

It was last September that Danny Sullivan, Google’s public liaison of search, publicly revealed on Twitter about the search titan having spent the last few months using neural matching. The aim here was to better connect vague search terms with concepts – “super synonyms”, you could say.

This is ultimately intended to help out content writers, as the technical jargon they use in their articles might not always align with the more casual terms searchers tend to type into search fields. For example, searchers might be considering “getting” a new phone rather than “upgrading” to it.

Similarly, as that fancy new TV set you bought might produce imagery that looks strange but not in a way you can quite put your finger on, you might not be aware of what has been dubbed the “soap opera effect”. Fortunately, asking Google “why does my TV look strange” can still inform you of it.

You would have neural matching to thank for that – but, unsurprisingly, with Google keeping watch over its “secret sauce” much like KFC keeps the recipe of its pressure-fried chicken pieces under lock and key, it’s not entirely obvious how Google has made its big breakthrough here.

Would trying to optimise for neural matching be a lost cause?

Reassuringly, no. While it is true that optimising for this looks technically difficult, there remain several strategic measures you could follow. In September, Sullivan admitted that neural matching was affecting 30% of Google search queries, so that percentage could have grown since then.

Essentially, at least 30% of searches aren’t matching the keywords used in the relevant content, hence the rationale for introducing neural matching. Therefore, if you keep relying on keyword tools for finding new content marketing topics, you could miss out on much potential traffic.

This puts the onus on you thinking carefully about what issues your target customers or clients are facing, whether or not you can think of obvious keywords to suit. Once you have decided on a topic, shift your focus to creating the best possible piece of content addressing it.

This stage is important because, sadly, due to the small size of mobile device screens and the rise of featured snippets in Google search results, it’s now very much a case of “the winner takes it all”.

If you don’t deem yourself a skilled writer, we can write a well-crafted article or blog post, as well as build SEO-friendly links, for you as part of our Advanced package in web marketing.

Google's neural matching: what is it, and can you optimise for it?
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