Google’s Natural Language Processing

natural language processing

Only human beings have real language, but Google is making real progress in bringing its technology closer to being able to respond effectively to human language. 

For a while now, Google has been getting better at predicting the next word in a sentence. You see it in gmail, where Google offers you proposed endings to your sentences, or even responses to the emails you receive. You see it at Google.com, where the search engine offers to finish your searches for you.

The Bert update works to predict words throughout the sentence, not just the next word. You might want to know how to become healthier in the new year, rather than looking for a healthier banana bread recipe. Moving away from predicting the next word is a big step.

Search intent

Google is also working to grasp the intention of a query. When you search, you might be looking for general information, trying to find a solution to a problem, or looking to buy something. Each intention calls for different content. 

When the search engine responds to the searcher’s intention, the results are better. 

We did an experiment with searches for bakeries a few years ago. We were looking for listings of local bakeries, but Bing started us off with a Wikipedia entry explaining what a bakery is. Repeating this search today still shows Wikipedia in first place, though it’s surrounded by local suggestions. Searching with just the word “bakery” didn’t give Bing enough information. A search with words showing intent, such as “bakery near me,” would get better results.

 

How do people search?

Even now, most searches contain just one or two words. Google relies on your search history, your location, and other information to refine its guesses about your intentions. 

But we know that people searching for health care tend to start with searches like “back pain” before they move on to “chiropractor near me.” A typical health care search begins with a problem, narrows down to possible solutions, and finally hones in on a local or online source for the preferred solution. 

What does this mean for your website content?

You should be aware of the intentions behind searches. When you choose keywords to focus on, you should include terms like “back pain” as well as terms like “chiropractor near me.” A matrix of content that will reach your target customers all along their path to purchase is the best strategy. 

That means you should be providing basic information for people looking for basic information, as well as your location and hours and insurance information for people who are ready to make an appointment. 

You must also use natural language. Old school tricks that “over optimize” your content will backfire. You need good content for every page of your website. 

We’ll be happy to help. 

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