Last week, Google announced a range of new updates for search. Now, these are becoming more and more common – but this particular set of updates are based around AI, and are worth noting within your SEO approach as they provide varying levels of functionality.

Although not specifically aligned with brand queries, the new updates are mainly focused on helping people find the information they need (at the heart of Google Search is their ability to understand a user’s query and rank relevant results) – so they may impact your SEO strategy one way or another. We’re about to break these down and look at each new update to see what it means for your SEO efforts.


Google says it has improved it’s spelling predictions to help users find better matches. As we all know, a slip of the finger can mean you’ve searched for a completely different word to what you intended (some more hilarious than others). Although not super important in terms of impacting SEO, spelling a query right will provide more accurate search results, and incorrect spelling could lose you search opportunities. As explained by Google:

“We’ve continued to improve our ability to understand misspelled words, and for good reason – one in 10 queries every day are misspelled. Today, we’re introducing a new spelling algorithm that uses a deep neural net to significantly improve our ability to decipher misspellings. In fact, this single change makes a greater improvement to spelling than all of our improvements over the last five years.”


Google (or rather, its algorithm) will now be able to index individual passages of text within a piece of content on a site (such as a blog, or web page), helping to locate more specific information on that site relative to a user query. Previously, Google had kind of started doing this – highlighting specific text matches in featured snippets. But it will be more widely available now. They say:

“By better understanding the relevancy of specific passages, not just the overall page, we can find that needle-in-a-haystack information you’re looking for. This technology will improve 7% of search queries across all languages as we roll it out globally.”

In terms of impact on SEO, it could vary where your pages are ranked for each specific query – but if you continue to answer common questions the best you can to match user demand, it should continue to have a positive effect.

Hum to search

If you’re no stranger to Shazam, you’ll know where this one is going. This is where the AI really kicks in – Google will now be able to identify popular songs just by your humming or whistling into it’s app. Although no real SEO benefit or drawback (unless you’re in the music industry!), we thought we’d throw this one in for good (and fun) measure. Google says:

“Starting today, you can hum, whistle or sing a melody to Google to solve your earworm. On your mobile device, open the latest version of the Google app, tap the mic icon and say “what’s this song?” or click the “Search a song” button. Then start humming for 10-15 seconds. On Google Assistant, it’s just as simple. Say “Hey Google, what’s this song?” and then hum the tune.”


Google says it is going to show users more subtopics as clickable options within search results – this could be an imperative SEO consideration  as you’ll need to match your listings to each relevant category (based on commonly used filters, terms, etc.). The information on this update is still a little scarce, and it’s not clear how these subtopics will appear in search results yet. But they say:

“We’ve applied neural nets to understand subtopics around an interest, which helps deliver a greater diversity of content when you search for something broad. As an example, if you search for “home exercise equipment,” we can now understand relevant subtopics, such as budget equipment, premium picks, or small space ideas, and show a wider range of content for you on the search results page. We’ll start rolling this out by the end of this year.”

Key moments in videos

Alongside the introduction of YouTube’s video chapters which were rolled out back in May, Google has now been working on supporting this with indexing certain sections, or moments, of YouTube videos and is now looking to make this more available within search queries. However, even with Google’s AI working it’s magic, it would still be a safe bet in terms of SEO to add your own segment tags to give it an extra bit of help.

“Using a new AI-driven approach, we’re now able to understand the deep semantics of a video and automatically identify key moments. This lets us tag those moments in the video, so you can navigate them like chapters in a book. Whether you’re looking for that one step in a recipe tutorial, or the game-winning home run in a highlights reel, you can easily find those moments. We’ve started testing this technology this year, and by the end of 2020 we expect that 10% of searches on Google will use this new technology.”

COVID-19 updates

In addition to these more functionality-based updates, Google is also adding a range of COVID-19 tools for businesses. The chances are these won’t directly impact your SEO efforts – they’re worth being aware and making use of.

  • Live ‘busyness’ updates will show you how busy a place is right now, so you can practice social distancing with ease
  • COVID-19 safety information will appear front and centre on Business Profiles across Google Search and Maps – helping you know if a business requires you to wear a mask, make an advance reservation or if the staff are taking extra safety precautions such as temperature checks
  • Duplex conversational technology will help local businesses keep their information up to date online, such as opening hours and store inventory

If you’d like to discuss your SEO strategy with us, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch!