Big Changes For Google Search Algorithm

The latest algorithm update aims to bring users results that are more relevant by understanding the context behind search queries with the help of artificial intelligence. The goal of this update is to enhance the user experience by making the process of a Google search feel natural.


In October, Google announced the biggest change to the core search algorithm in the past five years. Google is using an artificial language processing tool called Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, or BERT, to bring context to received search queries. In the old algorithm, Google focused on individual keywords in a search query, and used these individual keywords to return results. Users received results based on the words in the search query that the algorithm found most important. The problem with this method is that the algorithm lacked conversational context.

Google shared the following example of how the old algorithm worked: a user searching for “2019 brazil traveler to usa need a visa.” The word “to” and how it impacted the other words in the search query weren’t perceived to be important in the old algorithm, which returned results for U.S. citizens that are looking for information about traveling to Brazil.

Source:  Google

The BERT model takes the word “to” into consideration and understands the context of the search query. This change returned search results for Brazilian citizens that are traveling to the U.S. and need information about obtaining a visa.

Impact on Content Strategy

Google says that the BERT update could change search results for one out of 10 queries. It is important for content creators to remember that not all search queries will be impacted by this update, and time will tell how this algorithm will influence conversions. This update targets the longer and more conversational phrases and keywords that people use while talking to each other. For users, the BERT update could be a great asset when searching on Google and could result in spending less time scrolling through pages of information that doesn’t meet the initial query, especially for those using a mobile device.

Does this mean that businesses should start optimizing for BERT? Experts in the SEO community are saying, no. BERT’s goal is to return better results based on the unique phrases used in search queries. The best approach continues to be creating great content using natural language, written to be understood by human beings instead of a search algorithm.

[Infographic] – 17 Questions To Help Decide If Now Is The Right Time For That Review

Ever get a funny feeling that your brand’s Google Ads campaigns or other paid search campaigns could be better? Maybe you’ve been with the same paid search agency for a long time and performance has dropped as the agency has grown complacent. Or, maybe you’re regretting going with that agency who promised the same results and service as the other five agencies you vetted but at a much lower price point. Or, maybe your campaigns are doing just fine, chugging along with decent enough results to stay off the radar even though you know they could be performing better.

Whatever your reasons are, it’s a good idea to regularly review your search campaigns and the agency or agencies running them. To help pinpoint what to look for, we put together this list of 17 questions to ask yourself to find out if now is the time for that review.

Download our free infographic below (or read the expanded article here) to help evaluate 4 key areas :

  • Account Management
  • Campaign Structure
  • Partnerships
  • Campaign Performance Reporting

If you noticed too many red flags, contact Mindstream Media Group, a Google Premier Partner, and one of our paid search experts can work with you to take a deep dive into your Google Ads account and identify ways to amplify your campaigns.

[SEPTEMBER 2019] Google Says Goodbye to Average Position

The old saying that the only thing constant is change certainly rings true in search advertising. Between frequent algorithm updates, modifications to ad formats and the introduction of new products, features and tools, Google keeps search marketers on their toes. Earlier this year the search giant announced it would be removing the Average Position metric from Google Ads reporting on September 30. As the time is drawing near, it’s important to understand the new suite of metrics introduced to take the place of Average Position.

How Does Google Decide Positioning?

First, let’s review how ad position is determined. Google decides which ads to show and the order they will appear in based on the ad auction. Every ad is assigned an ad rank, which determines position (ad rank and ad position are often used interchangeably). Ad Rank is based on five key factors:

How Ad Position Is Determined

Source:  Google Ads Help

  1. Max Bid – the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for a click, specified by keyword.
  2. Quality Score – Google assigns a score based on how relevant and useful the ad and the website it links to are to the user.
  3. Ad Rank Thresholds – the minimum thresholds required for an ad to show based on various factors like ad quality, position, user location and device type, topic and related search queries.
  4. User Context – Google considers the search terms and time of day as well as the user’s location and device type and even the other ads and search results on the page.
  5. Expected Impact of Extensions – how the additional information included in an ad like phone number or links to specific pages on your website will impact ad performance.

What Is Average Position?

Average Position is one of Google’s oldest metrics. It’s been around as long as the search product itself. Back in the day, when ads reliably showed up in consistent locations on the page, it was a really useful metric for understanding where an ad appeared on a web page. Those were simpler times, when position on the page actually correlated to Average Position. But, as the search engine results page evolved, what the metric was actually showing became a bit muddled.

Average Position refers to the order in which paid search results appear. It’s an auction rank that refers to an ad’s position compared to others and has nothing to do with where on the page an ad is shown. For example, an average position of “1” means the ad is the first paid advertisement shown, although it could be appearing below organic search results. Confusing and not super helpful. Google gets it, so they’ve introduced a new suite of metrics to give advertisers a better idea of their prominence on the page.

The New Position Metrics

Googled rolled out four new position metrics last year in preparation for phasing out Average Position. These metrics reflect positioning at the top of the page (above organic results) and absolute top (the very first ad at the very top of the page). According to Google Ads product manager Pallavi Naresh, “These new metrics give you a much clearer view of your prominence on the page than average position does.”

Top Impression Rate:  The percent of ad impressions shown anywhere above the organic search results.

Top Impression Rate = Top Impressions / Total Impressions

Absolute Top Impression Rate:  The percent of ad impressions shown as the very first ad above the organic search results.

Absolute Top Impression Rate = Absolute Top Impressions / Total Impressions

Top Impression Share:  The impressions received in the top location (anywhere above the organic search results) compared to the estimated number of impressions an ad was eligible to receive in the top location.

Top Impression Share = Top Impressions / Eligible Top Impressions

Absolute Top Impression Share:  The percent of ad impressions received in the absolute top location (the very first ad above the organic search results) compared to the estimated number of impressions an ad was eligible to receive in the top location.

Absolute Top Impression Share = Absolute Top Impressions / Eligible Top Impressions


Source:  Google Ads Help

There are only a few weeks left before Average Position disappears for good, but considering how misleading it can be, many search experts are saying, “good riddance.” They feel these new metrics are more helpful for understanding placement and guiding optimization efforts.

Want to learn more about search engine marketing? Contact Mindstream Media Group, a Google Premier Partner, to find out how our paid search solutions can help your brand connect with consumers no matter how they search. 

Google Updates Travel Features

Google wants to be the first and last place you go for Labor Day travel planning—and for every day travel planning. The search giant previously said goodbye to the Google Trips app and moved travel booking to Google Travel. Now, Google has announced more features for its Travel product, adding to the depth of capabilities and likelihood to increase app engagement. Here’s a quick overview of Google’s updates.

Guaranteed pricing predictions

Google Flights has gained more detailed fare tracking capabilities beyond whether a flight route’s current price is high, medium or typical compared to average costs. Travelers can now see those cost assessments against the actual itinerary being considered for booking. According to Google, for “some flights,” the app will show how the cost has changed over recent months and notify the user if the algorithm suggests the price is about to increase or if it’s at rock bottom.

We’ve seen other fare predictors gone wrong before, but Google is guaranteeing pricing accuracy today through September 2 to earn user confidence. Here’s how it works:  If Google predicts the fare won’t decrease for select itineraries originating in the U.S. and booked between those dates, but it does drop, they’ll notify the user and refund the difference. Just use your Gmail to receive your flight confirmation, and the upcoming trip will flow into the app and can be seen at

Google Travel pricing insight

Consolidated and expanded features

The new functionality includes Google Maps’ Your Places with destination guides; recommendations and booking for hotels, restaurants and entertainment; reservation tracking across travel providers; and combined itineraries. Of course, you’ll stick with Maps in order to navigate when you reach your destination. The beta feature, Live View, uses augmented reality, or AR, on supported devices to overlay arrows, directional signage and instructions onto the actual view in front of the user as they walk.

Google Travel AR map

Want to be a travel influencer? The Google Timeline update lets you search your location history and share your list of visited destinations including shops, restaurants and other places. These businesses can then be part of your own city guide to share with your contacts. Make the guide public on Google Maps’ Explore for anyone to use.

Advertising opportunities

Google is right to drive users—and subsequently, advertisers—to its Travel products. Right now, travel is the sixth largest U.S. industry for ad spending, according to newly released eMarketer data. Rapid increase in travel, and competition by travel providers, results in increased advertising as a means of gaining market share. And, search advertising is practically a requirement for competing locally or nationally for travel spend. In fact, it makes up almost 11 percent of all search advertising investments across measured industries. Display and video are also gaining. Video spend for travel-related ads is anticipated to jump about 27 percent this year alone, although much of this is driven by social media, especially Instagram and Facebook.

Want to learn more about advertising with Google? Contact Mindstream Media Group to find out how our search marketing solutions can amplify your brand’s presence.