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How BERT Helps With Google Search

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How BERT Helps With Google Search

Google has posted a new video on how BERT helps Google Search understand language. Google has been using BERT in search since 2018, we only knew about it in 2019. That being said, the short video basically says it is about Google understanding the little words better.

Here is the video:

Here is the transcript if you don’t want to listen:

If a pancake recipe told you to “mix the batter with the banana,” you probably wouldn’t think to use the banana as a mixing spoon. But what’s obvious to humans — things like context, tone, and intention — are actually very difficult for computers to pick up on. At its core, a Google Search is about understanding language. In order to return the right information, Google doesn’t just need to know the definition of the words… it needs to know what they all mean when strung together in a specific order. And that includes the smaller words like “for” and “to.” And when you think about how many different meanings a single word can have… you start to see how writing a computer program that takes all these nuances into account is pretty tough. See? Case in point. “Pretty” here doesn’t mean beautiful, it means “very.” More and more, people talk to Google the way they think and speak. And, more and more — Google is getting better at understanding what they mean. One of the biggest leaps forward in the history of Search came about with the introduction of “Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers” or as we like to call it, BERT. BERT is a machine-learning, model architecture that helps Google process language and understand the context in which it appears. Search used to process a query by pulling out the words it thought were most important. For example, if you said, “can you get medicine for someone pharmacy” you would have gotten general results about pharmacies and prescriptions because it would have essentially ignored the word “for.” But with BERT, the LITTLE words are taken into account and it changes things. Search now understands you want to know if you can pick up medicine… prescribed to someone else. But how do you train a language model to pick up context? There’s a big difference between knowing words and understanding meaning. The model learns context by applying the same fill-in-the-blank principles it takes to complete a Mad Libs. So we take a phrase. We hide about 20% of the input words. And then we make the computer guess the words that are missing. Over time, the model begins to understand different words have different meanings depending on what’s around them. And the order in which they appear in that text, really matters. So when you search something complex like, “Fly fishing bait to use for trout in september montana” Search knows all the little words are important and because it now takes them all into account, Google can tell you the perfect bait for that time of year. BERT isn’t foolproof, but since implementing it in 2019, it’s improved a lot of searches. We should always be able to learn about whatever we’re curious about. And that’s why Search will always be working to understand exactly what you’re truly asking.

I am surprised Google did not release this video when we wrote about how Google uses AI in search.

Forum discussion at Twitter.




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Google Hanukkah Decorations Are Live For 2023

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Google Hanukkah 2023

Hanukkah (aka Chanukah) starts this coming Thursday night, December 7th. Google has added its Hanukkah decorations to the Google Search results interface to celebrate. Google does this every year and I expect to see the same rollout in the coming weeks for Christmas and Kawanzaa but for now, since Chanukah is in the coming days, we have the Hanukkah decorations live at Google Search.

Here is a screenshot of the Chanukah decorations as they look like on the mobile search results.

Google Hanukkah Decorations 2023

You can see it yourself by searching on Google for [chanukah], [hanukkah], but not yet [חֲנוּכָּה‎] or other spelling variations yet but it should soon. It looks better on mobile than it does on desktop results.

To see the past, the 2023 decorations, 2021 decorations, 2020 Chanukah decorations, 2019 Google holiday decorations, the 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 and so on.

Happy Chanukah, everyone!

Forum discussion at X.

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Google Pay Accepted Icons In Google Search Results

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Woman Checking Out Store Google Logo

Google seems to be testing a Google Pay Accepted label or icon in the Google search results. This label has the super G logo followed by the words “Pay accepted” words next to search result snippets that support Google Pay and notate such in their structured data.

This was first spotted by Khushal Bherwani who shared some screenshots of this on X – here is one:

G Pay Accepted Google Search

Here are some more screenshots:

Brodie Clark also posted some screenshots after on X:

Google Pay Accepted Google Search

I tried to replicate this but I came up short.

This is not the first time Google had similar icons like this in its search results.

Forum discussion at X.



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Google Discover Showing Older Content Since Follow Feature Arrived

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Dog Astronut Google Logo

Typically, Google Discover shows content that is less than a day old, but it can show content that is weeks, months, or even years old. However, typically, Google will show more recent content in the Discover feed. Well, that may have changed with the new Google follow feature.

Glenn Gabe, who is a very active Google Discover user, noticed that since the Follow feature rolled out, he has been seeing content that is weeks and months old way more often than before the follow feature rolled out. Glenn wrote on X that “this could also be playing a role. i.e. Google isn’t providing as much recent content, but instead, focusing on providing targeted content based on the topics you are following.”

It makes sense that if you follow a specific topic and if Google Discover only shows the most authoritative types of content, it might be hard for Google to find new content on that topic. So it does make sense that Google may show older content more often for that specific topic you follow.

Here are screenshots Glenn shared:

Google Discover Old Stories Follow

Google Discover Old Stories Follow2

Have you noticed this in your Discover feed?

Forum discussion at X.



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