Most SEOs know that Google has a way of quietly rolling out algorithm updates without a big announcement. Early last month, rumor had it that Google was testing out it’s newest natural language processing (NLP) model, SMITH.
Google quickly denied the rumors on Twitter, but still — those of us trying to rank websites should pay attention to the role SMITH could potentially play in Google’s never-ending quest to improve the quality and relevance of their search results.
What does this mean for site owners? Not much is different. If you’re focused on creating the highest-quality content for users, SMITH will simply help Google understand your content more holistically, just like humans do. Here is a breakdown of the essentials.
What you need to know:
- SMITH outperforms BERT with long-form document matching
- SMITH will work in conjunction with BERT, not replace it
- SMITH is not “officially” live yet (but Google never says which algorithm it’s using)
How SMITH may impact search:
- As Google improves its understanding of complete documents, good information architecture will be even more important
- SMITH will improve the areas of news recommendations, related article recommendations, and document clustering
- We know that Google already likes long-form content, but when SMITH is live, Google will understand longer content even more effectively
Another interesting feature of SMITH is that it can function as a text predictor. There are other companies that have been making big waves with NLP (think of Open AI’s infamous GPT-3 beta last year). Some of these technologies could help others build their own search engines. Therefore, SMITH is likely just one of many iterations in Google’s long-term goal of maintaining their dominance in NLP and machine learning technology.
So this month, the mantra should remain the same: Focus on content, focus on quality. Whether or not Google launches SMITH tomorrow (or whether they already did), high-quality websites are the best situated to benefit from the update.