Yext Answers Algorithm Update: Milky Way

August 2020 - Answers Algorithm Update

Yext Answers is constantly improving its search algorithm to provide more relevant results over time. Milky Way is the first official upgrade to the Answers Algorithm and includes a series of important upgrades to provide better search precision and recall.

Using BERT to Improve NER for Locations

BERT is a breakthrough approach from Google that was added into the Google Search Algorithm in October 2019. Answers has now incorporated this same technology to improve the ability to detect location names.

Often, location names are the exact same as people or product names. For example, the following two queries both include the word, or token, "Orlando."

However, in one, the user is clearly referring to the actor Orlando Bloom and in the other, the city of Orlando, Florida. Classifying Orlando in the first query as a name and in the second one as a place is called Named Entity Recognition (NER).

It is easy for humans to tell apart the two Orlandos because we are not looking at the word not in isolation, but rather in context, and BERT allows our algorithm to do the same. In the second query, the phrase "locations near" gives both us humans and the algorithm the context to understand that Orlando is a place, not a movie star!

So, how does BERT work? BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) is designed to learn the contextual relationship between words in a text. In other words, it looks at all of the words together and learns the relationship between them. Using the approach outlined in BERT, we are able to drastically improve our ability to perform NER.

To accomplish these improvements, we manually labeled 72,916 search queries to teach "BERT" how to identify when a token indicates a location or another type of entity. Implementing BERT improved results for 72% of location-based queries made in Yext Answers. Since location-based queries make up about 18% of all queries submitted to Yext Answers, BERT will improve the results for nearly 13% of all queries. This model will continue to improve over time as we label more queries.

This feature is currently available in English, and other languages will be added soon.

Using the graph to improve location detection

When parsing out potential locations in a query, Answers considers locations all over the world. Answers has historically used location-biasing to find the most relevant locations. With this update, Answers now uses the Knowledge Graph itself to better identify locations.

To demonstrate how this feature works, we will use "Locations in Green Bay" as an example:

Answers needs to figure out to which Green Bay the user is referring. In the United States, there are two places with the name "Green Bay:" one is a major city in Wisconsin that is home to NFL's Green Bay Packers, and the other is a small community in Virginia of approximately 1,500 people.

Before this change, Answers would use the popularity of a place and the distance to the user to determine the most likely match, which is known as "location-biasing." If you searched from Virginia, Yext Answers would likely return results near Green Bay, Virginia, and if you searched from elsewhere, you would most likely see results in or near Green Bay, Wisconsin.

However, if the Knowledge Graph only includes locations in Wisconsin, Yext Answers will now interpret "Green Bay" as the city in Wisconsin, even if the user is searching from Virginia. The community Green Bay, Virginia would never be applied as a filter because the Knowledge Graph does not include any locations nearby.

This feature is available in all languages that Yext Answers supports: English, Spanish, French, Italian, and German.

Updates to the Healthcare Taxonomy

The addition of 3,000 new medical terms improves results for medical searches, reflecting both how patients and providers search.

The Yext for Healthcare Taxonomy has been updated to include over 3,000 new synonyms, conditions, treatments and procedures, reflecting both how patients search for healthcare in a patient-search-first taxonomy as well as how providers search in clinical terms. Please see the example below that demonstrates the difference between how patients and providers search.

Example patient query: "brain tumor"
Example provider query: "Glioblastoma"

Improved stemming and refined typo tolerance

In this algorithm update, typo tolerance has been reduced and more advanced stemming has been added to textSearch fields.

The balance between stemming, type tolerance, and spellcheck is a delicate one. They all help match words from the query with words in the search index that may vary slightly. With the Milky Way update, Yext Answers provides a better tradeoff between recall and precision by improving stemming capabilities and reducing typo tolerance.

Here is an example of the improved stemming in action on yext.com:
Previously, the FAQ, "Who does Yext integrate with?", would not have surfaced in the search results below, which search for the word "integrate." Now, Yext Answers stems both "integrations" and "integrate," and the FAQ is returned as the second result.

This feature is available in all languages that Yext Answers supports: English, Spanish, French, Italian, and German.

Query from Yext.com Answers

All Blog Posts

Determine Location Intent in a Search Engine

Max Shaw, VP Product

One of the most common use cases for a search engine is finding something by a "location". Here are some basic examples: Cardiologist near Green Bay, Notary near me, Restaurants open now. These are all pretty simple queries, but getting these to work in a search engine is much more complex than you might imagine.

4 Methods for Increasing Site Search Clicks

Rick Swette, UX Research

We know good search drives business impact. It increases conversions and transactions, reduces search bounce rate, and boosts overall customer satisfaction. So, how do we get more people to trust and use site search? We embarked on a study to find this out.

How to Measure the Success of Your Site Search

Basil Polsonetti, Data Insights

Most brands know that site search is a feature their website should have, but unless the site is dominated by e-commerce, it’s often relegated as a check-the-box task when building a new website.

The Danger in Document-Level Sentiment Analysis

Calvin Casalino, Senior Product Manager

In order for your feedback to become an actionable item to help businesses provide a better experience, they need a way to analyze the granular content of all of their reviews, at scale.

Deep Dive into Duplicate Suppression

Dee Luo, Product Manager

Brands know the importance of having accurate information across all the apps, maps, and directories where consumers are searching for information. In a perfect world, powering that brand data and managing each of these listings would be enough to ensure that consumers consistently get the answers they're searching for.

Yext Answers Algorithm Update: Milky Way

Max Shaw, VP Product

Yext Answers is constantly improving it’s search algorithm to provide more relevant results over time. Milky Way is the first official upgrade to the Answers Algorithm and includes a series of important upgrades to provide better search precision and recall.

GMB API Update - Dedicated Food Menus

Dee Luo, Product Manager

On August 24, 2020, Google launched version 4.7 of its Google My Business (GMB) API. This update includes enhancements to how your restaurant locations can sync and display food menus on Google.

Structuring Your Knowledge Graph

Jessie Yorke, Yext Administrator

In this post we are going to discuss strategy and give you some tools to effectively think about structuring your own brand's Knowledge Graph!

Welcome to the Hitchhikers Program

Liz Frailey, VP Developer & Admin Experience

Welcome to Hitchhikers! We are so excited to have you join our mission of creating amazing search experiences for brands of all sizes.

Introducing: Yext Answers Plugin for WordPress

Alex Barbet, Product

Businesses of all sizes use both WordPress and Yext to build amazing client experiences, and as more and more brands around the world add the Yext Answers bar to their WordPress powered sites, we wanted to provide a way to drive their time-to-value even faster.

Yext’s Fall ‘20 Release is Now Live!

Nick Oropall, Senior Product Marketing Manager

For those of you who are new to Hitchhikers — Welcome to Yext's new training platform & community! Hitchhikers will be the home for all of Yext's product and release updates moving forward so we encourage you to create a free user and check out the platform!

Meet the Hitchhikers Team: Alyssa Hubbard

Alyssa Hubbard

Alyssa Hubbard began at Yext in the Upward Rotational Program. Now she is full-time on the Hitchhikers team, working to build a platform to empower our community of Yext power users.