Whenever a new algorithm update is rolled out by Google, people, mostly SEO professionals and website owners wonder how to respond to the negative impacts of the update and maintain the same levels of traffic as they earned earlier.
So when BERT was rolled out last week, website owners, businesses, bloggers and SEO professionals worldwide were quite worried.
The prime reason for this anxiety was that it was the biggest Google update after RankBrain was launched in the early 2015, globally.
Even though statistically it is assumed that it will affect 1 in 10 search queries, but its impact will be far more than that in future.
It is going to hit at the very structure of the keywords and therefore the SEO and content practices need to be changed thoroughly.
Let’s first discuss what BERT is all about.
The full form of BERT is bidirectional encoder representations from transformers.
It sounds too much scientific, doesn’t it?
In short, it is just one step ahead by Google in the direction of better understanding of search terms and natural language processing.
Far from the earlier versions of search results, BERT introduces a new era in which Google is slowly becoming smarter about your search queries.
So instead of focusing too much on the words used in the search query, Google will now focus on the overall intent and also on the prepositions used. It will ensure that you are going to get more precise results without having to tweak your query in order to get the results you want.
For example, when you put in a flight number into Google, it assumes that you are interested in the flight status and quickly gives you the results that you likely are interested in.
The same goes for the Math queries and specific information like stockcharts.
Let’s explain it with an example.
Search query: “India Travelers to USA need visa”
Earlier Google might have given search results including the news items related to Indians seeking US visa or it could also be the results related to American seeking Indian Visa.
Both these results are irrelevant from searcher’s perspective.
Google traditionally focused more on “terms and words” than its actual meaning and intent.
So rather than focusing only on the words like “visa”, “US” and “India”, it will also focus on the prepositions used like “to” and “from”, which paint a better picture of search intent.
You can see the first result is completely irrelevant as it gives information about India visa for US travelers. It means that Google just focused on words and completely disregarded the intent based on prepositions used.
Now, BERT will help Google understand that the user is looking for information related to visit visas in the US and the user is most likely an Indian.
After BERT, it offers more precise results:
You can see that the results are more precise and as per the search intent.
Key Takeaway: BERT takes into account the intended meaning of the words and phrases rather than their actual meaning.
Let’s consider another search query – “Do IT professionals stand a lot at work?”
Earlier, Google might have given results comparing IT professionals and others in terms of work pressure. However, after BERT Google will throw a result related to physical demands at the workplace for IT professionals, which is more precise result for the query.
The algorithm now understands that the use of “stand” as a term in this context is different from the meaning of stand in the dictionary. Here it means the “physical demand at the workplace”.
So, “Is the job exhausting for an IT professional?” is the actual intent of the user.
Search query: “French learning books for adults”
Earlier Google might have returned a random result from amazon.com about the books that teach you how to learn to speak French.
However, after this update Google will focus on those books specifically, which are primarily meant for grownups. These books will be more suitable for the learning needs of the adult learners.
It simply means that search results are intended to offer complete satisfaction for the user.
The same goes for snippets. Google is trying to bring more relevant search results and provide much better experience by taking into account all the words used in the snippet used and not just a few words.
There are three types of search queries –Informational, navigational and transactional.
You can use them to understand and create the sales funnel. A user using the transactional query is the person at the end of the funnel and he is ready to go for a purchase.
Apart from using SEO tools such as UberSuggest and Moz’s Keyword Explorer etc. to find additional search terms and topics, you should also understand the basic intent of the user and plan your content accordingly.
For example, let’s consider the following query – “How to lose weight without taking pills.”
It doesn’t mean that the person is looking for weight loss solutions such as supplements and diet shakes. What it actually means is that the searcher is looking for alternative methods other than prescription drugs and supplements.
Google will now flash results that will suggest alternative methods to lose weight, such as yoga, meditation, exercise, and naturopathy etc.
It also renders keyword density useless as Google is more focused about context than density or any other signal.
We at Digital Berge analyzed the BERT update and found that SEO professionals, website owners, and businesses should incorporate the following changes in their SEO strategy.
First of all, they should create specific content related to the queries and not just popular long form content. You can have short articles but that should address the query of the searcher.
Just like Quora, you should focus on long tail keywords, because this is the best way to attract qualified traffic. It will not only be relevant for the user but also useful for your website’s U/x and sales funnel.
Key Takeaways: Spend less energy on short tail keywords. Focus on long tail keywords and create content around those keywords.
BERT might lead to a slight drop in your traffic but that is actually good for you, because it will filter out all the irrelevant traffic on your website.
It will also decrease your bounce rate.
BERT ultimately is going to give you a very good opportunity to create specific content that is relevant for your audiences. If you create content that is better than your competition, then you can even outrank your competition swiftly in terms of both rankings and traffic.
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