Google is switching things up again, and this time it’s major!
Deemed the “most important update in five years,” the latest Google update, BERT, is making waves across the SEO industry. This particular set of changes to the algorithm will have a massive impact on existing search queries (1 in 10 to be exact). It’ll be reflected in how SEO writers, developers, and webmasters carry out their work from this point on.
What is Google BERT?
BERT – Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers is much more of a mouthful than Penguin, Humming Bird or Panda, leaving most wondering what it actually means. In layman’s terms, it’s essentially an algorithm adjustment to better understand natural language processing – aka how real people, rather than bots, actually speak!
As search becomes less keyword-based and more conversational, it’s important for Google to understand and capture the natural flow of language. Longer sentences, connector words, and conjunctions that previously had less weight, for example, will now be heavily considered. This is all in hopes of serving up more accurate search query results that make sense in the searcher’s intended context.
Although sentiment is difficult for search engines to understand entirely, this is certainly one step closer to machines starting to speak our language.
What Effect Does BERT Have on SEO and Content?
Content Quality Over Quantity
For several years now, Google has been trying to combat spammy content, black hat SEO practices, and content that is exclusively written for search engines rather than end-users. Google isn’t a big fan of marketing tricks designed to artificially boost rankings and lure searchers to irrelevant sites with little value.
BERT is yet another way of dealing with this issue and forcing SEO writers and content creators to consider quality over quantity and to produce pieces that are valuable to human beings.
Quality over quantity matters when it comes to word count, too. Brief, succinct and straightforward content, containing useful information will more likely rise to the top post-BERT, than fluffy pieces peppered with fancy words that carry little meaning.
Long Tail Keywords are No Longer Optional
The good news is, SEO professionals can (almost) officially stop speaking like robots! The bad news… many of them are so used to it, they’ll have to unlearn how.
Succeeding in climbing today’s search engine results will mean less of “digital marketing Toronto” and more of “where can I find the best digital agency in Toronto for content writing and SEO.”
In light of BERT, words such as “can,” “in,” “for” and “and,” that can all be found in the second search query presented here, all imply a specific context that better explains the searcher’s sentiment and circumstance. For SEOs, taking the time to carefully strategize long tail keywords relating to their products and services, then building content pieces around them, is important in paving the road to search engine success.
Focus on Featured Snippets
Featured snippets, or the bits of content at the top of Google searches that instantly respond to a query, are gaining more importance in the world of SEO. Although this concept has been around for a while, BERT is making featured snippets more sophisticated than ever.
Take a look at this example that Google has provided us of featured snippets before and after the latest Google update:
As you can see, the first version completely overlooks the context of the word “curb” within the sentence, whereas the second snippet captures searcher intent perfectly.
Never mind the coveted first page, if a Google user is able to receive accurate results right away, many of them won’t bother scrolling past the first result. This may seem like a bad thing, but realistically, it’s an opportunity to provide unmatched accuracy in answering long-tail queries; and with billions of combinations possible, there is still plenty of opportunity to craft relevant responses within your business’ niche.
Conclusion: The Latest Google Update is Good News for SEO
At the end of the day, honest SEO companies and professional copywriters that put the work in to producing high-quality content will benefit the most from BERT’s algorithm change. Even if it means re-working your content strategy in the beginning, the desired effect of the latest Google update is to benefit both content consumers and producers.
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