Gone are those days when one could have just increased the keyword density to rank up in the Google search results. Google has now introduced the BERT algorithm. This aimed to make it difficult for SEOs to trick the Google search engine. BERT update comes in line with Google’s long-running trend of trying and improving the quality and ability of search algorithms to accurately. BERT will prove out to be the next step in the evolution of search engines, AI, and machine learning.
Marketing teams will once again need to go back to the drawing board to work on their SEO strategies. However, if you already follow best SEO practices for your website, there is nothing to worry about.
BERT rolled out for Google’s search system from October 21 of 2019 for initially English queries. Jacob Delvin created the actual BERT in 2018 . Today it supports more than 70 languages. It is said to be the most significant update in 5 years.
Three main ways people search for information on Google are Informational queries, Navigational queries and Transactional queries. What makes it imperative to know about the BERT update is that it impacts roughly 1 in 10 queries on Google, which means 10% of all search queries. 10 percent might not sound much, but when it comes to ranking, it is massive.
What is BERT?
BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. It is a deep learning algorithm related to natural language processing.
BERT pre-trains deep Bidirectional representations from the unlabelled text. This makes it different from other language representation models. Only one additional output layer is required to create this advanced model for a wide range of tasks. This includes question answering and language inference, without substantial task-specific architecture modifications, fine-tuning etc. with the help of a pre-trained BERT model.
In terms of concept, this is a straightforward yet efficient algorithm. BERT update will mark the first time when Google is going to use their latest Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) chips designed for search results. What’s intriguing about how it understands is that it takes any arbitrary extent of text and it transcribes it into a vector. A vector is a fixed string of numbers which helps language become translatable to a machine. This is good because language is completely uncertain in the way that we speak.
BERT uses a tactic called masking. Masking emerges when an arbitrary word within a sentence is hidden. BERT’s bi-directional model looks at the words before and after the hidden word to help foretell what the word is. It does this over and over and over again until it’s influential in indicating masked words. All of this effort is going to result in promising user experience for internet users across the world.
Generally, a word can have multiple meanings based upon where we place it. In determining whether it is Ace as in a challenger’s efficiency or Ace as in playing cards, BERT helps Google. These two words have way different meanings, but thanks to BERT, we need to worry about confusing results.
BERT helps Google in improving the way it understands the search queries. This algorithm analyses the search queries rather than typically analyzing the web pages, which means that it might not help sloppy content.
BERT analyses the previous and the next word of a particular keyword. For example, the term “Violet” can have multiple meanings depending upon the context of the sentence.
The algorithm determines what it is meant here by analyzing the words around that word.
What is the impact of BERT?
Google’s ability to use Natural Language Processing marks a considerable step towards a better understanding of human language. It has long strived to answer queries with the most accurate, direct, and authoritative information.
This new update could steer to changes in the SEO field. Besides improving search engine results, the main objective behind BERT update is to motivate more conversational queries on Google. Google is trying to get its users to use detailed and grammatical sentences when searching, rather than an illogical progression of keywords. Search engines previously relied on identifying keywords without understanding the intent, but BERT changed that all.
Impact on Site Ranking
As of now, BERT analyses search queries and not websites. The update has a significant impact on how your site ranks for certain keywords. As the algorithm focuses on the specific meaning of the word, the result which is the most relevant to the intent of search comes at the top of the search page.
This translates to the fact that web pages with a weak focus on content will probably be at the bottom of the sea. Most of the web pages comprise content quality and stuff keywords to get ranked. BERT’s algorithm cannot pick up such content due to its natural processing which is the unique property of BERT.
BERT enables Google to understand what people are asking in a search query, so the results are highly relevant and helpful. Therefore, sites which are through with their content strategy will rank higher. In contrast, ones who provide vague information are doubtful to make it to the first page of Google results.
This update thus helps in showing quality search query results and content, which makes it great for consumers.
The companies who target unrelated keywords, publish vast amounts of irrelevant content or leverage voice-enabled devices are the ones most hit by this BERT update. Some sites already have complained about significant traffic drops recently.
Impact on Featured Snippet
Google BERT has also impacted featured snippets in an attempt to garner more relevant results. Featured Snippets are not only improving in English language but other languages as well. It is in more than two dozen countries where this feature is available.
Featured snippets are blocks of content that helps users readily identify if a site contains the information they need. These snippets provide users with a concise answer to questions directly on SERP. It gives a visibility advantage and can increase traffic on websites by approximately 30%.
Most SEOs have figured out ways to spot if their website owns a featured snippet or not. Tools like SemRush, Ahrefs and more, can help you figure out which query triggers a featured snippet and if your sites own it.
Impact on Google Assistant
BERT has a slight impact on Google assistant too. This trend is enabling users to perform more and more detailed search queries, even with the Google Voice Assistant as if they were speaking with a real person.
BERT will have a more significant impact on localized content than translated sites. Translating a website into other languages from English will still be an effective option to market in other countries. However, creating content, particularly in a particular language that answers multilingual users, will be impactful.
Preparing your website for BERT update
According to the Google team, you cannot optimize your site for BERT. The most you can do is optimize your website and improve its quality for the readers, and this is the only way you can boost your search rank higher. Here are five ways to maintain or improve your search rankings after the BERT update.
● Employ Accelerated Mobile Pages
To speed up websites for mobile devices, accelerated mobile pages(AMPs) use Google’s web development framework. Utilizing Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is an essential factor. It helps Google display content with faster load times to satisfy searchers. This is a requirement right from the Google Developers Guide. Brands could create a clone of their webpages with simplified AMP HTML and AMP JS to enable AMP.
● Give your site a speed boost
Google wants to improve the user experience. So to get to the top of SERP, it is imperative to provide a better experience to people searching over Google . Site speed is also under the radar after the BERT update. One way to do that is using accelerated web pages but if you don’t want to use AMP then put your efforts on Page Speed. Moving away from legacy web technologies and using static site generator(SSG) and CDN is a step towards speeding up your site.
Google wants to give the most relevant results to the users’ query. Hence, improving your site’s speed is a crucial thing to consider.
● Provide relevant content
For SEO, informative and relevant content is always crucial and a top priority. The BERT update only increases its importance. Your web pages should focus on answering specific questions or explain particular topics to your readers. Even though a page uses plenty of keywords, it will still rank low if the content it is providing is vague and unfocused. A web page should make sure that they are focusing on the quality of content rather than just stuffing up focus keywords here and there in the content.
A competent company can help in making top-notch content which is tailored specifically for your industry’s SEO. The process of shaping content according to users’ search needs guidance from such companies so that your content is visible to the masses.
Thus, targeting users by only using keywords is not possible now. Google only ranks those websites in search results which provide relevant content.
Your overall goal as creators is to answer user questions through content and in a proper format so search engines can easily digest and index it.
● Thinking to trick algorithm? DON’T!!!
Trying to trick algorithms will cause more bad than good. Websites using black hat SEO techniques like keyword stuffing, buying links, using invisible texts or other tricks can get you penalized from Google. With every update, Google brings in they get better and better. This helps in differentiating and recognizing which sites are helpful for users and which websites use unethical means to rank.
● Focus on Long-Tail Keywords
It is vital to make a shift in your SEO strategy to optimize for voice devices.
There is a need to shift focus from broad-term keywords to implementing more strategic long-tail keywords. This is mainly because there is an incredibly vast difference when people search via voice which makes it super crucial to capture these keywords as well.
One of the myths about BERT update is that it makes Stop Words important.
The words ‘to’ and ‘from’ frequently influenced the search queries which Google showed as an example in their announcement. This gave the false idea to some SEOs that Stop Words are going to be very much important now. People took this misconception seriously. Some SEOs even brag about how they always use Stop Words in the article’s URLs.
Wrapping It Up
The intention for Google to deploy the BERT update is to give the users a better searching experience. Quality of content is analyzed based on the phrases formed by the users which they create in their search queries instead of the keywords in particular content. Businesses now will be more focused on providing only high-quality content and more specific content as an effect of this update.
For the average users, it is a significant update improving how the users search and the result they are provided. The top results now are more specific, relevant to the users’ search. BERT will impact those businesses which provide irrelevant, vague and irrelevant content. However, businesses which are already creating relevant, meaningful, unique and high-quality content need not worry about the BERT update.
Thinking of users in mind while making the content is the best way to get a higher rank in the results. This will also help in staying ready for any future algorithm update too. Keep in mind the questions points that you can solve. Stuffing many keywords carelessly in the content will end up in giving low-quality, unhelpful blog posts. Such will no longer show up in the results page.
BERT update works at understanding the user queries more humanly. Those who are already creating quality content with precise keywords, specific to the title will see rank improvements in their SEO due to this update. Businesses can easily harness the power of BERT to their benefit by neglecting the unnecessary stuffing of keywords in the content and creating quality content to experience a boost in traffic. Google will try and deploy more and more updates like this in the coming years.
Why you shouldn’t over hype BERT
Though BERT is smart, it is still far from understanding language and its context the way humans do. Still, I would say it is a step in the right direction. It is an attention-worthy fact that this update marks a monumental step in the direction of natural language processing and machine learning.
Thomas Olivera is a blogger and writes about SEO and reviews business software available online. Besides blogging he is a full time SEO consultant and owns Web Ignito where he helps small and medium enterprises with digital marketing services.