Google is continuously looking to improve and evaluate the results they generate for their users, which is why they release core algorithm updates that can significantly impact websites’ performance in the search results. On October 24th 2019, they released their latest algorithm update which they called BERT, and it’s regarded as one of their most impactful updates to date.
To explain the update in its simplest terms, BERT has been developed to allow Google crawlers to process search queries that have a natural, spoken language term to it even quicker. This will enable them to produce more accurate results for their users.
This update will have a huge significance for those that work within the SEO and copywriting services with content optimization being more crucial than ever. Before we get into a bit more about how it can impact you, let’s look a little further into the algorithm update itself.
What is the BERT algorithm update?
The algorithm update stands for ‘Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transforms’. ‘Transformers’ are used to process multiple relative words when entered into a search bar. By combining their transformer’s encoder, this allows BERT to analyse the full search term rather than just the individual words themselves. This will enable them to examine the words together to provide a natural languaging approach to help better understand the context of the words better.
Essentially, introducing the BERT update allows Google to understand more conversational speech and longer queries that are typed in the search bar. As a result, websites that are shown by Google are more accurate, and correct keywords don’t necessarily have to be typed to get the answers you’re looking for.
What impact will this have for SEO experts and website owners?
From an SEO perspective, the BERT update will be affecting the search results produced by Google, including rich snippet results that are usually located directly at the top of search results. Currently, BERT is only being used within 1 in 10 searches for the US. This is because Google identifies BERT as one of it’s most expert algorithm updates in the last 5 years, stretching the hardware they have to run it.
Any searches that are impacted by the algorithm update means the context and order of the words will be taken into consideration. For example, even filler words such as ‘and’ and ‘of’ will also be assessed.
By considering the whole context of the search query, it will help Google produce more accurate results than ever. Rather than Google going off certain keywords that the user types, they’ll be able to understand the full query and provide them with precisely what they’re looking for. This means that search rankings will be impacted and different answers will be produced on rich snippets.
With more informative keywords within the search query analysed, BERT will provide search results that are entirely relative to your query. Google has released further information on this and how their algorithms are “understanding searches better than ever before”.
How can a site be optimised for the BERT update?
As updates occur by Google, it’s up to site owners and SEO experts to make relevant changes to their websites to that can either help or maintain their positions that they currently accommodate.
An interesting aspect to take from this update is how it supports previous algorithm updates that occurred previously. Back in 2015, there was the Rankbrain update. This was released to help Google better understand user intent through the use of machine learning. This encouraged website owners to increase the amount of content on their websites, including adding FAQ type content on their website to support voice search that was due to take search by storm after the release of products such as Alexa and Google Home.
However, the BERT update isn’t the same as previous ones as you can’t simply optimise your website to increase your ranking. BERT goes back to basics and encourages website owners to do what Google wanted them to do from the beginning; produce excellent content that’s easier for crawlers to read.
It needs to be ensured that the website has well-written content that is well organised, relevant and is in line with SEO standards to rank highly on Google. Although the BERT model will help for understanding longer queries that are applied by users in search engines, this doesn’t mean that keyword stuffing will help. It’s likely to do the opposite, so you need to make sure that your content is still readable and well-formatted.
Therefore, although you can’t necessarily optimise your website for BERT, there are two considerations that you can do to help support the algorithm update.
- Conduct SERP analysis to match searcher intent
- Aim to feature in rich snippets
Conduct SERP analysis to match searcher intent
We’ve mentioned previously that search intent became a massive feature of Google after the Rankbrain update. This means that keyword stuffing is no longer acceptable to help your keywords to rank highly. BERT provides even more sophisticated understanding when it comes to considering what the user wants from the search results. This is why conducting a SERP analysis would be useful.
How to perform a SERP analysis
Once you have a better understanding of the type of keywords and ideas that users will look to target to discover your site, type these keywords into the search bar and figure out what kind of results appear for it.
If you feel as though the types of results that are coming up related to your line of business, your brand and products then this will be an extremely useful word to target as part of your blogging strategy. On other occasions, you may find that the keyword is highly relevant but not necessarily what you wish to talk about.
In which case, review other results and see if there’s a gap of information that hasn’t been covered on the topic. This would be a great opportunity to fill in the gap with your content instead.
Overall, a SERP analysis is a great what type of information users are looking for when provided with a given query.
Aim to feature in rich snippets
Gaining a search result in the rich snippet is practically known as a gold mine in SEO. It places itself as the top search results, acting as a position 0. Results in rich snippets occur as Google sees it as the most accurate result to what the user is looking for with their query and tends to include the most accurate but brief response to the question, the page title and the URL to the page.
From generating a featured snippet, it can help your site for the following:
- More visibility in the search results
- More clicks
- Increased brand awareness
There are several ways to appear in the rich snippets, but the overall conclusion is that your content needs to be ‘quality’. To achieve this, there are several things that you can do:
- Provide a clear and informative answer to their queries
- Answer their query within the recommended character count
- Understand why type of featured snippet appears for the relevant search query, whether it’s a paragraph, a list or chart.
BERT will be considered as the breakthrough that Google has been looking for. For years, Google has been working behind the scenes to provide quality results by understanding their intent as much as possible. The development of BERT allows users to type long-form questions through natural language speech and still be provided with accurate results.
To make sure that you can maintain and target top positions within the SERPs, ensure that you have well-written content that’s well optimised and matches the users’ intent. How you can do this is by optimising your content directly for featured snippets.
If you’re still unsure where to start with optimising your content, many SEO Manchester–based companies will be familiar with the BERT update and put in relevant practices for your website.