Last month, Google released an algorithm update. It was major, major enough to affect ranking of all pages, despite content optimization. The question was ‘does Google BERT influence SEO content?’. As a content writer, I had to know the answer, so should you. It took me a while to wrap my head around the concept that seemed complex at the time but is fairly simple in terms of how it affects the content I write.
Marketing, that is, ranking in search engines through optimized content is an unsaid responsibility for web content writers. You can’t just write and be done with it. When it comes down to work, write to be seen on the web, to get traction for your content. A big part in that direction is the influence of Google BERT on SEO and hence, inevitably, visibility.
BERT: Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers is a Google algorithm development creating hustle among the SEO hungry. You didn’t get it either, did you? It is the new wave in the ever evolving Google scenario for rich user experience.
What is BERT?
To know the impact of this new algorithm on SERP, we must first delve into the definition of this term. If you are a writer like myself, the word isn’t self explanatory. A better, and simpler version, is to say BERT is a NLP (Natural Language Processing) model developed by Google as a pre-trained, open-supply channel. Better understood but still beyond our comprehension, right?
Here is my version
Remember all the times when you put in a search request and the results came up based on one or more words, in a string or detached. At times, more often than not, these results missed the query purpose all together.
With BERT, no more. Why? For, when a user query is put in the search engine, the NLP model intercepts the core word along with the words around it to deciphers the kind of results a person/user/browser desires. This algorithm works to recognize the context of searched phrase instead of focusing on core words. Better?
Basically, a user gets one step closer to more accurate results. No more hacking into advanced search methods, no more browsing page after page and no more self filtering through irrelevant results. A query seeker gets exactly what they want, in the context they want it in.
Impact on Content and Ranking
According to Macro Webber, the results are increasingly in Google’s favor as 1/10th of search results have been satisfying for the user. The question now presents itself; what changes does it bring from a competitive perspective for a Search Engine Optimizing (SEO) content writer?
Wider Breadth for High Rankings
This is just common sense, if you think about it. Instead of words like ‘Fashion brands’, there are more searches for words like ‘Find Fashion brands near me’, ‘shop from high end fashion brands in my area’ or even more specific, ‘Hermes fashion store in -pincode-, area’.
A user wants correct results without having to go through the hassle of filtering, hence the long tail keywords. Before BERT, the pages that ranked for each of these keywords were same or similar, often irrelevant. After BERT, each of these keywords will have the exact results a user desires. Thus, three distinct search terms make room for three different pages to rank higher according to relevancy.
Businesses and pages have to prioritize long tail keywords to present themselves in front of their target market and aim to rank for specific purposes.
Long Tail, Targeted Keywords
Writers or Content filled pages use multiple short keywords in hopes of ranking for multiple search terms. The purpose was to target multiple circles of interest and rank in multiple areas, irrespective of little relevancy a user had to the page. While this worked from an SEO perspective, it was decreasing the valued trust of a user towards search engine results.
As an example, when a search query ‘Contribute article to local newspaper in Seattle’ is put in, article pages always popped up showing a consolidated list of websites and magazines where a writer can contribute to. A generalized list like that is of no use to someone with a specific search query like above.
Search Engines have often emphasized on content relevancy as the definition of rich content. It never had a way to monitor the same. With this new update, it can now reinforce the formula.
With BERT, 1/10 of every search in the same or similar query can receive the list of websites from ‘local newspapers’ that invite contributing writers, or, even a list of ‘local newspapers in Seattle’ that accept contribution pieces. This was made possible by the NPL software that learns and grows with each search query, taking into account words like ‘to’ and ‘in’ with placement relation to core terms like ‘Contribute article’, ‘local newspaper’ and ‘Seattle’.
Relevant Rich Snippet
Remember all those times, when search results placed emphasis on singular words ignoring the complete sentence/phrase. Outcome: A useless snippet.
Ever tried searching for a recipe, minus a key ingredient? For example, trying, ‘How to make chicken with no marination’ will give two kinds of results. One, chicken recipes irrespective of marination which is better than two, all kinds of chicken recipes with marination. The search term placed emphasis on core words like ‘Chicken’, ‘recipe’ and ‘marination’.
With BERT, your rich snippets are actually rich with results you want. The algorithm checks the relation of words like ‘no’ with respect to ‘marination’ and understands the context of the search query. Not only is this beneficial for a query holder but also provides an open space for the relevant page to rank as a rich snippet (coming full circle to point 1 about wider breadth in rankings).
What do These Changes Mean for SEO Content Writers?
It means a change of strategy. Writers and pages, alike, can no long assume to pass through the watchful eyes of search engines and rank for every keyword they put up. Instead, keywords need to be highly specific, targeting a specific query, for their pages to rank for a term. One can no longer rely on keyword density or long form content alone to pull a page/website through SERP. Cookie cutter approach for content will eventually lead to increased bounce rate and decreased traffic.
A word of advice is to create content with targeted topics. The term ‘Google BERT’ will make for a good blog but the term ‘Effects of Google BERT on Page Rankings’ will be better.
Search engines are constantly looking for a way to enrich user experience and relevancy will keep ranking high and higher as more updates float in.
Time for a change of strategy.
See you next blog!