Google isn’t always great at communicating exactly what each of its major algorithm updates means for webmasters. This is a constant source of frustration for SEO professionals who often find that they have to work with one another to decipher what changes Google has made behind the scenes.
The BERT update was one of Google’s most significant for some time, and also one of the better-communicated one. However, as always, what Google said and what Google did appear to be different, at least in practice.
What Is BERT?
BERT is the name for the latest iteration of Google’s search algorithm. Google is the most important name in the search engine world and their algorithms set the standards for everyone else. BERT is short for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. A number of technical changes have been made, but the most important is the introduction of machine-learning capabilities to Google’s backend. By using machine learning to interpret data, Google is aiming to engage more with what users want and to incorporate what it has learned from user’s experiences with Google’s voice assistants to provide a better searching experience.
Favoring Simple And Succinct Content
Lots of content creators and website owners fret endlessly about the word count of their content. However, while it is important to get the length of your content right, the word count is not the be-all-end-all of metrics that some people seem to think it is.
Google has always tried to emphasize to webmasters that they should be writing for their users, not for Google’s search engine. Successive updates to Google’s algorithms have reflected this philosophy. The company has gradually given greater and greater priority to content that is deemed to be highly readable for human users and provides value to them.
Since the BERT update, Google has refined its algorithms to better identify which content is providing answers to specific user queries. In other words, Google is thinking about how to best serve the users who are typing direct questions into the search engine.
If you want your content to benefit from the natural SEO boost that comes with a high readability score from Google, then you need to make your content succinct and to the point. If your content naturally favors a longer format, you should consider mixing in some shorter form content as well to provide some balance. It is possible to create content that is designed primarily to boost your SEO without compromising on quality.
Topics Over Keywords
Google has been moving away from traditional keywords and text-based searching for some time now. The way that we will use search engines has changed a lot over the years and the way that Google fetches and ranks results for us has also changed accordingly. Part of this shift has meant moving away from analyzing individual pieces of content and looking more at clusters of content and the authority of content sources.
If you target topic clusters with your content, instead of just focusing on specific topics, you will create signals to search engines to show that you are an authoritative and trustworthy source regarding this subject and related areas. If you can successfully target a range of different long-tail keywords, then you can easily outdo the amount of traffic you would generate from targeting a small number of high-value keywords.
Target Specific Keywords And Queries
Since the BERT update, one of the main challenges for SEO professionals is that Google is more interested in what a user is looking for than what a website provides. The key to high SEO scores going forward will be being able to demonstrate value to the user in terms of fulfilling their queries. Just as businesses need to be able to satisfy the needs of their consumers in order to generate business, Google is hoping to encourage content creators to think more about the specific value that their content provides, and the needs that it is fulfilling.
While Google is beginning to emphasize the importance of voice search and the importance of need fulfillment over keyword optimization, there is still great value in targeting specific keywords. Google is also becoming a lot less lenient with content that omits stop words and pronouns from keywords in the misguided belief that this is how people search for information. When people use Google or a similar search engine, they will type their queries in proper English, they will not clumsily drop words in this way. More to the point, Google has ignored stop words for some time, and so omitting them achieves nothing except making the work grammatically incorrect.
Long-Tail Keywords Are The New King
Long-tail keywords enable searchers to add more specificity to their queries and refine the search so that they cut down on the number of extraneous results that are returned to them. Google wants to encourage more users to search in this way, as this is the type of searching that is beginning to favor with its new algorithm updates.
Instead of targeting specific keywords and focusing your efforts on short and exact phrases, you should instead focus much more on long-tail keywords, especially those that are in the form of a question or specific query.
Embrace Voice Search
Optimizing your content for voice search is subtly different than optimizing for a traditional text search, meaning that at the to require a different SEO approach. Google has been slowly moving away from its text-focused approach to searching and has been encouraging website owners and content creators to focus more on voice search for a while now; the release of Bert has only hastened this process.
We’ve already mentioned that Google is beginning to prefer specific queries, and this is partly in response to the increasing prevalence of voice searching. People speak naturally and write in slightly different ways. This means that when someone is asking a question to Google using Voice Search, they will often phrase it differently than they would if they were typing it.
BERT is the most significant update to Google’s algorithms for some time. Webmasters are now beginning to feel the effects of BERT and they need to adjust their SEO strategies accordingly. It’s all about what users want and how you can fulfill their needs. Abstract keywords don’t matter anymore. The points raised above are just a small sample of the changes BERT has bought to SEO.