There has been a lot of chatter going on about Google’s BERT update. There are those saying that it affects 10% of all search results in the United States. However, certain experts are dismissing the fact that this update will have major implications for your average search query. There are those that are also dismissing it as something that will only affect long-tail search terms and conversational queries. Most articles out there are simply telling marketers and SEO professionals to keep improving their content quality and not to try to optimize for Google’s BERT update per se.
But how true are their claims, and what can we do to optimize for google’s BERT update besides a good job of writing relevant content for our fellow users?
BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. It is supposed to be the latest improvement on NLP, or Natural Language Processing algorithms that search engines utilize to decipher the meaning of the written content closest to actual human understanding. BERT has been hailed as an update that cracked a major bottleneck that was linguistic ambiguity. In simple words, this means that Google’s BERT update now better understands and predicts the intent behind the written sentence.
What this entails from an SEO point of view is that relevant content, that is specific to the search query will be presented to the user. This is obviously bad news for underhanded SEO tactics that utilize keyword stuffing and bad general content. Even though the RankBrain update had dealt with this issue back in 2015, Google’s BERT update takes it a step further and makes the most relevant content appear on the Search Result page by focusing not just the keyword itself, but also the words that surround it. This means prepositions, adjectives, and other sentence modifiers will be tackled more effectively. These had previously hindered Google’s ability to provide relevant content for long-tail queries.
What content is optimized for BERT?
A common search term that has widely been touted as an initial success for BERT is “2019 Brazil traveler to usa need visa.” Most bloggers are now using this example to show how this long-tailed query initially yielded results intended for American travelers requesting visas for Brazil. Google’s BERT update now understands this better and brings out more relevant page results that cater to Brazilians looking for visas to the US, as the query suggests.
Now the question is how content can be optimized for BERT?
Search queries mainly fall into 3 categories, Informational, Navigational and Transactional. Out of these, navigational queries like finding the location of a particular place are easily understood. Transactional queries are also not too complicated since keywords like financing, cost, price easily reveal the intent of the query.
Informational queries can be summed up as the reason search engines were created. They are based on the myriads of questions that users ask. It can be as simple as tips on losing weight, or as complicated as queries about specific economic factors affecting a particular market region. This is where BERT is making its presence felt. As previously mentioned, long-tail search queries have become easier to decipher for Google. This now means that structuring your content around the potential queries of your user base can become a very important factor in determining the style, quality, and length of your content. Instead of simply writing about a topic in your blog post, you need to keep in mind any potential questions that you can answer about that topic which will be relevant to your customers and viewers. This means headings like “How to start a company in Dubai?” or “Starting a company in the UAE for beginners” will have a better result than “Business opportunities booming in Dubai” or “2019 outlook for startups in UAE”. Optimizing for BERT updates can in a way be seen as optimizing for maximum potential informational queries. This can obviously be paired with solid link building and relevant citations to deliver great content and enable you to optimize for Google’s BERT update.