Advice About the Google BERT Update for SearchVanda Williams
The Google BERT update, otherwise known as Google’s biggest algorithmic update in the past five years, allows the search engine to respond to queries in a more user-focused way.
What this means is that BERT revolutionises the way Google interprets linguistics by understanding the user’s intent within longer, more complex search queries. Because Google’s search engine is constantly getting smarter and more sophisticated, it’s also focusing less on keywords and more on topical relevancy and user intent.
Before the update, you could use SEO to gain site visitors by loading your blog post or website with keywords, to secure users typing in queries with that keyword.
However, thanks to BERT, you can’t stuff your content with keywords and expect to arrive in the #1 spot in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP); you also have to have clear, helpful, and well-written content that is relevant to the user’s search and intent.
Here are a few tips on how to optimise for BERT:
Adopt a User-Inclined Approach
Google is the world’s largest search engine, and due to this fact (and machine learning) it’s constantly evolving, learning, and refining search results to better match the user’s needs. User intent can be defined as the motive a user has when conducting a search. As Google gets more advanced in understanding user-focused queries, marketers will have to generate more quality content that is both original and relevant to the user.
Since Google will always prioritise the needs of users rather than content writers and marketers, content creators need to produce content that satisfies the user’s search intent, instead of one-dimensional phrasing instruction for search engines.
In this way, Google’s BERT update for search goes hand-in-hand with the practices of inbound marketing because you not only have to know your buyer persona, you also have to want to help them resolve their problems by sharing useful information, guides, video tutorials, etc.
Creating user-focused content is a great way of establishing trust with prospects and customers because by providing them with useful information throughout their experience, you will delight them again and again.
Because the intent of your searcher is the priority of your content piece, marketers need to think in terms of semantics.
The use of semantic language has long been a part of SEO content writing, given it aims to understand natural language the way a human would. Semantic language/search is all about understanding the user’s intent through the language used to either learn about or buy a product, which helps you identify their intent and subsequently, gauge their interest.
Due to the fact that not all users have the same intent for the same search, BERT aims to cater to search queries made by users with specific intent. Consider questions like:
- Why are people searching?
- What are they trying to achieve?
- What action will they take once they find their answer?
- How do I help them reach their goal?
Questions like the above can help you understand user intent and sharpen your content marketing strategy to reach a user’s search queries in the most relevant manner.
If you’re looking to understand how to best cater to your user’s intent, you can use SEO tools to conduct keyword research, make on-page SEO changes including the use of semantic language, which may help improve your search rankings (in addition to generating brilliant content).
Optimise for Featured Snippets
With BERT now helping the algorithm better understand search queries, this opens up more availability for featured snippets. Featured snippets are summaries of an answer to a user’s query on Google and show up before the #1 spot in the SERP. Optimising your posts to win the featured snippet spot is a great strategy for getting traffic to your site while adapting to changing customer search behaviours.
Consider Machine Learning
BERT relies on Machine Learning like Natural Language Processing (NPL), which is the study of artificial intelligence for linguistics. In NPL, AI is being trained and habituated to understanding the way humans communicate naturally. In this sense, your online content needs to adhere to easy categorisation, more visual aids, more lists, and standardised, clear formatting.
Although your marketing team doesn’t need to know the ins and outs of Google’s BERT update for search, they do need to think of it in terms of a machine learning to understand the ways humans interact naturally. The more simple, straightforward, and natural the interaction, the more likely your content is to rank higher on SERP.
Unfortunately, there is no way to plan for big algorithmic updates in the future or to retroactively optimise for them, either. However, as machines get smarter and search becomes more refined, the bigger the need for marketers and creators to make sure that their future content is relevant, fresh, user-focused, and understands their intent. Quality > quantity, always.