You might already be seeing significant changes to how your site and others are ranking on Google. We can thank Google’s latest algorithm update titled: BERT (which stands for “Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers”). While one might be quick to quip about finding Ernie, this algorithm update is no joke! Google announced this change will affect 1 in 10 searches in English speaking countries and is the biggest algorithm update in a decade. .
What you really need to knowHere are the most important points when it comes to BERT and it how it can affect your website’s performance in search according to Google:
- BERT will help Google better understand one in 10 searches in the U.S. in English (for now . . . this knowledge can be expected to adjust international Search, eventually).
- English is an important concept, as BERT is taking phrasing, how we converse with each other, as the goal to make better, more natural search results.
- For example, a “turn of phrase” or a manner of expression was a big impediment to previous results. An English-speaking user may ask Google: “do estheticians stand a lot at work”, with the question being more about standing versus sitting, rather than withstanding or resisting opposition. The phrasing means a lot to the answer. Something Google’s algorithm couldn’t interpret completely before.
- This can also help enhance different terminology across English speakers: for example, the question of “how to catch a cow fishing?” In New England, the word “cow” in the context of fishing means a striped bass. This is very different from the meaning of a cow as cattle.
What do you need to do to prepare?In analyzing both the changes to search and how its impacting rankings across the web, the key to adjusting to BERT is to ensure that your site is fully audited. This means from a technical perspective, you should ensure that the content you are publishing is optimized appropriately for search discoverability. This means having a clear system around how content is produced and optimized is going to be incredibly important for search engine optimization going forward. BERT also allows Google to parse larger bodies of text with more precision. This, in turn, should reward well-optimized long-form blogs and articles that link out in meaningful ways.
What you really need to do to prepare?We’ve put together this “BERT survival” checklist for you below:
- Check your rankings: Notice any changes in your keyword rankings? While correlating these changes to BERT may be hard to see initially, a qualified and trusted SEO expert should be able to note a pattern based on your keyword data from previous months.
- A little more conversation: Google notes that BERT will provide a better understanding of one in 10 search queries. That’s a huge percentage of English search users who will see a change in their results. This also means: “searches that are more conversational or searches where prepositions like ‘for’ and ‘to’ matter a lot to the meaning” will greatly be influenced. Having a well-developed Long-tail keyword strategy is more important than ever, as is the topic you are considering writing about.
- Optimizing for voice?: According to Google, 20% of all searches are voice; and this percentage is getting larger and larger every month. Whether it’s Siri, Alexa or from a Google device, this number only continues to grow. The BERT rollout is a big indicator that Google is altering its algorithm to accommodate more “long tail” keyword searches (i.e. searches that are longer and easier to speak rather than type out). For that reason, we strongly recommend developing a long tail keyword strategy if you haven’t already.