Introducing Bert: How Google’s Latest SEO Update Affects Your Content

Google have officially announced their newest update, Bert, but what does it include? What will you need to change for your content?

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Google is an ever-growing giant. It is estimated that the search engine processes around 40,000 queries every second on average, which is a mammoth 3.5 million searches a day.

Image- Internet Live Stats

While these statistics are huge, they don’t exactly come as a surprise. Google has long been the go-to search engine, and the starting point for most customer journeys. So when Google announces a new update, anyone with a website should listen.

Not too long ago, Google recently announced their biggest update in a while, called BERT.

So, if you’re serious about SEO, or you’re looking to improve traffic to your site (and subsequently, your sales!) then it is time to start taking notes, and learning all there is to know about the update.

And in this article, we take a look at how Bert will impact your content marketing strategies.

What Is Bert?

Bert might just sound like an endearing name for an update at first, but it actually has a lot more meaning than that!

Bert actually stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, and if that has left you a little confused, don’t worry – we’ll explain all.

In simple terms, Bert is a step forward for Google’s understanding of language. While Google has previously been using contextual representations to understand what it is users are searching for, up until now Search has been unable to decipher the importance of different words in a sentence.

This is particularly true for sentences which contain prepositions such as ‘for’ and ‘to’. These prepositions have a major impact on the overall meaning of a sentence.

This can be shown by the example below.

Image - Google Blog

Pre-Bert, the Google algorithm would have skipped over the importance of the word ‘to’ in this search, and shown the user results for an American traveller looking to visit Brazil. However, after the introduction of Bert, Google now understands that the word ‘to’ completely changes the sentence here, and therefore shows more relevant results.

How Does This Impact Featured Snippets?

Since featured snippets were introduced in January 2014, they’ve had a huge effect on how people use organic search. Not only does a featured snippet make using Google on a mobile device a much smoother experience, it has also been proven to boost traffic for sites that get a featured snippet spot.

Judging by this, it is safe to say that featured snippets have become a fan-favourite for both SEO marketers and search engine users. So, the question on everyones’ lips when Bert was eventually rolled out was: will it change anything involving snippets?

The answer is, yes. But keep calm, they’re only changing for the better!

Just as a regular search result will now be much more relevant to the original query, a featured snippet will be too. See the example below for a little more info:

Image: Search Metrics

As you can see, prior to the Bert update, Google would not have thought to consider the word ‘no’ in this search. Instead, all of the emphasis would have been placed on the word ‘curb’ here! This resulted in the snippet showing results for a search looking to park on a hill with a curb.

Now, with the help of Bert, snippets will be even more relevant to a user’s search – possibly resulting in an even higher click-through rate!

How Will This Affect Your Content?

Now you know what exactly it is Google has changed, you can start thinking about what you’re going to need to change on your site on the back of this.

Hopefully, your focus with your website has always been to produce good quality content, but if for some unknown reason it hasn’t been – now is the time to change that.

This new update, is one of many steps Google is taking to prioritising the highest quality content to appear on the search engine results, meaning you’re going to need to be on top form from here on out.

Where in the past, priority was placed on any website with highest amount of keyword density for a certain search term, this is no longer the case. And has been so for quite some time now.

Bert’s deeply bidirectional, unsupervised language representation means that Google is now much better at understanding natural and conversational language, and may further penalise those who utilise keyword stuffing, or other ‘quick fix’ SEO techniques over good quality content.

Image: Bert’s Neural Network - Source Google Blog

What marketers should carry on doing is to speak to your audience in a natural and helpful way, as well as actually answering the search which took them to your site in the first place.

Does This Mean We Forget What We Know About SEO?

Not necessarily, for the meantime it is still a good idea to keep tools like Keyword Planner in your arsenal, and use keyword volumes or search terms as a guide for what people are typing in.

However, with these new changes, it looks like we are heading towards a new paradigm where Google is moving away from these techniques. So it is a good idea to ensure you aren’t relying too much on them, and instead focus on writing entertaining and informative.

Sticking to what you know best when it comes to content will mean that you’re more likely to be writing content in a more natural and appealing manner, both for search engines and human readers! Alongside this, as Google is becoming better at understanding what it is you are writing, this is a chance to get specific with your work.

Generic content, covering a whole range of topics, may have been a good way to get multiple keywords into one piece in the past – but this just isn’t how Google works now. What Bert means is that it is better to answer a single question in your article – and answer it well!

It’s Time To Start Using Long Tail Keywords

Not sure where to start with more specific content? Well, long tail keywords can get you off on the right foot.

We know what you’re thinking… no-one is searching for long tail keywords, right? Well, that is certainly not the case. In fact, Ahrefs have reported that nearly 30% of keywords with 10,001+ monthly searches are made up of three or more words – which means there is a lot of traffic out there when you start using long tail.

Image: Ahrefs

The best thing about this, is when you start looking into long tail keywords, the content practically writes itself!

For example, the short tail keyword ‘lose weight’ could focus on a variety of things, from weight loss products to work-out regimes. Whereas, the long tail keywords ‘how to lose weight fast’ not only has a higher volume, but inspires an article walking the reader through a month of exercise and diet techniques. For those looking to sell a product or service relating to weight loss, it is like hitting a goldmine!

Image: Ahrefs

Quality Content Is Key

All in all, the new Google update makes using Google search a much easier, and natural occurrence, and while it may not inspire a lot of immediate change, it certainly points to the new direction which organic search is heading in.

Therefore, if you’ve been sticking to thin content, or generic ‘catch all’ content, it is worth rethinking your strategy now, rather than later – when it may be too late!

Of course, if you need a little help in that area, we are more than happy to offer it!
IIEPD provide a diverse range of CPD accredited digital marketing courses. Unlike other digital marketing training programs, IIEPD provides learners with a host of different digital marketing training resources including access to the IIEPD Influencer Affiliate Program, the IIEPD Influencer Network and subsidised digital marketing services from Pie Analysis.

For more information, get in contact with IIEPD today.

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