Something is different, but you’re not sure what. Last time you checked, your keywords were ranking – but now, not so well. Have your Search Engine Optimization efforts suddenly failed? Why isn’t your digital marketing plan working? The answer is simple, blame BERT.
Who is BERT?
No, not Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street, but Bidirectional Encoder Representations for Transformers, also known as Google’s new natural language processor. To put it simply, Google is moving away from ignoring prepositions and smaller common words to including them. They are reading the whole sentence, not looking at certain words, one-by-one to guess what the consumer is looking for.
Google put forth the best example. When a user searched “Do estheticians stand a lot at work” before the update, they may get a variety of links, like “Medical Esthetician vs Spa Esthetician,” which outlines the salaries of such careers. With the new algorithm, the query will include words like ‘a lot’ and ‘at’ and return search results more like, “Estheticians – Physical Demands.” Google hopes that these much more targeted responses will increase their accuracy by as much as 10%.
Learning to play nicely with BERT
So, how do you outsmart BERT? Well, you don’t, not really. Gianni D’Alerta, CEO of Naka Business Design believes that “Setting up quality content is the best way to keep ahead of these algorithm updates. Then all you need is a bit of expert tweaking to keep your content relevant, no matter how grand the changes.”
Those tweaks involve focusing on long-tail keywords since Google is now looking at full sentences and keeping your snippets on target. A few simple context changes in your already strong content can help it re-establish its previous rankings.
As you create new content, keep these things in mind. Establish strong long-tail keywords and use them to target your relevant customers. Also, stay on top of your tags like headlines, image alt tags, as well as internal and external links. Make sure when adding your new content, that you complete your in-content tagging so BERT can reference/query it when the appropriate text is queried.
Google makes it their job to return the best answers for a search query, because of that their algorithms are ever-evolving. In fact, this one algorithm change may increase their accuracy by 10%.
Preparing for ERNIE – or whatever Google throws at us next
Algorithm updates are like the change of seasons, some welcome, some not, all inevitable. Before BERT there were Maccabees, Maverick, Penguin, Possum, Panda, Fred and several other updates. Google makes it their job to return the best answers for a search query, because of that their algorithms are ever-evolving.
As a business owner, your job is to get your product or service to your customers. The best way to do that is to be visible to them. Creating quality content that is formatted well and optimized appropriately will never sway with the seasons, it will consistently return value to your company.
Side note: There really is an ERNIE, but it’s not a Google product.