In October 2019, Google announced a search algorithm update known as BERT that helps the search engine improve the contextual understanding of queries. While Google is known for making frequent updates to its search algorithm, BERT gained prominence as it was estimated that nearly 10% of all search queries would be impacted by it.
What is BERT all about?
BERT is the acronym for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. Let’s understand what BERT is with real-world examples. This update helps Google better understand the context of the search query, rather than just relying on keywords.
Let’s say, a searcher uses the query “visa for travel to the USA from India.” Before BERT, the results could include visa instructions for travelers from the USA to India. It’s the opposite of what the searcher is looking for. It’s because Google used to focus only on the keywords: visa + travel + USA + India.
With the BERT update, the results are more relevant as the search engine accounts for prepositions like “to” “from” “for” to better understand user intent.
Google’s Pandu Nayak, the Vice President of search, explains the reason behind this update in a blog post. He states that though Google has improved understanding language complexities over the years, there were plenty of times when the search engine failed to get the context right, especially for conversational and complex queries. With the BERT update, the search engine is better able to decipher natural language questions that are becoming more relevant in this era of voice search.
BERT Update: The Key Takeaways for Brands, Marketers and SEO Strategists
Traditionally search, and SEO strategies were based on keywords. While the relevancy of keywords hasn’t gone away entirely, there are a few tweaks to be done in light of this update.
- The primary objective of this update is to provide users with relevant and high-quality search results. To meet this objective, brands must focus on developing excellent content that is authoritative, informational, and relevant to the end-user.
- Long-tailed keywords that use connector terms and hierarchies gain more prominence. Additionally, long-tailed keywords make the content more relevant to natural queries used by voice searchers.
- While keywords lose a bit of their relevancy, note that a large percentage of the search remains unaffected by this change. Marketers don’t have to do away with keyword-based strategies for now. Instead, marketers can monitor incoming search referral traffic and make changes based on search volume differences.
- Developing localized content in native languages (instead of translating from English to another language or vice versa) has a better impact on SEO.
Finally, marketers have to keep in mind; whether it’s BERT or any other algorithm updates from Google, the best SEO strategy is always the same – providing valuable and high-quality content that is relevant to what your audience is searching.