A few days ago, Google released their BERT update, which has been billed as the biggest algorithm update since RankBrain was released. In this article, we are going to explore a few things including what the BERT update is, how you can optimise your site to suit the update, and how your site could be affected.
BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. Do not be afraid of the technical words here as they are easy to explain. Essentially, BERT is Google's natural language processor, which means it is able to understand more long-form search queries. This was needed with the rise of voice assistants such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa. More people are searching long questions with Google than short, keyword based questions, so Google needs a way to understand this to process the results correctly. BERT does this, really well.
Now, you will be able to search a long question into Google and still get the results you need. For example, rather than searching "sushi London", you will now be able to search "where is the best sushi restaurant in London?" And still come up with the results you need.
The biggest thing here is that the Google BERT update is expected to affect 1 in 10 SERPS! This means the impact of the update is huge!
The long and short of the update means that Google can now better understand natural language. This is great, because more searches than ever are being completed via voice search devices, or typed naturally into Google anyway. So Google needs to be able to understand these queries.
Optimising for Google BERT doesn't necessarily mean big changes for your marketing. Essentially, the release of BERT means you need to be producing great content! Which is what Google have been preaching for years! You will no longer be able to get away with short blog posts that are stuffed with keywords. You need to have a good blog! This is something all good digital marketers will preach, content is king, and this really is the case!
In essence, to ensure you are not affected in a negative way from the Google BERT update, you need to ensure your blog is as good as it can be in terms of the content that is on there. Nowadays, SEO is less about link building (although this is still important) than it is content.
Content silos will play a key part in optimising your existing content and blog for the BERT update. You will need to ensure that your content is linked properly, but more importantly, it needs to be written properly so Google can understand it. This will ensure you have the best chance of getting your website in the best position after the BERT update.
This will depend, mainly, on how good the content is on your website. Generally, if you have good content then nothing will change, and you could even see some positive results. However, if you have badly written content on your website already, and this isn't fixed quickly, you could see yourself drop down the rankings fairly quickly.
The entire point of this update is to ensure Google can understand more natural language, and understand questions how people would usually phrase them, not how they would type them into Google a couple of years ago. So when you are writing your main content and blog content, ensure it's well written. Using natural language is now absolutely fine, so there is no reason to write robotically.
Google have spent the last 5 years trying to ensure their algorithms can understand as natural content as possible. With this update, they are well on their way there. This means that marketers can spend less time writing for search engines, and more time writing for users! This is the key, and this is what will move you up the rankings.
In terms of any negative effects, you may see a loss in traffic if you are high up in the rankings but not optimised for natural language searching. For example, if you rank well for "SEO Nottingham", you may see this keyword lose traffic as people will now be searching for "SEO companies in Nottingham". Or, at least, something to that effect. If you are not optimised for these longer-form questions, then you could be hit.
To summarise, Google's BERT update is one of the biggest we have seen in the last 5 years. However, this doesn't mean we need to change our ways drastically. If you have been taking the advice of marketing agencies such as ourselves, then you really don't need to change your ways at all. If you are writing for the user and not for the algorithm, you will be fine.
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