What is BERT
In October 2019. Google launched BERT, an open-source neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP) pre-training called Bidrectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. This new search algorithm will impact approximately 10% of all searches, specifically informational searches above transactional and navigational searches.
- Transactional: indicates intent to buy (example: “buy adIdas trainers’)
- Navigational: indicates the user wants to visit a specific site or brand (example; “adidas”)
- Informational: Indicates the user is looking for certain information (example: “best adidas trainers for running”)
How does BERT work?
While only 1 in 10 searches are impacting, the shift is monumental. BERT is said to be the biggest algorithm update since RankBrain first launched. In a nutshell, this shift allows for the understanding of words in context over individualised keywords. BERT will help Google understand the phrasing of keywords like a human rather than a robot. Almost like the AI of search. This update allows Google to understand the nuances of speech. Specifically, BERT will help interpret key prepositions like “for” and “to” which often have huge implications for user intent.
As seen in the example above, Google was able to discern the user was travelling from Britain to Spain and deliver on relevant content. Before BERT, Google may have pulled up generic travel to Spain and even content that spoke to travel to Britain.
How will BERT impact my Content Strategy
This new update is all about content, and below are key tips to keep in mind when writing to accommodate this new algorithm.
- Stop focusing on keyword density: While keywords will always be important for search, the key is to use them as if they don’t. If you are writing about a specific topic, relevant keywords will naturally be included, so no need to ram them in.
- Cater to long tail queries: Make sure you create content that is both specific and detailed to ensure you are accommodating relevant long tail searches. Long tail, while it will have lower traffic, often represent a huge opportunity to rank due to relatively low competition.
- Use natural language: One of the key things that BERT is attempting to eliminate is what they term as “keyword-ese.” Examples of this kind of query would be, “acne face treatment.” The query does not resemble how people speak and is clearly focused on finding keywords rather than an answer to a question. BERT will shift these behaviours to allow relevant search for real language queries such as “treatments for facial acne.” So speak naturally with personality, it is now more beneficial for search.
- Consider top of funnel searches: Given that BERT caters to the informational / top of funnel searches, you may want to consider queries and content that would be key points of entry for your users. For example, if you sell garden supplies, you would want to think about creating content like “how to create a vegetable garden.”
- Think about the question you are answering: This new algorithm gives marketers the ability to be strategic in answering your customers questions. Think about common questions you get from your customers, key questions within your category, or anticipate an issue your customer may google. Answer it and title it accordingly.
- Bigger is not better: While previously content writers would write 1000+ words for each blog hoping to rank on the principle of keyword density and content authority, this is no longer a prerequisite for effective SEO writing. If you are able to answer a keyword query sufficiently in 100 words or less, you have just as good a chance of ranking for that query as does the 2000 word essay. And, given the efficiency of language, you are also providing a better and more accessible user experience.
- Be user first: Google’s age-old advice still applies, “create high quality content with the user in mind.” The bottom line for this BERT update implications for content writers is simply CREATE QUALITY CONTENT on an ongoing basis, end of.
For more information about BERT, watch Dawn Anderson’s and Rusty Brick's video below.