On the first week of December, the SEO industry has been in a buzz as Google announced its December 2020 Core Update. This update had fully rolled out two weeks after that. Some speculated that the update has nothing to do with search rankings but has to do with AI (Artificial Intelligence), and this is where the talk of a possible BERT update comes in.
What is Google Bert?
BERT or Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformer, a part of Google algorithm that helps it understand the context of search queries, is one of the essential core updates in the past several years. Google introduced it in 2018 as a state-of-the-art open-source pre-training for language processing.
Here's a simple explanation from Google how BERT affects search results.
"This breakthrough was the result of Google research on transformers: models that process words in relation to all the other words in a sentence, rather than one-by-one in order. BERT models can therefore consider the full context of a word by looking at the words that come before and after it—particularly useful for understanding the intent behind search queries."
So, what does this mean to Google Search users? Here's what the search giant said:
"Well, by applying BERT models to both rankings and featured snippets in search, we're able to do a much better job helping you find useful information. In fact, when it comes to ranking results, BERT will help Search better understand one in 10 searches in the US in English, and we'll bring this to more languages and locales over time."
Here's a more detailed recent discussion about Google BERT in a Whiteboard Friday video published by Moz.
There's Nothing to Optimize for Google BERT True / False?
Technically speaking, BERT is not an algorithm but a technique that helps Google improve how it understands natural and conversational search queries.
Now the question is, how about SEO?
What do website owners need to optimize for Google Bert? Google's straightforward answer is none; there is nothing to optimize.
Of course, this answer is not something taken as is by most experts in the SEO industry, more especially when BERT is a powerful AI that teaches how to interpret search queries based on their context.
When an "algorithm update" is this powerful, the need to reassess a website content quality and user experience is crucial.
Google uses BERT to improve user experience, specifically in returning more accurate results to long-tail searches, which is where SEO comes in.
Understanding Context in Search Queries
As BERT is a technique that improves Google's capacity to understand the context of search queries, searchers are now getting more precise answers to long queries. Take these search queries, for example:
This example provided by Google on their blog shows how search result improves when BERT is introduced.
The before image shows how Google used to return a result that doesn't precisely answer the searcher's intent. The search query is about a Brazilian traveler that needs a visa to go to the USA. Still, Google returned a result about how US citizens can travel to Brazil – this surely doesn't boost great user experience.
When BERT is used (see the After image), the result answered the search query precisely as it provides a link to a US embassy website in Brazil where Brazillian travelers can get a US visa.
In the past, Google cannot grasp the context and intent of conversational queries, such as the example above, but with BERT, it can now understand each word's relationship in the query string.
Google BERT and SEO
How does Google BERT impact SEO? Although there's nothing to do to optimize for BERT, its addition to the Google algorithm is another sign that highlights the importance of content quality. More than ever, website owners, SEO, and marketers should regularly evaluate their website's content quality.
Here's a list of questions Google provided to self-evaluate a website's content quality:
Does the content provide original information, reporting, research or analysis?
Does the content provide a substantial, complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
Does the headline and/or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?
Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature?
Is this the sort of page you'd want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
With all these questions in mind, how would you assess your website's content quality?
Learn more about what else you need to ask yourself or the people around you to assess your content quality here.
Final Thoughts from SEO Professional Qamar Zaman
All Google core updates are released or rolled out to improve the quality of user experience. BERT is not an exception. With all the misinformation worldwide, the need for great and credible content is more crucial than ever.
BERT helps improve the quality of Google's returned results to search queries and teaches machines how to read strings of words and understand each one's context when used as a whole. With this kind of AI incorporated into search engine algorithms, you need to level up your SEO strategy if you don't want to be left behind and become obsolete.
Qamar Zaman - SEO Professional & CEO of Dallas based SEO & PR Digital PR Company KISS PR
Qamar Zaman Books
Read our CEO blog on Bert -
Sources & References:
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