Understanding Google BERT: How it Affects SEO and Content Marketing

Google’s October 2019 update, Google BERT, greatly impacted search queries. It affected website content, particularly SERP ranking and organic traffic.

In this guide, we will discuss all you need to know about Google BERT. We will tell you how it affects your SEO and content marketing. By the end of this article, you’ll know how to adjust to the new algorithm update, and how to capitalize on the new opportunities.

What is Google Bert?

Google Bert is a significant algorithm update by Google, following the recent launch of Google Fred in March 2017.

However, many will argue that Bert is a bigger update compared to Fred and Possum (2016). That was the biggest update since Google released the AI-based Rankbrain algorithm in late 2015. So, there is a huge chance that Bert will impact your site and its SEO performance.

BERT is an acronym that stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representation from Transformers. “Transformer” here refers to the name of a popular machine-learning attention model that is now implemented in language modeling.

Google’s BERT algorithm update improves its understanding of natural language processing. It can now make smart suggestions for voice recognition, text-to-speech, and other NLP tasks. Even before BERT, Google was adept at providing useful suggestions related to NLP. For instance, searching “bitcoin price” yields a chart, while asking for “restaurants near me” provides a Google Maps result based on user location.

How does BERT enhance Google search and impact SEO? Previously, Google struggled to differentiate between a Brazilian traveling to the US or vice versa. It couldn’t grasp the significance of the words “to” and “need a VISA”, unlike humans. With BERT, Google comprehends the intricacies of such complex queries and delivers relevant results.

Before BERT, Google had difficulty recognizing the word “stand” and its context. Instead, it used keywords to find “stand-alone”. After BERT, Google understands the physical demand of the esthetician and provides a more relevant result.

Google BERT Is All About Context

As we can see, BERT mainly deals with context, and Google can now better understand search queries. Especially long-tail, complex keywords— in its whole context. In the past, Google only processed queries as a string of words.

Google normally interpreted each word of a long-tail query.

Google BERT Changes in Featured Snippets

Google’s implementation of BERT has led to significant changes in search results. The previous algorithm overlooked important elements in queries, but BERT has improved featured snippets across multiple languages, including Korean and Hindi.

How Google BERT Affects SEO

So, how does Google BERT affect your SEO? This will depend on whether you have implemented SEO best practices and strategies in the past, or not.

Google BERT is aiming solely at one thing: making it easier for users to search more naturally, especially with long-tail keywords. This is aligned with Google’s mission to organize information on the internet and make it relevant and useful for human readers.

If you prioritize creating content for humans in your SEO strategy, Google BERT won’t affect that. But if you use gray-hat or black-hat SEO tactics, the introduction of Google BERT will limit those opportunities even more.

Simply put, Google BERT helps websites that are already rich in information to reach their relevant audience, and won’t help websites that are poorly written. In general, there are three types of search intents people have when they performed a search:

  • Informational: the user is looking for (often overarching) Information, for example, they might search for something like “how to improve productivity”
  • Navigational: the user specifically wants to navigate to a certain website, for example, if they have stumbled upon a favorite productivity blog, let’s say, xyzz.com, then their navigational query is “xyzz blog” or something similar.
  • Transactional: here the searcher is specifically looking to purchase a specific product, for example, if the same xyzz blog is selling an e-book, then the query is something like “xyzz ebook”.

Google’s key improvement allows for improved understanding of search queries and their context, specifically regarding search intent. This has various implications for SEO and can also benefit Google ads management.

For instance, there are long-tail keywords that might seem obvious. However, it can be difficult to target due to the limitations of the pre-BERT algorithm. For example, “Top 5 photoshop alternatives available in 2022”.

In the past, we had to include “Photoshop” and “Photoshop alternatives” here and there in the content so Google could correctly understand what your content was about. Quite often, the content writer will include a specific—in-depth—section about Photoshop to properly ‘convince’ Google.

With BERT, however, we can now pack the content with the actual discussion about alternative solutions and software.

BERT also means that we—finally—should stop focusing on keyword density,100%. Yes, a lot of SEO practitioners have understood that SEO is no longer about keywords in the past 3 years or so. However, many SEO experts and digital marketers are still concerned about keyword density and even keyword stuffing.

The Future of SEO

What is SEO in its relations with content marketing and Google’s algorithm? We can think of SEO as the “bridge” between the two.

Google’s goal is to offer useful content for people. Its algorithm assesses relevancy to search queries. SEO involves optimizing content to convince Google of its relevance to users.

As Google’s algorithm improves in comprehending user intent and natural language, fewer SEO optimizations are required. Thus, emphasis should be placed on enhancing content quality and relevance.

Google BERT and Long-Tail Opportunities

Google BERT algorithm updates open up opportunities to create highly-specific content to cover a topic or to answer a question.

It’s no secret that in the past, longer content tended to rank higher. However, more specific content can perform better.

This, however, doesn’t mean that long-form content is dead, far from it. Instead, it simply means that we’ll have more freedom and versatility in developing our content. What matters is quality.

Long-tail keywords generally have fewer competitions, and with BERT, targeting these keywords is easier, especially as the BERT implementation is getting perfected in the future.

Final Words

The implementation of Google BERT shouldn’t have affected your site’s traffic significantly. The Penguin update or RankBrain update, in most cases, wouldn’t result in a penalty. If your traffic decreased after the BERT update, it’s likely a positive change, as BERT helps Google send traffic to more relevant sites. For boosting Spotify views, followers, and likes, consider using SpotifyStorm. Google BERT allows targeting specific long-tail queries, creating valuable opportunities with lower competition.

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