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As always, when Google releases a new update to its search algorithm, it’s an exciting (and potentially scary) time for SEO. Google’s latest update, BERT, represents the biggest alteration to its search algorithm in the last five years.

So, what does BERT do?

Google says the BERT update means its search algorithm will have an easier time comprehending conversational nuances in a user’s query.

The best example of this is statements where prepositional words such as ‘to’ and ‘for’ inform the intent of the query.

BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, which is a language processing technique based on neural networking principles.

Google estimates the update will impact about 10% of United States-based queries and has revealed BERT can already be seen in action on featured snippets around the world.

How does Google BERT affect on-page SEO?

SEO practitioners can breathe a collective sigh of relief, because the Google BERT update is not designed to penalise websites, rather, only improve the way the search engine understands and interprets search queries.

However, because the search algorithm is better at understanding nuances in language, it means websites with higher-quality written content are going to be more discoverable.

Websites that have a lot of detailed ‘how-to’ guides and other in-depth content designed to benefit users are going to get the most from Google BERT. This means businesses who aren’t implementing a thorough content strategy are likely to fall behind the curve.

Basically, the BERT update follows Google’s long-running trend of trying to improve the ability of its search algorithm to accurately serve conversational search queries.

The ultimate result of this trend is users being able to perform detailed search queries with the Google voice assistant as if they were speaking to a real person.

Previous algorithm updates

While BERT may be the first major change to Google search in five years, it’s not the biggest shakeup in their history.

The prior Google PANDA and Google PENGUIN updates were both significant and caused a large number of websites to become penalised due to the use of SEO strategies that were considered ‘spammy’ or unfriendly to users.

 

PANDA

Google PANDA was developed in response to user complaints about ‘content farms’.

Basically, Google’s algorithm was rewarding quantity over quality, meaning there was a business incentive for websites to pump out lots of cheaply acquired content for the purposes of serving ads next to or even within them.

The PANDA update most noticeably affected link building or ‘article marketing’ strategies where low-quality content was published to content farms with a link to a business’ website attached to a keyword repeated throughout the article.

It meant that there was a significant push towards more ethical content marketing strategies, such as guest posting.

PENGUIN

Google PENGUIN is commonly seen as a follow up to the work started by PANDA, targeting spammy link-building practices and ‘black-hat’ SEO techniques.

This update was focused primarily on the way the algorithm evaluates the authority of links as well as the sincerity of their implementation in website content. Spammy or manipulative links now carried less weight. 

However, this meant that if another website posted a link to yours in a spammy or manipulative way, it would negatively affect your search rankings.

This meant that webmasters and SEO-focused businesses needed to make use of the disavow tool to inform Google what inbound links they approve of and which they don’t.

[Source: This article was published in smartcompany.com.au By LUCAS BIKOWSKI - Uploaded by the Association Member: Bridget Miller]

Categorized in Search Engine

Don't try to optimize for BERT, try to optimize your content for humans.

Google introduced the BERT update to its Search ranking system last week. The addition of this new algorithm, designed to better understand what’s important in natural language queries, is a significant change. Google said it impacts 1 in 10 queries. Yet, many SEOs and many of the tracking tools did not notice massive changes in the Google search results while this algorithm rolled out in Search over the last week.

The question is, Why?

The short answer. This BERT update really was around understanding “longer, more conversational queries,” Google wrote in its blog post. The tracking tools, such as Mozcast and others, primarily track shorter queries. That means BERT’s impact is less likely to be visible to these tools.

And for site owners, when you look at your rankings, you likely not tracking a lot of long-tail queries. You track queries that send higher volumes of traffic to your web site, and those tend to be short-tail queries.

Moz on BERT. Pete Meyers of Moz said the MozCast tool tracks shorter head terms and not the types of phrases that are likely to require the natural language processing (NLP) of BERT.

dr.pete

RankRanger on BERT. The folks at RankRanger, another toolset provider told me something similar. “Overall, we have not seen a real ‘impact’ — just a few days of slightly increased rank fluctuations,” the company said. Again, this is likely due to the dataset these companies track — short-tail keywords over long -tail keywords.

Overall tracking tools on BERT. If you look at the tracking tools, virtually all of them showed a smaller level of fluctuation on the days BERT was rolling out compared to what they have shown for past Google algorithm updates such as core search algorithm updates, or the Panda and Penguin updates.

Here are screenshots of the tools over the past week. Again, you would see significant spikes in changes, but these tools do not show that:

mozcast 800x348

serpmetrics 800x308

algoroo 800x269

advancedwebranking 800x186

accuranker 800x245

rankranger 800x265

semrush 800x358

SEO community on BERT. When it comes to individuals picking up on changes to their rankings in Google search, that also was not as large as a Google core update. We did notice chatter throughout the week, but that chatter within the SEO community was not as loud as is typical with other Google updates.

 

Why we care. We are seeing a lot of folks asking about how they can improve their sites now that BERT is out in the wild. That’s not the way to think about BERT. Google has already stated there is no real way to optimize for it. Its function is to help Google better understand searchers’ intent when they search in natural language. The upside for SEOs and content creators is they can be less concerned about “writing for the machines.” Focus on writing great content — for real people.

Danny Sullivan from Google said again, you cannot really optimize for BERT:

johan

Continue with your strategy to write the best content for your users. Don’t do anything special for BERT, but rather, be special for your users. If you are writing for people, you are already “optimizing” for Google’s BERT algorithm.

[Source: This article was published in searchengineland.com By Barry Schwartz - Uploaded by the Association Member: Joshua Simon]

Categorized in Search Engine

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