Google’s BERT Update and What it Means for SEO Strategy

Have you and BERT met? If not, allow us to make the introductions. But first, the bottom line: This new advance should prompt a major shift towards quality content in SEO strategy.

What it Is

“BERT” is an acronym that stands for bidirectional encoders representations from translation, a technique outlined in a technical paper from Google. The name is a tip of the hat to another, related data-science paper from the University of Washington that described a type of artificial intelligence technique called ELMo (embeddings from language models) representations.

Is this the beginning of a larger trend of Sesame-Street-inspired machine-learning names? Only time will tell.

The important point is that both papers helped AI become better at language comprehension tasks, such as paraphrasing and question answering. Both of those tasks, as well as many others, are used frequently in search engines.

What it Does

The key change is context. The new search algorithm uses a different approach to longer terms. These types of searches are becoming more popular as more people use natural language input, such as speaking conversational sentences into phones and smart-home devices.

BERT is very good at looking for what words mean together — how one word might change the meaning of another. Essentially, Google took a big step towards understanding longer search entries, identifying important words and concepts from complex sentences and generally getting to the heart of what someone is searching for.

What it Means

This research has advanced two important automatic language-recognition tasks: determining how a word is used by itself and how that use changes in different contexts. One clear message this sends for marketers is to focus on well-written content that delivers valuable information.

A priority should be given to articles and pages that provide clear, direct answers to the questions people are asking — as opposed to parroting the questions or stuffing the content with keywords, for example. Industry leaders have been doing this for a while — read: forever.

What it Changes

Will the page generate traffic? Will it answer the searcher’s questions? The answer to these two questions is reaching a singularity.

In a way, BERT is just another sign that Google continues to get better at what it has been doing from the beginning: delivering relevant information. Planning for this continued improvement is the core of all reliable, sustainable SEO strategy.

What You Should Do

So, do you need to take action? If you still have any keyword-stuffed articles on your site, now would probably be a good time to clean them out. Search engines are getting better at recognizing the difference between pages that people do and do not want to read.

Please contact FORWARD Marketing at (773) 227-3269 today if you have any questions or concerns on this topic and speak with a digital marketing specialist. We’ll look at your site and see if it is adequately addressing your ideal clients’ needs.