According to various experts, Google’s most recent update is the most important one the company has made in the past five years, as it will affect 10% of searches from here on out. Let’s look at specifics.
What Is BERT and What Is It Changing?
BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, and is an algorithm that is related to understanding the process of our natural language. In short, BERT is changing the way Google reads language during a search query. In order to help searches conducted by users to be more precise in relation to their terminology and language, BERT is stepping in to provide more accurate results based off of the search query.
How Will BERT Affect SEO?
According to search algorithm expert Dawn Anderson in an interview with Search Engine Journal, the BERT update will mostly affect websites that have poorly written content.
“BERT and family improve the state of the art on 11 natural language processing tasks. Even beating human understanding since linguists will argue for hours over the part of speech a single word is. But what if the focus of a page is very weak? Even humans sometimes will be like ‘what’s your point?’ when we hear something. And pronouns have been very problematic historically but BERT helps with this quite a bit. Context is improved because of the bi-directional nature of BERT. There will still be lots of work for us to do since we need to emphasize importance, utilize clear structures, help to turn unstructured data into semi structured data, and utilize cues on content-light pages (e.g., image-heavy but not text-heavy eCommerce pages) using such things as internal linking.” (Source)
By poorly written content, they mostly mean poorly written content as whole, not just poor from a search engine optimization standpoint.
Unfortunately however, some copywriters don’t even have a point to make in their posts and pages. Focus for humans and search engines will understand. Vagueness is problematic for everyone / thing https://t.co/6GFsZ76Dls
— Dawn Anderson (@dawnieando) October 25, 2019
What About Featured Snippets?
If you are using schema markup on your website to enhance your SEO with rich snippets, any featured snippets that Google displays for your website will also be affected the same way it is affecting search results with language. Here is an example of what a BERT-updated search with featured snippets may be like:
Is There Anything Marketers Need to Change?
The good news is no. Back in 2015 when RankBrain came out, Google’s first AI method for better understanding search queries, Google noted there really isn’t a way to optimize content for these kinds of updates. So as long as you are already doing your due diligence to write content that is user friendly and written well, you should be in good shape.
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