Google BERT Update and its Effect on SEO

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The BERT update went into effect in October 2019 and will affect 1 in 10 search queries. If this doesn’t sound like anything that big, consider that BERT is the largest update since Google released RankBrain. It’s likely that BERT impacts your site in some way. If it doesn’t yet, it will as your site grows and you get more traffic.

To ensure you have your ducks in a row, let’s learn about BERT, how it affects SEO and what you need to adjust.

What is BERT?

BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. In simple terms, this means Google modified its algorithm to better understand natural language processing. For example, Google can guess what you’re typing before you finish typing it. Or, you can enter in a series of numbers and Google will know that you’re trying to track a package.

For users, the BERT update is another step in the right direction in terms of understanding the intent of what people are searching for. But for webmasters, another algorithm to deal with can be a headache. Fortunately, there are things you can start doing to ensure your site will benefit from BERT.

How to Make Your Website BERT-Friendly

BERT isn’t going away, so it’s important to create a website that will continue to rank well as you add content and drive in new traffic. Here are some of the best ways to get your site up to speed.

  • Get specific with your content. BERT is targeting informational keywords, which are top-of-the-funnel keywords that people use when looking for information on a particular product or service. Get specific and answer the question better than your competitors.
  • Use long-tail keywords. As the search algorithms get more sophisticated at understanding what people are really looking for, long-tail phrases will be more useful. Incorporate these longer words and phrases into your content.
  • Stop focusing on keyword density. Even though people are moving away from keyword density, it’s still something that comes up often. Keyword density will continue to be less important as the algorithms become more intuitive, so you don’t need to focus on this anymore.
  • Include videos, images, audio, etc. To help you answer questions better than your competitors, don’t be afraid to include videos, images, audio or whatever else will help you create a better user experience.

The BERT update is nothing to lose sleep over, but it is an indication of what’s to come in terms of how Google will rank content. The best way to handle this update is to create specific content that answers the questions people are asking, as well as include longer-tail words and phrases in your content.