The search engine, Google, is so ubiquitous that it is officially recognized by dictionaries as both a noun and a transitive verb. When you don’t know something, chances are you google it. When consumers need products and services, they will likely use Google to find it, read reviews, and compare brands. As the world’s most popular search engine, Google relies on algorithms to filter and display the most relevant results to its users. Google’s most recent algorithm update, BERT, is designed to understand people’s queries better than ever before. This new algorithm allows Google to find the most useful information for each search, providing an overall better and more natural experience for its users. But what does this mean for ecommerce platforms? This article explores Google’s BERT algorithm and how it could impact the SEO strategies of your business.
What Is Google BERT?
Google’s Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers or BERT for short is a neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP) pre-training. It is an open source technology released in November 2018 by Google for training an innovative question answering system that better understands context. Instead of processing words individually in a search, BERT models process words in context to each other. It analyzes the full context of the words in a query in order to gain a more nuanced understanding of the user’s intent.
With BERT, the Google search engine takes a leap forward in understanding the complexities of the human language. It takes into consideration that people might not necessarily know how to optimally formulate a search query to achieve the results they want. It accounts for possible misspellings or awkward phrasing. This means people can stop writing their queries based on keywords and phrase a query naturally. Essentially, the BERT algorithm learns to figure out what users are really searching for and finds the most useful results.
In October 2019, Google applied BERT to English search queries within the US, and by December 2019, it was expanded to other languages. Most Google search queries are now processed by BERT.
Understanding How Google BERT Works
As a neural network, Google’s BERT is able to learn and recognize patterns in a user’s search queries. It trains using the endless amount of text data to improve its ability to answer questions and recognize sentiment.
Its purpose as an artificial intelligence is to analyze linguistics and improve understanding of how humans naturally communicate, a process known as natural language processing (NLP). It is the brainchild of Google’s years of research on transformers. Transformers are NLP models that process how words in a particular sentence relate to each other as opposed to processing each word individually in order.
BERT models are bidirectional which means they contextualize words in both directions. Words that precede and follow are considered by BERT to better understand the context of a word in a search query. This is especially useful for being able to grasp the reason and purpose behind a Google search.
Since it is open source, anyone can use BERT to train any answering system.
How Does BERT Impact SEO?
So what does BERT mean for your ecommerce business? And what are its implications for ecommerce platforms? According to 99Firms’ Ecommerce Statistics for 2020, about 43% of ecommerce traffic organically comes from Google Search. Since BERT models apply to both the ranking of search results and the featured snippets on SERPs (search engine results pages), it is crucial for businesses to reformulate their SEO strategies around this algorithm.
In an attempt to improve the user experience and make it feel more natural, the Google search engine is now able to understand conversational queries thanks to BERT. It now considers the intent behind queries. It is no longer limited to keywords or their order. Most SEO strategies generally rely heavily on keywords and phrases. As a consequence, many businesses fear it will negatively impact their ranking on SERPs for queries that include a keyword they invested in.
Google’s BERT has no intention of punishing businesses for optimizing their content for search engines. However, it does aim to provide the most useful and relevant results for a user’s query. Thus, businesses that fail to provide a useful answer to queries might suffer.
How To Optimize Content for BERT
While Google has stated that it is impossible to optimize for BERT, there are certain strategies businesses can implement to boost their rankings for search queries. Instead of focusing your strategies as a business on optimizing for the BERT algorithm, focus it on providing answers and other value to real humans.
Replace writing that places an emphasis on keywords with writing that actual people could read without getting annoyed by the number of times you repeated an SEO keyword or phrase. Regardless of whether your business implements a SEO strategy or not, the quality of your content should always matter more than the frequency or placement of key words and phrases. Prioritize good quality writing over search engine optimized writing, but aim to achieve both.
Understand your ideal consumer well. Since Google’s BERT possesses the ability to grasp a person’s aim in their search query, developing an informed understanding of your target audience is more essential than ever. What are they looking for? What questions would they search on Google? Even before BERT, knowing your ideal consumer and their patterns as a business is always a good idea.
Engage with your audience. A great way to ensure you offer value to your consumers is by communicating with them directly. There are so many ways to engage with your consumers as a business nowadays that there really is no excuse not to be. Not only is this a great way to gage what content your audience is looking for, it also helps to build trust and loyalty as a business.
Prioritize consumer experience. Ensure your website is user-friendly. Take the time to optimize your site for mobile search and choose a responsive WordPress theme so mobile users can easily browse your site. Create content that readers can derive some sort of value from. By now, you’ve probably noticed the pattern. Put your consumer first and you’ll do well not just on BERT’s rankings, but overall as a business.
According to Finance Online’s “Data and Share Market Analysis for 2020”, an estimated 35% of Google product searches are converted into purchases within 5 days. As an ecommerce business, figuring out how to rank highly in results for search queries is more important than ever before. Although businesses can’t exactly optimize their content for Google’s BERT models, it can improve visibility on result pages by focusing on designing a website with people in mind. As long as you continue to create content for humans as opposed to search engines, Google’s BERT will connect consumers to you through their queries.