A 3 minute read by Kaila Scott, SEO Associate
Towards the end of October, Google announced a major algorithm update, affecting nearly 10% of all search queries. Typically when Google announces an algorithm update that has a significant impact on people’s traffic, there tends to be a lot of chatter. So when an algorithm update comes out and causes a 25% or 50% dip in traffic, everybody talks about that. But the web’s response to BERT has been somewhat unique -- no one is reporting negative impacts of the update despite the changes being so massive.
What is BERT?
BERT refers to the update involving a language processing technology that can assess the way words in a search query relate to each other. What Bert is doing with this new AI technology is that they are interpreting the meaning of the actual search. People have been talking about semantic search rather than keyword-based search for a while, and now it is here.
The Future of Semantic Search
Google is placing more priority on the searcher's intent and they're getting better at understanding what that is by presenting the best results 10% of the time. Now they're presenting results that they wouldn't have been able to present before because of this AI.
Not only is semantic search going to become increasingly more important, but Google has also stated that this is only the first of many updates to come. That's right. This isn't just one-and-done update. This is the future direction of organic search.
What Does This Mean for SEO?
So, since semantic terms are the future of keyword research, what does this mean for SEO? As an SEO specialist, webmaster, blogger, or content creator, this opens up a lot of windows for you to utilize semantic search. Now, we can write about topics that we never would have written about before. And in fact, that's what we do over and over again through our method of search analysis.
With Google getting smarter with their AI, they can now better identify what people are looking for and point them to your content. This opens up just dozens of niches that we never would have considered before, as well as millions of topics you could write about that you probably wouldn't have written about before.
Impact of BERT
It is important to know that keyword research is not obsolete – not by a long shot. Many people did not notice an impact after the BERT update because it focuses more on understanding “longer, more conversational queries,” according to Google. So this especially helps people who speak English as a second language or any language as a second language, and therefore tend to search for things in their second language that perhaps don't have the correct verbs or the correct conjugation.
Also, if someone misspells or mistypes something, Google can look at not just the grammatical structure, but the context of research. Whereas before, they might've been frustrated that Google couldn't understand what they were trying to say. Now, they can see past just the lower law of the search and be able to understand exactly what they're searching For search, this means that if you create content that's just geared toward a specific search topic, you can rank, it doesn't matter what keywords people type in as long as the intent of their search would lead them to your content.
Now, if you wrote content geared toward keywords in the past and the content is good, your content will still likely rank. It's not going to hurt you that you did it that way in the past. What this is doing is just opening up all sorts of new avenues that you can go down that you probably didn't explore before if you were entirely focused on keywords. The key takeaway from this is that along with optimizing your content for keywords, make sure to optimize for readers as well.
As organic search enthusiasts, our team at Swarm is excited to see the impact of this algorithm update in particular!