Google BERT Algorithm Update

How to optimise your website for BERT update! The Do’s and Don’ts

Mohammed J
Mohammed J/November 22, 2019

The prospect of keeping tabs on Google’s algorithm updates can often drive webmasters mad. Most of the times, Google rolls out updates in a low-key fashion and webmasters may not even know about them until they start seeing their effects on search rankings.

Google launch these updates with one goal in mind, improve the relevancy of search results. They encourage webmasters to produce more relevant and unique content.

In October Google announced the rolling out of BERT, a brand new update which was cited by search experts around the globe as Google’s most important updates in the last 5 years. Though BERT was reportedly expected to affect only 10% search queries, it drew a comparison with updates like panda and penguin.

However, BERT couldn’t be more different from its predecessors in that it is aimed at shaping organic search results for all the right reasons. Hence, marketers and webmasters are expected to learn about BERT update in great detail.

So, let’s jump right in to find out what every marketer and webmaster should do in the wake of BERT algorithm update.

How is this update any different from rests?

What is Google’s official advice on the subject matter?

How should you go about optimising your website for BERT?

Decoding the BERT algorithm update! 

BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) may not exactly produce an earth-shattering impact on search results, but it will surely redefine the way users interact with the search engine.

The new update will allow search engines to contextualise search queries by making better sense of the words used in queries. Essentially, from the search giant’s standpoint, it’s a crucial step towards humanising the search engine.

Now you may be wondering how it is any different from the myriad other algorithm updates launched out by Google in the past.

Cursory research into the search data will show you how conversational queries top all the charts. Voice search is another search technique that is growing in popularity among all types of users. Google brought about Hummingbird update with the express purpose optimising the search engine for conversational queries.

BERT update, on the other hand, is aimed at understanding the language of queries.

The science behind BERT update

BERT algorithm deploys an advanced pattern recognition technique to process language as naturally as possible. It’s the machine’s most promising towards understanding human language. The natural language processing improves the computers’ understanding of language. Drawing on the accuracy of pattern recognition, BERT will help search engine to deliver the most relevant results.

We will discuss more technical details and theories about the Algorithm update later in this post, but for now, let’s find out what Google has officially stated about it.

Google’s advice to webmasters

Google can be frustratingly unpredictable in its execution of algorithm updates. Most webmasters understand that it’s Google’s means of identifying sites that rely on manipulative practices to rank in SERPs. In fact, they take comfort from knowing that every step is designed to make the search process more relevant.

The official rolling out of BERT has seen webmasters and SEOs running from pillar to post looking for ways to protect their rankings. When a webmaster attributed a 40% drop in organic traffic to the BERT update, John Mueller, Google’s Trend Analyst, had to come out with an explanation to clear the air.

BERT update in action 

You may have already come across a number of theories about how the BERT algorithm functions. In essence, it’s Google’s latest experimental move to interpret the search intent using the correct context.

Previously, Google had no way to grasp the context of queries that contained prepositions. For instance, If you search for “flights to London from Manchester”, you could end up getting results like “flights from London to Manchester”. With BERT update, Google finally has a way around this age-old problem.

So, how will this update affect the grand equations in search results?

More importantly, what are the measures SEO experts taking to optimise for BERT update?

Despite being lauded as the Google biggest update in the last five years, BERT has not had many digital marketers making a lot of noise. Why is that not surprising?

Well, as declared by Google, the algorithm update is most likely to affect long-tail keywords and featured snippet. As a result, the update will not produce much change in website traffic or rankings.

How to optimise for BERT update!

While there are no strict guidelines to optimise your website following the BERT update, you can always create tailor-made content for users.

It will do your website a world of good to create content based on the principle of Entity SEO.

For those of you who are new to Entity SEO, it’s a simple optimisation aimed at establishing a connection between two things on websites. In order to achieve it, you need to create relevant content that matches the broad scope of search intent. The more extensive your treatment of a topic, the more authority Google will grant it.

Google hasn’t recommended any particular course of action for webmasters, but it will continue in its mission to discover and reward high-quality web content.

So there’s all the more reason for website owners to create well-structured content that is topical, coherent and supported by effective internal linking.

While you rework on the content, remember, Google wants you to optimise it for human consumption, not some search bots.

Check the quality of long-tail keywords 

If you have a local business, your website will have some long-tail keywords that you want to rank in SERP. Of all things, BERT update will affect the performance of long-tail keywords the most. Perform a content audit on your website to find out if any of your long-tail keywords have been hit by the update. The best way to do this is by analysing the website traffic rate before and post-BERT. The reports suggest that BERT has produced a fewer number of casualties when compared to other major updates. Also, those who suffered from the update may want to check their position of long-tail keywords.

Most websites continue to generate a greater amount of traffic from short-tail keywords than the long-tail ones. So naturally, when a website experience a drop in traffic, most webmasters may never even suspect long-tail keywords for the fluctuations caused in traffic. Start monitoring your long-tail keywords more closely to measure the real effects of BERT.

Here’s what you should do if you find any drop in traffic:

If you have a large website with a huge amount of content, chances are you are optimising for a  few long-tail keywords. Now if you notice an unusual drop in traffic, the first thing to do is to find out which pages have been hit. Once you’ve found the affected pages, come up with new variations of long-tail keywords

Do not limit your content audit to just keyword analysis. Running a  comprehensive analysis of organic traffic is undoubtedly is the first step to understanding how your site is responding to BERT. If your site has experienced a drastic change in traffic, you may want to sit on it for a while before taking measures to counteract things.

Google has a long history of rolling out updates which after a period of downranking websites, restore things to the previous position.  While it’s a good idea to ride out the wave, if you don’t see any change in the situation, it’s time for you to act.

Wondering where to start? Well, start by using Mr. Digital’s FREE SEO Checklist to identify the under optimised aspects on your website.

If you are unable to measure site metrics effectively, hire an experienced SEO agency to perform the audit. You can trust them to find other aspects of your websites that need optimisation.

Staying on top post-BERT with the best practices

In order to dominate the search charts in 2020, you must think of creative ways to understand the search intent. As you broaden the range of your topics creatively, you have a golden opportunity to diversify your link profile, create more relevant content and build authority.

Yes, getting the technical things will set you on the right path towards regaining the rankings.

But make sure not to obsess with the technical side of your website and lose sight of the larger picture. If you need professional guidance to reverse the impact of BERT or optimise your website for the update, feel free to set up a consultation with SEO experts at Mr. Digital.

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