What is Google BERT, and How Can It Enhance Your Digital Marketing Success?

In 2019, Google released a vital update called Google BERT, which enhances Google’s ability to understand search queries. The update caught the attention of all kinds of digital marketing fanatics, and it was estimated to impact 10% of all search queries. 

One of the problems that came with this update was a large amount of speculation, misinformation, and misunderstanding that spread through the internet regarding Google BERT. In this article, we will clarify what Google BERT is, how it works, why we needed it, what it means for digital marketing, and how YOU can make the most of it. By the way, if you’re looking for a website to learn how to implement a well thought-out digital marketing strategy, make sure you check out Online Academy to find the best digital marketing courses.

Better Understanding Google Search 

Google Search is nothing short of a modern marvel; it has irreversibly changed the way information flows around the world and rendered knowledge to be highly accessible to everyone. Having integrated itself into the routine of our everyday lives, it has become something, many of us take for granted and do not understand, despite its consistent use. Before we jump into what Google BERT is and what it does, let’s quickly establish a base understanding of Google Search first so that Google BERT may be better understood and appreciated. 

Google Search operates through several algorithms that function to sort and display a spectrum of search results relevant to a specific search query that the user inputs into google’s search bar. Google shows these results in SERPs (search engine results pages), which rank each result according to various factors such as relevance to the search term, the authority of the domain, the determined value of the content, and much more. 

Recent significant updates to Google’s search algorithms such as Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird have improved the quality of the SERPs by providing users with more relevant and better quality results to their queries. They’ve done this by lowering the ranks of ‘thin’ ‘low-quality’ websites, increasing the levels of sites with high domain authority, prioritizing high-quality content, and by penalizing sites that resort to using black-hat SEO techniques to cheat their way up the ranks. 

One of Google’s fundamental goals is to reward great content, which they assure through the updates mentioned above. Another one of Google’s primary goals is to make relevant and quality information more accessible; this brings us to Google’s latest big update – Google BERT. 

What does Google BERT do?

Unlike other significant updates that aim to judge content and assign a value to it, Google BERT looks at the other side of the equation and focuses on search queries instead. In a nutshell, Google BERT strives to improve search query understanding. It improves the algorithm’s ability to understand what you’re searching for and what you’re trying to find in the Google query.  These features are essential because it improves Google’s ability to provide more relevant and accurate results to our searches. 

How Google BERT does this requires a quick dive into human linguistics. When you think about it, words are meaningless by themselves, how they obtain meaning is by deriving it from their contexts. The context only appears when you add other words to form a sentence – the more words you add, the clearer it becomes. Let’s look at the word: ‘like’ for example. ‘Like’ could refer to its conjunction, preposition, or adjective form, each of which has its meaning. It’s only through the addition of words can we determine what ‘like’ means. Google BERT works by analyzing the structure of queries and accurately determining its context so that ambiguous and nuanced terms like ‘like’ can be assigned correct and accurate meanings. 

The Challenges BERT solves

As amazing as Google search is, it does have its drawbacks, particularly when it comes to natural language processing. As identified in the previous paragraph, the nuances and ambiguities that come with languages is something that Google has struggled to work out in the past. When faced with a search query containing ambiguous or nuanced terms, Google search would misinterpret the user’s needs and often return irrelevant results based upon its incomplete understanding of what the user wants. 

While not perfect, Google BERT does an excellent job of addressing this problem. Google BERT functions to process every single word in a sentence relative to all the other words as opposed to the previous method, which was to process words one by one in order. This more comprehensive method of processing words gives Google a complete understanding of the sentence and its meaning, allowing it better to determine the intent behind a user’s query. 

How Google BERT impacts digital marketing 

Some misconceptions are floating around on the internet, exaggerating the effects that Google BERT will have on digital marketing. In contrast, other spout misinformation, such as the adverse effect it has on SEO. In reality, Google BERT has no adverse impact on SEO, no penalties for web pages, and makes no adjustments to ranking positions within SERPs. Google BERT improves the search engines’ ability to match relevant content with people’s queries. Digital marketers and others are encouraged to create unique, valuable, and engaging content as part of their business strategies.

How do I make the most out of Google BERT?

Focus less on keyword density

Keyword density refers to the frequency in which particular keywords appear on a specific page relative to the total amount of words on that page. In the past, keyword density has been used as a ranking factor, as it demonstrated a degree of relevance a page had to a particular topic. To determine suitability to a search term, Google would check how often that search term appeared on a page – the more often, the more relevant. 

With Google BERT, Google no longer has to rely so heavily on keyword density to determine relevance. It can use its developed understanding of natural language instead of learning the user’s needs and intentions better and return more useful and relevant results. 

Make use of long-tail keywords

Now that Google has developed its ability to process natural conversational English, Google will be able to understand longer, better, more natural-sounding search queries. Consequently, Google will be able to match these long search queries with long-tail keywords with a higher degree of accuracy. Your pages associated with long-tail keywords will be more likely to receive more traffic and lower bounce rates. You can now compete using long-tail keywords with the confidence that you’ll not only gain more traffic but more relevant traffic. 

Create content that is very specific around a topic

Given their highly specific nature, long-tail keywords are best suited for pages with highly explicit material. Highly accurate content is solution-focused and designed to address a particular need, concern, or question as opposed to a generalist smorgasbord of information. Highly specific content also happens to be highly valuable, possessing an unrivaled ability to solve problems relative to more generalist content. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that Google is pushing people to focus on creating this type of content. 

Given Google’s tendency to focus on and reward this type of content, it is within your best interest to align your content with Google’s ambitions to reap the rewards that come with their updates and changes. 

Take the opportunity to re-evaluate your content

If you’re finding that the amount of traffic that you’re getting has decreased with the introduction of Google BERT, then it’s indicative that the keywords you were ranking for are not optimal for the search queries you wanted to target. It’s more than likely that that traffic that you lost wouldn’t have resulted in conversions anyway. Why? That traffic would have typed in a search query and found that the results returned to them wasn’t quite what they wanted – Google had not fully understood their question. 

Having not found what they wanted, they would have hit the back button resulting in a higher bounce rate and more inferior user metrics for your site. Use this opportunity to re-evaluate your content and the keywords you’re ranking for. Make sure that any new content that you make, or improvements to old content results in super-specific content that provides a wealth of value and information to your users.  

Conclusion

To sum things up, Google BERT has shaken the world of online marketing, albeit in a very positive way. The update has boosted Google’s ability to understand natural language, including its nuances and subtleties, with a strong emphasis on using context to determine the correct meaning of ambiguous terms. Consequently, Google can now more accurately understand complex search queries, and the user motivations behind them, improving its ability to provide more useful and relevant search results to the user. The update has motivated people to rethink their online marketing strategies, re-evaluate their content, and create and tweak content to be more specific, informative, and solution-driven than before.