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Google BERT Update: Relevance, Impact and SEO Best Practices

Google is constantly updating its algorithm to provide better search results for its users. One of the most significant updates in recent years was the BERT update, which was launched in October 2019 and affected 10% of all search queries. BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, and it is a deep learning technique that helps Google understand the natural language and context of search queries.

What is Google BERT Update and When Did It Take Off?

The BERT update is a way for Google to better understand the meaning and intent behind search queries, especially those that are long, conversational, or use prepositions. For example, before the BERT update, if you searched for "parking on a hill with no curb", Google might have focused on the word "curb" and shown you results about parking on a hill with a curb. But after the BERT update, Google can understand that the word "no" is important and show you results about parking on a hill without a curb.

The BERT update was first announced by Google on October 25, 2019, and it was rolled out for English language queries in the US. Later, it was expanded to more languages and regions, and it also applied to featured snippets. According to Google, the BERT update affects 10% of all search queries, which makes it one of the biggest updates in Google's history.

What Inspired Google to Launch BERT Update and What Does It Mean for SEOs?

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. To do that, Google needs to understand what users are looking for and provide them with relevant and high-quality results. However, natural language is complex and nuanced, and sometimes users don't use the exact keywords or phrases that match the content on the web. That's why Google developed the BERT update, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze the context and relationships between words in a query.

For SEOs, this means that keyword optimization is not enough to rank well on Google. SEOs need to focus more on creating content that matches the user intent and provides value to the readers. SEOs also need to use natural language and avoid keyword stuffing or unnatural phrasing. The BERT update rewards content that is well-written, informative, and relevant to the query.

How BERT Update Lifted or Dropped Websites and SEOs in the Past?

The BERT update had a significant impact on many websites and SEOs, especially those that relied on long-tail keywords or featured snippets. Some websites saw an increase in traffic and rankings, while others saw a decrease or no change at all. The impact of the BERT update depended on how well the content matched the user intent and answered the query.

For example, one of the winners of the BERT update was Healthline.com, a health information website that provides clear and accurate answers to common health questions. Healthline.com saw an increase in organic traffic and featured snippets after the BERT update, because its content was relevant and helpful to the users.

On the other hand, one of the losers of the BERT update was Dictionary.com, an online dictionary that provides definitions and synonyms of words. Dictionary.com saw a decrease in organic traffic and featured snippets after the BERT update, because its content was not as relevant or useful to the users as other sources.

How SEOs Adapted to BERT Update: Best Practices and Pitfalls

The BERT update changed the way SEOs approach content creation and optimization. SEOs had to adapt to the new algorithm and follow some best practices to rank well on Google. Some of these best practices are:

  • Write For Humans, Not for Machines: Use natural language and avoid keyword stuffing or unnatural phrasing.
  • Focus On User Intent, Not on Keywords: Understand what users are looking for and provide them with valuable content that answers their questions.
  • Optimize For Featured Snippets: Use clear headings, bullet points, lists, tables, images, etc. to structure your content and make it easy for Google to extract relevant information.
  • Use Long-Tail Keywords Wisely: Don't rely on them as your main strategy, but use them as modifiers or variations of your main keywords.
  • Monitor your performance regularly: Use tools like Google Search Console or Google Analytics to track your traffic, rankings, impressions, clicks, etc. and identify any changes or opportunities.

Some of the pitfalls that SEOs should avoid are:

  • Ignoring the BERT Update: Don't assume that your content is immune to the algorithm changes or that you don't need to improve your content quality or relevance.
  • Over-Optimizing for the BERT Update: Don't try to manipulate or trick the algorithm by using unnatural language or irrelevant content.
  • Neglecting Other Ranking Factors: Don't forget that the BERT update is not the only factor that affects your rankings. You still need to consider other factors like site speed, mobile-friendliness, backlinks, user experience, etc.

How to Manage BERT Update and Rise in Local Search and SEO in 2023?

The BERT update is not a one-time event, but an ongoing process that Google will continue to improve and refine. SEOs need to keep up with the latest developments and trends in search and SEO, and prepare for the future challenges and opportunities. One of the most important trends that SEOs need to pay attention to is the rise of local search and SEO in 2023.

Local search is the process of finding and displaying relevant results based on the user's location or geographic intent. Local SEO is the practice of optimizing your website and online presence for local search. According to Google, 46% of all searches have a local intent, and 88% of users who do a local search on their smartphone visit or call a store within a day. Local search and SEO are crucial for businesses that want to attract and retain local customers, especially in the post-pandemic era.

To manage the BERT update and rise in local search and SEO in 2023, SEOs need to follow some strategies, such as:

  • Claim And Optimize Your Google My Business Profile: This is a free tool that allows you to manage your business information, reviews, photos, posts, etc. on Google Search and Maps. It also helps you rank higher on local search results and featured snippets.
  • Optimize Your Website for Local Keywords: Use keywords that include your location, service area, or landmarks. For example, instead of using "dentist", use "dentist in New Delhi" or "dentist near India Gate".
  • Create Local Content: Write blog posts, articles, videos, etc. that are relevant and useful to your local audience. For example, you can write about local events, news, tips, reviews, etc.
  • Build Local Citations and Links: Citations are online mentions of your business name, address, phone number, etc. on other websites or directories. Links are hyperlinks from other websites to your website. Both citations and links help you increase your online visibility and authority on local search results.
  • Encourage And Respond to Customer Reviews: Reviews are one of the most important factors that influence your local rankings and reputation. Ask your customers to leave reviews on Google, Yelp, Facebook, etc. and respond to them politely and professionally.

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