We hope you haven’t got Google update fatigue because this is important.
Google has made a giant leap in the way it understands the nuance and context of longer search queries with the release of its BERT update in its ranking system.
The update means that Google will better understand one in 10 search queries. This opens out new opportunities for copywriters to get more granular with great content that answers specific search intent. You don’t need to be an SEO ninja to understand the changes and we’ll talk you through how this impacts the way you use content to target long tail keywords. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s first take a look at what BERT is. It’s pretty straightforward.
So, what is BERT?
As humans we obviously understand the nuance of language. Google, with the appliance of science made possible by machine learning, has got better at understanding this nuance in a search query – no matter how we spell a word or combine them.
As we all know, the types of questions that we would naturally ask in conversations are difficult to type into Google without sounding like Yoda. So as Google reports, searchers fall back on ‘keyword ease’ to type words that we hope Google will understand.
BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. It’s a neural network-based technology for natural language processing (NLP), which means words are processed in relation to all the other words in the search – not one-by-one in order. Google can now better understand the context and nuance of a query. Machine learning means it will only get better at this and extend to languages beyond English.
But what does this mean for content?
With BERT, Google has not only got better at understanding longer conversational queries – it has also improved how it understands searches that include a preposition like ‘to’ or ‘from’ which matter a lot to the meaning.
As you can see in the example above, before BERT, Google would have returned results on how a US citizen can travel visa-free to Brazil. Post-BERT, Google now better understands the nuance of the question and how the word ‘to’, and its relationship to all the other words, are important to the meaning.
Copywriters that focus on writing quality content that answers specific search intent will increase the visibility of their articles. And the way to do this is by focusing on long tail keywords. As BERT evolves and users can search in a way that feels natural then long tail keywords will help you rank higher – especially when it comes to informational queries.
Let’s take a quick look at this through the prism of travel copywriting. Say you want to write about eco travel. You could stick with “eco travel” as your short tail keyword but you will probably be joining the back of a very long ranking queue. If somebody searches for ‘eco travel’ then the search intent is anyone’s guess. If you use long tail keywords and include a preposition then you will be answering specific search intent like ‘How to travel eco-friendly’.
Try it out. There are tools out there like UberSuggest to help you experiment with keyword ideas using prepositions. Don’t forget though, your SEO mantra should always be write quality content for people first then Google.