Google's recent announcement that it will update how it handles general search queries caused a stir with local businesses and those who utilize local search optimization. Google's new system to handle such queries is called BERT. Our goal is to take a look at just how this is going to affect the way local businesses need to optimize for this search engine.
BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. That's a long term that's much more pleasing to reduce to simply BERT. Let's just say that BERT is a type of AI that will help the search engine better understand search terms and their language.
BERT"s usefulness will extend to those sometimes perplexing "long-tail" search terms such as "can I find a good automotive SEO firm on this search engine?" Long-tail search terms often cause search engines to go into a tailspin, not quite understanding them. Thanks to BERT, now the site will be able to decipher these long searches and still bring up more accurate, quality results. Even when the search string is complex, BERT aims to understand and deliver.
The world's biggest online search company reports that Google BERT is “the biggest leap forward in the past five years, and one of the biggest leaps forward in the history of Search.” At least in terms of English-language searches of this nature, they estimate that 1 in 10 of those searches are going to better and more accurate. Featured snippets will be a part of the deal, too, increasing the helpfulness to the searcher.
Search queries have become more conversational in recent years, as many people are using voice queries to find their information. That means instead of typing in a single term or two, they're actually asking the engine a bigger question, and it's important for the search engine to be able to understand that conversational phrase. BERT's mission is partly to become more understanding of those conversational terms.
BERT wants to understand the context of the search terms and deliver more accurate results. For example, if someone is typing in something as seemingly confusing as "student taking ACT needs info about math," then they want BERT to decipher that and understand it completely.
It's all about context. People who have been searching online for years are more likely to use terms that the search engines already understand or that don't need to be understood so much in context. Brand new searchers, or people who are less experienced in search, need an engine that truly gets at the context of their search. It's a sure sign that the search engine's AI is becoming complex enough to tackle those niche search terms with confidence.
While there's going to be no huge impact to local business just yet, the implications of the new BERT phenomenon is still something that local businesses should take note of. So far no local businesses are speaking out against the development or expressing any concern that it's going to negatively or positively impact local business either way, but don't take the lack of response as a sign that all is well. It's a development every local business and their SEO expert need to be aware of.
For example, Google is already saying that BERT will affect "1 in 10 searches," and that's by no means a number to be taken lightly. Will it affect local searches? We don't know just yet, but when something this big is announced, it's wise to be cautious and alert so that SEO can be adjusted accordingly.
If you use a rank tracking tool, it might begin to pick up the changes coming from BERT. You're not going to see the results, though, until BERT is officially at work, and for now the change hasn't taken hold yet. When BERT finally arrives and is in action, you may see local search rankings affected, and it's at this time that your local SEO expert is going to kick into action and make sure that BERT works to your advantage.
Trackers have traditionally tracked short-tail terms, and BERT is going to be after those long, complex niche terms that these trackers often overlook. Once people see the good that BERT can do for them, you can expect trackers to adjust and make sure that the long-tail terms are tracked as well so that SEO can be geared to talk to BERT, too.
BERT may immediately begin working for you, depending on how your SEO is geared. If BERT's working, expect more click throughs, impressions, and even backlinks to content. BERT's impact will be felt most keenly by those local businesses that talk more toward long-tail terms. Alternately, it's possible that BERT could initially have a negative impact on your traffic and that adjustments will have to be made by your local SEO expert.
Customer Scout is an award winning automotive online search engine optimization company that is fully prepared to create and manage the benefits of BERT. Contact Customer Scout to continue tailoring your SEO efforts to big time local SEO success.