Webmasters and business owners, especially in the United States, are now feeling the effects of a new change in the Google algorithm. According to Inc., some websites dropped 30 to 40% in organic traffic after the rollout of the update. The codename is BERT, and it represents another effort by Google to fight the ever-lasting optimisation moves of webmasters.
If the "semantic web" mantra is not a novelty anymore, it's not only because a decade has passed since it became a trendy concept. It is also because we are increasingly living with it.
What is BERT?
BERT stands for "Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers". The goal is to provide machines with the ability to understand the context of words. In a search query, the context is vital to distinguish, for instance, an intellectual tool from a machine tool.
The new technique promises to "understand" context in a much deeper way. According to Search Engine Land, until now, a search result for "math practice books for adults" could deliver math book suggestions for teens. With BERT, those results disappear, and the top suggestion is "Math for Grownups".
How does it work?
BERT gives Google's algorithm a pre-training for natural language processing (NLP). The technology is not new; the concept of NLP refers to artificial intelligence applied to linguistics. Chatbots "speaking" and interacting with website users are now a common feature that uses NLP.
And while context detection was already being made, the new update makes it deep. Rather than analyse the words right next to each other, the new technique could extend the analysis to an entire sentence or text. Google stresses out that the tool is "bidirectional", which means that it can read in both ways (left to right and vice-versa) and even associate words before and after the main search word.
The technique uses neural networks of algorithms which allow for pattern recognition. The algorithm of the search engine is empowered to analyse and understand patterns of conversation and language, just like the human brain naturally does.
How can we optimize our webpages to BERT
Essentially, you don't. BERT is another step in Google's "long way run" to the "humanisation" of its search engine. The goal, as ever, is to show its users the most relevant content. Due to the natural imperfections of the "machine", it was always possible to "trick", in some way, the Google algorithm. Each new update tries to reduce this possibility.
The best way to optimise is to write original, organic and relevant content. Webmasters and writing geeks are less and less required to write for machines, carefully tailoring keywords. Write down great and relevant content for human end-users is the goal.
If there is any way to optimise, maybe it is to use keyword density tools to avoid over-stuffing of main keywords. According to Inc., some sites appear to have been penalised for excessive use of keywords. Even when these are central or essential concepts to understand the text or article. This is why we will not use that word again in this paragraph. We already used it thrice: once in the singular form and twice in the plural.
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