Following the BERT algorithm update by Google towards the end of October 2019, which they labelled as their biggest algorithm update in almost 5 years, the biggest question that popped up by SEO experts was, can we optimize our content to suit BERT?
Voiced by Danny Sullivan, adviser at Google’s search division, the company was quick to confirm that there isn’t anything that you can do to your website to make it suit BERT, as was with the case with RankBrain. He believes that if the content on your website is relevant, conversational, informational and does not lack context, it will be picked up. In short, website content should be user-centric rather than be structured to suit search engines.
Has BERT caused a significant impact with regard to search rankings?
In the days that followed the BERT update announcement, SEO experts did not see a significant impact on search engine rankings, primarily because SEO tools prioritize tracking of short-tail keywords (which bring in high volumes of traffic), but BERT is all about long-tail keywords and conversational content.
However, New York Times and Expedia’s websites suffered a drop in rankings following BERT, possibly because their content wasn’t conversational, or in the case of New York Times, their focus was on the Mobile-First Indexing, which led to the content of their desktop website taking a backseat.
That said, take a look at the performance of one of our client’s before and after BERT….
The sole reason of the BERT algorithm update is to improve relevancy and ensure that customers get their search queries answered immediately, either as a featured snippet, or in the knowledge panel, people also ask section, etc. This means that impressions of a website are going to go up, while clicks and website sessions might see a drop.
Post BERT, our client experienced a massive 173.93% increase in impressions.
Going with Milestone’s customer-first approach, we made sure that our content is geared to be conversational, rich and relevant to answer the queries of our customers. By creating content that search engines can serve as a direct answer to the user queries online in the form of featured snippets, in the Knowledge Panel or People Also Ask section, etc., the chances of the content being the pick of voice search queries increased dramatically as well.
Coincidently, Google launched the BERT algorithm, and it worked like a charm for our client’s website.
How to leverage schema markup to improve online visibility of relevant and conversational website content
While there are hundreds of schemas that you can add to your website code to help search engines understand the context of your content, keeping BERT in mind (long-tail keywords, conversational and relevant content), we’ll focus on just 3 schemas to improve SERP saturation:
The FAQPage schema markup ensures that questions and answers that are authored by the business are picked up by search engines when a query is made online. The FAQ schema should be used to answer a single question, or questions related to a single topic. You can use this structured data markup when it is not a Q&A forum setting, where there can be alternate answers to a single question.
‘How to’ schema
We implement the ‘How to’ schema markup in order to describe a step-by-step procedure. This schema markup should be used when ‘how to’ or a step-by-step procedure is the central focus.
The Q&A schema markup is implemented in our content when a single question is posted but alternated answers are applicable, in order to basically create a Q&A forum setting.
By understanding search intent and implementing relevant schemas, as you can see, our content was picked up by search engines when a query related to the particular topic was made online.
We’ll reiterate, as Google clearly stated, you can’t optimize your website to suit the BERT algorithm, however, you can optimize your website to suit user experience and topical relevance. That’s not all, you’d need to ensure your website follows the best practices such as having strong page authority (with quality links), ensure that the content is relevant, conversation and is indexable and crawlable. In addition, to ensure SERP saturation, ensure your content has relevant schema markup and has an interactive user interface that will prompt clickability. To know more, check out our recent webinar on “How Google’s BERT update impacts your digital strategy”.
Lastly, to stay ahead of the game, use tools such as Google Search Console, Google Analytics and Milestone Insights to analyze your content against your competition’s. Milestone ensures that the best practices are followed and that your brand is visible online and ahead of your competition. Contact us at +1 408-200-2211 or mail us at [email protected].