Content Strategy in 2020:

Chances are if you have a job in 2020 your company has had a budget and forecast strategy to project growth in the coming months, quarter or years. Every company I have ever worked for implemented growth plans. I have never had a job where maintaining sales, revenue or market share remained flat year over year while developing budgets. Google is no different. They recognize that the way they grow their market share is by continuing to obsess over the user experience. When users have a good experience on their platform they are more likely to use Google over the competition. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? In case you are new to the search engine optimization (SEO) scene, Google makes frequent updates to their ever-growing sophisticated algorithm. Each update has a goal to push the user experience.

Not all Google updates are created equal. In October 2019, Google launched what they called the most important update in five years – BERT. That kind of bold statement requires every SEO analyst and marketing manager to pause and take notice. What exactly is this update and how does it impact SEO? This article is designed to give you a high-level overview of BERT so that you can make informed decisions for the businesses you represent.

What is the BERT Algorithm?
BERT stands for bidirectional encoder representations from transformers. Simply put, BERT is an algorithm uniquely designed to better understand natural language. When you speak commands into your smart device, BERT is designed to help your smart device understand what the words in a sentence mean, but with all the nuances of context. “BERT is able to help search better understand the nuance and context of words in searches and better match those queries with helpful results,” says Google. At the root of the update, BERT improves how Google understands search queries, not web pages. Google wants their platform to better understand the user intent so they can drive better results to the user.

What does this mean in practice? After all, the update was launched three months ago as of this writing. Below is a screenshot provided directly from Google to help explain the update in a visual format.

Even though I had previously used the phrase “for adults” to provide context, Google before BERT ignored that context and provided a top search result for grades 6-8. With BERT incorporated, a specific result “for adults” popped up first.

The good news is that BERT will not have a monumental impact on your SEO strategy or content marketing metrics. The BERT update is another advancement on a never-ending quest to better understand what exactly searches are looking for. The better Google understands the individual user the better service Google can provide the user. Below are some key takeaways from the BERT update that you should take into consideration.

Informational queries have greater importance:
In the three months since BERT was launched we have seen that BERT is impacting search queries near the top of the sales funnel or informational queries. The reason is that informational queries tend to have uncertainty attached to them – in comparison to navigational or transactional queries. My take on this is that BERT is trying to decipher this ambiguity to provide more direct answers. I can’t help but say it again – the better Google understands the individual user, the better service Google can provide the user. The better the search queries are ensures users continue to use Google over alternative search platforms.

Let’s take a look at this on Google:

 

In my search query I did not specify that I was searching for music in podcast episodes. I was vague in my query and Google interpreted this informational query as such. Google uses a tactic called masking to interpret this query.

BERT is a bidirectional model which examines the words before and after the missing word to decipher the context of the query. More than likely BERT examined the words “music” and “episodes” to make an educated guess that I was referencing podcasts. The other item you will notice about the results is that the top results focus on why it’s so important.

So, what does this mean for you and your business?

Content that answers questions wins:
For years SEO marketers have been taught to focus on long-tail keywords. As I mentioned previously in my article Year in Review: The Top 3 Digital Marketing Trends of 2019, long-tail keywords would be especially important as smart devices start to take up more and more of the overall search volume.

The BERT update doesn’t change the way you optimize for long-tail keywords. Instead it is taking another step in this direction by attempting to provide direct answers to questions and informational queries.

In 2020 you should have two goals for content creation:

  1. Build content around specific questions or queries.
  2. Provide laser-focused answers for your ideal buyer persona.

When you consider your own search history this makes sense. When you want a specific answer, you don’t want to sort through pages of content to find what you’re looking for. Ideally you want a focused piece of content that delivers a direct answer. While this is nothing drastically new to SEO, BERT is rewarding pages that answer questions and provide the best user experience.

As you develop and execute a digital strategy for 2020, be sure you are creating high-quality content with the user in mind. If you are searching for ways to fine-tune your marketing strategy around BERT or just looking to drive more leads to your business, the team at Marcum Strategic Marketing can help. Fill out the form at the bottom of this page or reach out to Nate Vigil directly at nate.vigil@marcumllp.com or by phone at 813-397-4883.

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