The Importance of Context and Intent with the New BERT Update

Posted by Sarah Mason

If we were always chasing the latest SEO trends, we’d never get anything done! Instead, it is much more important to focus on the quality of your content: make sure your website has a fast loading speed, useful links and well-written content that considers the user’s needs and intent, with keywords in context.

By ensuring that your site has good quality and relevant content that speaks to your users, no matter what new algorithm changes come in, you can be certain that your website will be in a good position. Algorithms are always going to be focused on improving user experience and providing them with the most relevant content, which is what your content strategy should focus on too!

There is a clear evolution with the new algorithm updates, going back to Google’s 2013 Hummingbird update, Google is moving towards a more genuine human form of communication and utilising conversational language. By getting smarter and learning to recognise human’s intentions when searching and natural language processing, Google is offering a more tailored experience when offering search results. Which means your content needs to match that, we’ve already seen a rise in voice search and the use of conversational language.

What is the BERT Algorithm?

The Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) is a deep learning algorithm which is related to natural language processing. It helps a machine to understand what the words in a sentence mean, with all of the nuances of context.

By applying the BERT model to ranking and featured snippets in Search, Google is able to create a more personalised user experience with providing useful information. In fact, when it comes to ranking results, BERT will help Search better understand one in 10 searches in English in the US. Google are already working to develop this across more languages and regions. By Search being able to better understand the context and the intention of a user’s query, the search experience will be a more natural and personalised experience.

What does it mean for Content Marketing?

Google is getting more and more intelligent all the time. Recently, it went even further than ever before and upgrade its search algorithm to understand the semantics of searches, returning relevant results that didn’t only match the content of the search query but also matched the context and intent of the query. By providing search results that go beyond just what keywords are typed into the query field, Google is providing a more and more tailored user experience for Search.

As Google’s algorithms get smarter and increasingly human, it’s important to appeal to the real humans that you’re communicating with through your content. With the new BERT update, if your content includes a lot of non-relevant information or fluff, your page won’t be rewarded with higher ranking. This new update holds us content marketers to a higher
content standard than ever before.

How to Write Content for Search Engines

Copywriting is all about creating useful and valuable content that connects with your audience and targets specific keywords. By creating compelling content, you’re creating content that other people will happily share and recommend to their readers. Thereby increasing the authority and relevance of your content and improving its ranking on Google for those keywords.

Step 1: Conduct Audience Research

One of the best ways to understand search intent and what your audience is looking for when they search online, is simply: ask them.

Audience research is essential, helping you to determine which keywords your audience is using, and it will also help you to determine how to write content that naturally includes these keywords.

This research will give you a better idea of what your audience is trying to accomplish when searching for the kind of content that could be part of your strategy and roadmap. By really understanding the pain points and challenges that your audience faces, you’ll understand how to address those pain points and the vocabulary that would appeal to them.

Step 2: Consider Search Intent and the Users’ Goals

Search intent is the reason behind a user’s search, it’s their ‘why’ to what they type into the search engine. There are four types of search intent: Navigational, Informational, Transactional and Commercial.

If you know that your audience is trying to accomplish a specific goal or their intention when searching for keywords and phrases, then you can create and organise your content appropriately to suit their search queries.

You need to do more than simply optimise your website with keywords, you need to provide context to the keywords, you need to show Google that your content is relevant to the query. If you know why a user is searching for a particular query, you can then offer them the most relevant page, blog or how-to guide, offering them relevant and useful content, rather than just spamming them with irrelevant content.

By understanding the intention of the user and their search goals, you will naturally use relevant key terms and phrases that are related to the keyword or phrase, which Google will pick up and will help the algorithm develop a better understanding of the context of your content. The more you do this, the better your chances of performing well in the SERPs.

Step 3: Analyse Your Top-Ranking Competitors

If you’re struggling to determine search intent, take a look at Google and conduct some actual searches. Google will show you what it deems to be most relevant to the user by ranking certain pages.

If most of the pages that Google is offering you are how-to guides or explanations, you can safely assume that your user’s intent will generally be informational for this search query and they’re looking for guidance.

Read through some of the top-ranking pages to understand the angle of each piece of content and ask yourself:

  • What is the content trying to help readers accomplish?
  • What value does the content have?
  • Can you provide more value than your competitors?

When reading through the top-ranking pages, you will usually find that they target the searcher’s keyword naturally throughout the content, as well as in alt tags and anchor links. They also use related terms in a natural way, such as in subheadings. This use of keywords with related keywords helps Google to understand how relevant the content is to the users’ needs.

Step 4: Review, Edit and Optimise

A combination of audience research and data-led content optimisation tools will help you create a solid structure for expert content that provides excellent value to your readers.

By regularly reviewing your content and conducting annual content audits, you will be able to stay on top of your content as well as spot any opportunities for additional optimisation or review any content that has become outdated or isn’t working for your customers.

Optimising for Search seems complicated, but as we said at the start of this guide, it’s not about chasing the latest SEO trend or update. As long as you are writing with your customers’ intent and search behaviour in mind and creating engaging, relevant content, you will naturally create content that includes contextual and related terms that are rewarded by search engines.

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