Welcome to our SEO News Roundup. It’s been another busy few weeks in Organic Search, with Google being typically proactive across the board. We’re here to help you make sense of it all.
Once again, Google’s changing up the SEO game. It’s become even smarter with a truly futuristic update called BERT. We’ll cover this below.
We’ve also seen some interesting new features in Google Search Console and some big changes in click-through. We’re going to try and demystify all this for you in a quick 6 minute read.
Google Introduces us to BERT
At the tail-end of September Google announced an algorithmic update which they have aptly or oddly named BERT.
This is one of their biggest updates in recent history and will affect at least 10% of all queries; a huge number of searches.
Unlike previous updates, this one isn’t designed to weed out bad content or dodgy backlink building practices. BERT is a fundamental change to the very nature of how Google understands online content.
At heart BERT is a deep-learning language analysis framework that will probably pave the way to robots you can have a genuine chat with.
Google has tried to address a big problem with BERT.
In the past its algorithms understood the meaning of individual words (thus our historic obsession with keywords). It could even understand the meaning behind most sentences. Yet it has struggled to draw grander meaning from context.
The result of this is that it couldn’t necessarily get to the correct understanding when language with duplicitous meaning was used.
For example, you might use the idiom, “I wouldn’t bank on it”. To Google, this would be a completely meaningless sentence. But as a human, you can easily understand the meaning behind the expression, and you’d probably come to the conclusion that the bank being referred to is the kind you store money in, rather than a riverbank.
BERT provides the basis for machine learning practitioners to build their own fine-tuned language analysis programs which makes it immensely adaptable with many potential applications.
In short, BERT is all about better understanding the intent behind queries and online content by drawing from greater context.
It means it is much more likely to come to the correct meaning and intent behind what is written, or spoken, even when it was technically ambiguous.
New Google feature shows speed really, really matters
Google have rolled out a new feature within Google Search Console. We’re including it here because it rams home the point of just how important speed really is.
This new feature is under the enhancements tab of Search Console. It aims to help users identify which URLs of their website are slow.
Once identified, you can do a deeper analysis of what is causing issues and instigate fixes to improve performance.
This feature is more of a quick glance – as much of Search Console is – which gives users a high-level overview and understanding of one’s website performance. It brackets pages into one of three speed categories “Slow”, “Moderate” or “Fast”.
Speed is important to Google because it is important to your website visitors. Slow websites kill user experience and subsequently your conversion metrics.
One of the first things any good SEO will do is run a technical analysis of your website to make sure your content isn’t being penalised for shoddy web building practices.
Making your website faster is one of the main aims of this process.
Angry users & angry Google is not a winning combination, so make a commitment to improving the speed of your website in 2020. You’ll be glad you did!
Are ‘Zero Clicks’ becoming the new norm?
More than 50% of all searches don’t end in a click. Google has gotten so good at teasing the important part of an article out and displaying that snippet that many people don’t need to click on links anymore.
On the surface this sounds worrying. If people aren’t clicking on your links, you have no chance to convert them.
One thing to remember though is that the kinds of searches that can be solved within a sentence of snippet probably aren’t going to convert anyway. These are people looking for surface-level information fast.
Another point is that, if Google is highlighting your answers in ‘Position Zero’ it shows a true appreciation for your content, so you are in a strong position to bring relevant traffic to your other pages, with the right content and keyword focus.
What does ‘In-SERPS SEO’ mean?
This horrible acronym (SERPS = Search Engine Results Pages, SEO = Search Engine Optimisation) is going to matter more in light of the rise of ‘zero click’ searches.
In the past we’ve always been focussed on our result appearing at the top of the page, so we have the best chance of getting that click.
With fewer searches resulting in a click, it’s vitally important to use of all the different features displayed on a Google SERP.
From featured snippets, videos, reviews and podcasts to the all-important Knowledge Graph, you need to optimise your content to ensure it appears in as much Google real-estate as possible. You want to try and own as much space on the page as you can.
SEO is constantly changing; search engines are getting smarter and user expectations are going up all the time. At its heart, SEO remains a process of creating incredible content that wows your audience, but the ever-shifting landscape demands constant vigilance. Whether it’s changes to algorithms, new tools or shifting user behaviour, its vital to keep up to speed.
We hope you found some insight in this month’s SEO News Roundup. If you did, feel free to give us a share below. Otherwise, see you back here in the New Year for some more SEO storytelling.