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Bert and Google

Bert and Google

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Ever since it introduced RankBrain in 2015, Google’s updates to its search algorithm have mostly been minor. It’s latest update, BERT, however, which began rolling out at the end of October 2019, will affect as many as 1 out of every 10 Google searches. The results for each of those affected searches will be impacted.

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What Is BERT?

BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. It’s Google’s pre-training for natural language processing (NLP). This allows Google’s AI to better understand human language like humans do.

What Will BERT Do?

BERT will help Google understand search results better. There are a lot of words in English that, before BERT, Google wouldn’t necessarily know what to do with, providing search results that weren’t quite what the query was asking for.

Google’s example was the search query “2019 brazil traveler to usa need a visa.” In this sentence, pre-BERT, Google would have returned results for American travelers to Brazil, not understanding the meaning of “to” within that search. BERT helps Google’s AI understand what the “to” means in the context of this search and produce results for Brazilian travelers wanting visas to visit the United States.

Improved Search Results

The idea behind adding BERT to Google’s AI is to improve search results for users. It will enable Google to better understand the meaning behind users’ search queries better. It will also affect the featured snippet that is provided for search results.

Optimizing for BERT

Even though it’s a major update that will affect 10% of Google searches, there are minimal changes that need to be made to optimization. The intent behind BERT isn’t to punish sites or change SEO in any significant way. The impact on search results is a result of Google better understanding the meaning behind users’ queries.

The best way to optimize for BERT is to determine which queries you want to rank for and make sure that you answer the question thoroughly. The best answer for a specific search is what will be displayed at the top of the SERP, so it’s essential to make sure that you’re providing the best answer possible.

What If Your Rankings Are Impacted?

BERT is meant to update Google’s SERPs so that they provide better results to searchers. If the rankings of any of your web pages have been impacted by the update, it’s because your page wasn’t the best result for that particular query. Chances are good that the conversion rate was actually low for that particular search. Users with that query would have been looking for something else than what was provided for them if the introduction of BERT affected the results for that query.

BERT’s Rollout

BERT was initially released on October 25, 2019, and has been gradually rolling out since then. Over the next few weeks, we’ll see continued rollout for all websites that are in English. Support for BERT will come in other languages later on.

BERT is only the latest in Google’s long quest to provide the best search results possible to its users. Google doesn’t consider the problem solved and will continually look for more opportunities to improve even further.

Need some help growing your web presence and strengthening your brand? You’ve come to the right place.

How to Future-Proof Your SEO Strategy

How to Future-Proof Your SEO Strategy

Reading Time: 2 minutes

In the SEO world, search rankings are the most important thing. Every time Google releases a new update, changing their algorithm yet again, website owners are left scrambling to update their SEO so they don’t lose their page ranks.

But what if you didn’t have to? What if every time a Google update came out, you could just sit back, confident that your SEO is already where it needs to be? What if you could anticipate the changes Google is going to make?

Google’s Goal

From its inception, Google’s focus has been the users, not the websites, and not SEO. Early in Google’s lifespan, the Internet was filled with websites that gamed the system, using black-hat SEO tactics that prioritized search rankings at the expense of user experience. Google’s first updates, including Panda and Hummingbird, were designed to rectify this.

Google wanted to put user experience first.

A Different SEO World

Early SEO techniques generally involved getting keywords onto pages as many times as possible, getting backlinks, no matter how spammy, and participating in link farms. The Internet has come a long way since then and is much better for it. Anyone who has experienced both early Google and Google now can attest to the fact that it’s a lot easier to find exactly what you’re looking for.

And Google just keeps getting smarter and smarter.

Outsmarting Google

It’s not so much a matter of outsmarting Google or seeing the future. It’s a matter of aligning your own goals with Google’s. If Google’s goal is to provide the best possible user experience, then their algorithm will continue to be updated to make that goal a reality. Any SEO technique that doesn’t put UX, or user experience, first is going to get punished in the rankings the next time there’s an update, even if the techniques being used are technically still okay.

Putting the Users First

Chances are good that if you create your SEO strategy with user experience in mind, that strategy can last through any updates Google might put out there. Obviously, it’s a good idea to review your strategy frequently to ensure that it is still current and working, but if your own goals align with Google’s, then you’ll be ahead of the game. When the next updates roll out, you won’t have to make as many changes to your site as those who are still trying to game the system at the users’ expense.

Need some help growing your web presence and strengthening your brand? You’ve come to the right place.

How to Lose Readers and Alienate People, Part 2

How to Lose Readers and Alienate People, Part 2

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Lack of Mobile Responsiveness and Loading Slowly

As we talked about in Part 1 of this article series on what not to do to keep users interested in your website, SEO is all about user experience. It doesn’t matter how good your keyword game is or how many backlinks you have if users are so annoyed by your website that they just click off.

And having a high bounce rate will kill your search rankings quicker than you can say SEO.

Mobile Unfriendly

Most Internet searches are done on mobile devices. Websites should either have a dedicated mobile version or be responsive so that they can automatically adjust to the screen of a mobile device. Users expect websites to be optimized for mobile. So does Google, which began rolling out mobile-first indexing in 2018.

But what exactly does it mean to be mobile friendly?

  • Don’t use Flash or other software that is on desktop computers but not mobile devices.
  • Websites auto-adjust so that users can read easily without having to rotate their screens or scroll sideways.
  • Text is large enough that it is readable without zooming in.
  • Links are far enough apart they’re clickable with fingers.

There are a surprising number of companies that don’t realize just how important mobile-friendliness is. Failing to be mobile-friendly can end up costing companies a lot of money. If a website isn’t mobile-friendly, then it isn’t providing a good user experience for any users searching on mobile devices.

With most searches now coming in on mobile devices, that’s very limiting. Only the much smaller number of users searching on computers instead of mobile devices will experience good UX. That’s still a lot of users experiencing poor UX.

Loading Slowly on Mobile Devices

Part of being mobile-friendly is loading quickly. If users have to spend too long waiting for a website to load, they just won’t bother. Instead, they’ll click off, increasing your bounce rate while never even getting to see your website’s content.

According to Google, the maximum amount of time a page should take to load on a mobile device is three seconds. Any longer than that and users will bounce. Actually, even within the three-second limit, you might lose some users. Optimally, your site should load enough that most of it is visible within a second.

There are a variety of reasons why a website might be slow on mobile devices. Remember that mobile devices aren’t as powerful as computers and so if your site has a lot of large files on it, those will load really slowly on a mobile device even if they load in seconds on a computer. 

Make sure your site is optimized for loading speed and that will improve both your users’ experience on your site and keep them from leaving before they’ve even had a chance to look at your content.

Need some help growing your web presence and strengthening your brand? You’ve come to the right place.

How to Create a Video People Will Want to Watch

How to Create a Video People Will Want to Watch

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Video is the most popular type of content online. More users watch videos than read blogs or look at images. Videos are informative, but also visually appealing, and with the ability of mobile devices to play videos at a higher quality than ever before, it’s no wonder that most people find videos to be more engaging than any other type of content.

Videos are optimized for SEO differently than written content, but they’re very much like other content in that it doesn’t matter how good your SEO is if the quality of your videos isn’t good. So how can you make sure your videos are something that your audience will actually want to watch?

Make It Informative

Just like with a web page, a blog, or other written content, a video needs to be informative and contain content that your audience will find entertaining and helpful. Think of the video script as the web content or blog. It should contain your keywords and ideally, the search engine optimization for your video will include a transcript of the video so that Google can crawl the text.

Check Your Lighting

Part of what makes videos so compelling is that there is so much more to them than just what they say. Videos don’t just tell, they show. It defeats the purpose of having a video if it’s too dark or if your viewers can’t otherwise tell what’s going on. Make sure that there’s sufficient lighting when you shoot the video. If necessary, shoot a quick test video and see what it looks like on a computer and a mobile device before taking the time to shoot the official video.

check audio

Check Your Audio

Before publishing your video, play the audio all the way through. Make sure that there aren’t random loud noises that interrupt the flow of the video. Check to make sure that everyone is audible throughout the entire length of the video.

Also, make sure that you listen to it with headphones on. Audio can sound normal coming from speakers but then play out of only one ear of headphones if the settings aren’t done correctly. Since a lot of users listen with headphones or earbuds, it’s essential to make sure that the video is playing correctly in stereo to avoid making these users click away from your video.

Avoid Vertical Video

Whether they’re on mobile devices or computers, screens are widescreen. Mobile devices can be turned vertical, but you don’t want to assume that your users are using one (even though more than half of users do browse the web on mobile devices more so than on a computer). You don’t want to alienate any users who aren’t on mobile devices. Besides, even on mobile devices, the preference is for horizontal video.

video editing

Use Good Editing Software

Good editing software doesn’t need to be expensive. If you don’t need fancy special effects, you can use free software like iMovie. Editing can take a mediocre video and make it great. Because of editing, you can shoot a video one line at a time to ensure good delivery and then edit all of the parts together to make a smoothly-flowing video. Mistakes can be removed and music and transitions added.

Even if you’ve never edited before, even the smallest amount of editing can help boost the quality of your video. However, the better your software and the more skilled your editor, the better quality you’re going to be able to get out of your videos.

Need some help growing your web presence and strengthening your brand? You’ve come to the right place.

Optimizing Video Content for SEO

Optimizing Video Content for SEO

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Video is now the most popular type of content on the Internet. Users spend more time watching videos than reading or viewing images. If you’re not already using video, it’s a good idea to start as soon as possible. Video content will bring more users to your website and social media pages and keep them there longer, which will have additional benefits to your page rankings.

Videos are good for your SEO. But optimizing your videos for SEO is different from optimizing a web page. So how do you optimize a video to maximize the SEO benefits?

Video Transcripts

A video transcript converts the video into text that bots can easily scrape. The transcript is how you can still rank for keywords that are included in the video. Google can’t read what’s in images or videos without text, so providing transcripts of your video is essential to maximizing the impact your videos can have on your SEO. This is especially true when you have a page or a post where the video is the primary focus.

Thumbnails

Thumbnails don’t actually do a lot for your SEO directly. They do, however, have an indirect effect in that they encourage users to click on your videos, which does have an impact on your SEO. The more clicks you get, the higher your page rank. The thumbnail image is the first impression users will have of your video, so make it engaging.

Captions

The more text you have with your videos, the better. Google uses text scraped by bots to index and rank pages and content. Captioning your video with a good description that includes your keywords provides even more text for Google to use.

Post on YouTube

Whether you host videos yourself or not, your videos should be uploaded to YouTube. It’s the second-largest search engine and uploading your videos to YouTube will make your video easier for users to find. YouTube is also a major social media platform and will reach your audience as soon as it’s posted. 

Plus, videos hosted on YouTube often appear directly in Google searches and rank on their own. While this may sound like it’s taking views away from your web page, a lot of users will seek out videos on YouTube itself without going through Google to reach them. You can still embed your videos on your website and share them on other social media platforms, but having them on YouTube will increase the audience that your content can reach.

Optimizing on YouTube

When you post a video on YouTube, take advantage of all of YouTube’s features to optimize your video for SEO. Make sure the keywords you want to use that are relevant for your video are in the title and in the description. The filename of the video is another opportunity to insert keywords. Don’t forget to use the tags, which will show up as hashtags, so that users can find your video more easily.

In addition, make sure to use the subtitles and closed captioning. This is YouTube’s version of providing a transcript for your video. Google will be able to use the text from the subtitles to rank your video.

Need some help growing your web presence and strengthening your brand? You’ve come to the right place.

How to Lose Readers and Alienate People Part 1

How to Lose Readers and Alienate People Part 1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Pop-Ups and Autoplaying

User experience is an essential component of SEO. Google has been updating its search algorithm for years, trying to tie search rankings to UX so that users online can have the best possible experience. Much of SEO now revolves around providing users with the best possible content and making it easy for them to find.

But what will provide a good user experience? It’s impossible to please everybody. Your target audience isn’t usually everyone on the entire Internet, so if there’s a smaller demographic that makes up your user base, there may be more specific guidelines for what they’re looking for. If you do have a very broad audience, you can still try to appeal to most of them.

And there are some things to avoid doing that will help improve the user experience on your website.

Bad Advertisements

If you’re trying to sell a product or a service, advertising is necessary. It may sometimes seem like users hate all ads, but that’s not necessarily the case. They hate bad ads, which will make up to 82% of Internet users click away from a website that hosts that ad.

Some behaviors to avoid:

  • Pop-up ads
  • Autoplaying videos
  • Autoplaying audio
  • Unpausable ads
  • Retargeting

As nice as it may seem to try to force users to look at your ads, that won’t actually convert them to customers. In fact, it may do the exact opposite. No one likes it when an ad begins to autoplay and won’t let them pause it. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself – would you do that behavior in person? If not, then don’t do it online.

Intrusive and annoying ads can actually harm your brand and your company’s reputation. Users form bad opinions of brands from just a single negative experience with an ad for a product or service. That’s not to say you should avoid advertising altogether – advertising itself is fine. Just make sure that you aren’t creating bad advertisements that will push customers away instead of interest them in what you have to offer.

Pop-Up CTAs

It’s nice that you want your users to sign up, subscribe, or visit another page on your site. But repeated pop-ups asking users to do these things can actually drive them away from your website instead. You don’t need to avoid pop-up CTAs altogether, but be careful in how you use them.

Remember the philosophy “all things in moderation.” That will serve you well with pop-up CTAs. Have them pop up only at certain places on your site or during certain stages of the user’s experience on your website. You can create smart CTAs that will only pop up at certain stages.

It’s also important to make sure the copy on your CTA is polite. If a user has to view a pop-up, they’ll be less annoyed if it’s at least polite. If your CTAs come across as too pushy, that may alienate your users instead.

Autoplaying Multimedia

It’s not just autoplaying ads that are annoying to users. Videos content is important to engaging with your users, but if it’s set to autoplay, that can turn off many potential viewers. Not everyone is always in a place where it’s okay to watch a video with audio. Some users may be at work or in public and they just want to view your site without having a loud video forced on them.

It’s easier to click the back button than it is to try to pause the video or to turn down or mute the volume and most people will do exactly that.

 

Need some help growing your web presence and strengthening your brand? You’ve come to the right place.