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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.

How to Create Backlink-Worthy Content

How to Create Backlink-Worthy Content

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Backlinks are vital to your SEO strategy. They tell Google that your content is of high quality and that others think it’s good enough to link to.But getting backlinks can be difficult. You could always offer a guest blog in exchange for a backlink, but not every site that you want to link back to you wants to take that offer.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t have a backlink strategy and employ other methods of gaining backlinks. But you can increase the number of organic backlinks to your site simply by offering high-quality content that people want to link to. So what kind of content generates organic backlinks?

Think

Think About Why People Link

The first step to creating backlink-worthy content is to know why people link in the first place. If you link to an external site either on a webpage or on a blog post, why do you choose that site? Usually, it’s because you get something out of it – it lends authority to your own content, there are images or video content that you want to reference, or even because you think it would be helpful for your own readers.

Take a close look at content that you choose to link to and think about what characteristics led you to link to that content over something else about the same topic. Then, try to create your own content to reflect those characteristics.

high-quality content

Be an Authority

A key characteristic of high-quality content is that it’s informative. It’s something users want to read. Sure, it’s important to include keywords and alt text for SEO, but your content should cater to readers, not to search engines. The search engines are taking user experience into account when ranking sites, so it’s important to make sure that you’re creating content with your users in mind.

Research what’s already out there and then put your own spin on it. Make sure to link back to credible sites. If your content is better than the other content that’s out there, then yours will be what people will naturally link to.

use videos or images

Use Video and Images

The Internet is steadily moving towards video. Users will spend more time watching videos than they will reading text. So not only will this help with your SEO, but it’ll also attract more users who will spend more time on your page. And it’s not just about videos, either – images and infographics are also essential to your content.

Visuals can help break up the text so it’s less intimidating to users, as well as helping users understand what your content is about. It makes your content much more engaging to your users, who will spend more time on your page, improving your bounce rate. Studies have shown that in addition to all of that, visual content also helps you obtain more organic backlinks.

The quality of your content and how it resonates with your users is the most important thing. Adding visuals improves your content, which has the knock-on effect of improving user experience, which increases your CTR and the number of backlinks you can get, which then improves your search rankings.

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

UX Signals and Why They’re Important

UX Signals and Why They’re Important

Reading Time: 3 minutes

UX signals are how your users tell you whether or not they’re finding the content on your website valuable. UX stands for user experience, which has been Google’s primary focus since its inception back in 1998. Google’s early updates, including Panda and Penguin, were designed to improve user experience and discourage the black hat SEO tactics that were making the Internet a great place for shady marketers but a discouraging place for users.

Google Is for Users

Google didn’t stop updating its algorithms with Panda and Penguin. Every update since has been intended to improve the online experience for users. SEO has thus had to change its focus over the years.

In the early days of Google, SEO was, for many, a way to manipulate the search engines and game the system to be the top results. Users and websites who were focused on providing high-quality content for their users were left behind. Google has since made a lot of updates to change this and to punish such black hat SEO techniques while rewarding sites that provided a good user experience.

User experience is the most important factor in SEO. The better your UX, the more users will visit it, the more Google will reward your site by moving it up in the search rankings, and the longer users will stay on your site. But how do you know that your website is really providing a good user experience?

What Are UX Signals?

This is where UX signals come in. They’re the Internet’s way of letting you know whether your users are happy with your content or not. UX signals are behavioral patterns, which are used by Google to affect your page rankings. The most important two are click through rate (CTR) and bounce rate, which Google takes the most seriously. These two UX signals definitely affect your page rankings.

Click Through Rate

Click through rate, or CTR, is the number of users who click on your snippet on the SERP, or search result page. If your CTR is high, that’s a good sign and Google will bump your page higher in the search results. If your CTR is low, it will rank lower. Google wants to display at the top to pages that users click on the most, trusting users to click on the best pages.

It’s important for your SEO that you monitor each page to see what its CTR is. Those with a high click through rate are definitely doing something right. For pages with a low CTR, check out the meta-description of the page and model it after the pages that have a higher CTR. Having a more engaging and appealing snippet will help draw more users to that page.

Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is the rate at which users click on the SERP link to your page and then bounce, or click back to the search results page again. A high bounce rate indicates to Google that while your page’s snippet may be enticing, the site itself isn’t engaging or valuable enough to users to keep them on your site.

It can be tricky to determine whether or not your bounce rate is high because there are different measurements of it. Whether or not users visit other pages on your site counts, as does how long users spend reading your page. Your bounce rate can also vary depending on the type of website. An online store may have a lower natural bounce rate than a blog, where many users read just one article.

Pay Attention to Analytics

Google Analytics will be your best friend when it comes to measuring your UX signals. Not only can you monitor your CTR and bounce rate, but you can also see how long users stay on each page. Look at how many return visitors you have. If it looks like users aren’t visiting very much, don’t stay for long, and don’t look at anything else you have to offer, pay attention to that. Your content may need an update to be more appealing to your target audience.