How the Google BERT Update Will Affect Your E-Commerce Store

Written by
Isabel Edwards

Meet BERT, also known as Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers.

‘What the fudge is that?’

Yes, I can read minds.

It’s Google’s most recent algorithm update, which went live on 24th October 2019.

All you need to know is how it changes the way Google ranks websites and the strategies you can adapt to continue to gain traffic to your e-commerce store.

And that’s exactly what you’ll get from this article.

A Simple Explanation of the Google BERT Update

First of all, here’s how Google describes BERT:

Although it is Google’s biggest update since RankBrain (2015), you most likely won’t notice a big change in your traffic or search engine ranking.

Essentially, it allows Google to better understand more natural, conversational language.

Have you ever dumbed down a Google search, assuming it wouldn’t understand a long, detailed question?

If you were looking for some new fruity fresh coffee, you wouldn’t search:

“What are the best fruity fresh coffee beans that I should try next?”

You might ask that question to a barista in a coffee shop, but not to Google.

But, you would probably search:

“Fruity fresh coffee beans”.

BERT is Google’s mission to work towards handling more complex searches with natural language that we use in everyday conversation.

In fact, Google has even coined their own term for dumbed-down searches, and asks users to move away from this habit:

“‘Keyword-ese,’ - typing strings of words that they think we’ll understand, but aren’t actually how they’d naturally ask a question… we hope you’re able to let go of some of your keyword-ese and search in a way that feels natural for you.”

An Example of the Google BERT Update in Action

If you were to search the question ‘Can you get medicine for someone pharmacy’ pre-BERT, you would have been faced with the results on the left.

Google’s algorithm has picked out the keywords ‘get medicine’ and ‘pharmacy’ and served the user an article that’s vaguely related, but doesn’t answer the specific question.

Post-BERT are the results on the right. It has considered the ‘you’ and ‘for’, which provides much more relevant results.

How Will The Update Affect My Website’s Ranking?

Your ranking will be affected the same way it would with any Google algorithm update; if you’re not providing value to the user, your content won’t rank high in the organic results.

As Google has said time and time again, any changes they make is only to provide the most relevant and valuable content to the user.

So, the question isn’t ‘how do I optimise my website for the BERT update?’

It should be ‘how do I produce the most valuable content possible for my users?’

Here’s a few ways…

Optimising Your E-Commerce Store Post-BERT

Here are 5 actionable tips that you can apply to your e-commerce store today (and they don’t cost a penny!)...

1. Create an FAQ page

Google receives over 63,000 queries per day, and it’s top priority is giving users answers to these questions. So it’s no surprise that the content it cares most about is anything that answers these questions.

Creating an FAQ page of commonly asked questions in your industry is a super easy way to provide high value to the user.

2. Use Answer The Public

Answer The Public is going to be your new best friend. (If you already use it, woohoo go you!)

It’s a free keyword research tool that solely focuses on the most commonly searched questions in Google. Use these questions on your FAQ page, services pages, blog content and product descriptions.

3. Drop the marketing jargon

Especially in your meta titles and descriptions. Think less sales-y, more descriptive.

No-ones searching ‘Super Sexy Curve Hugging Hot Red Night Out Dress’.

Include more descriptive keywords that real people would search like ‘Dark Burgundy Cotton Bodycon Mini Dress’.

4. Make the key information stand out

Want to know how my blog post went from ranking third in Google to a featured snippet overnight?

Taking the most important information and putting it in the first paragraph. If your content is answering a key question, make sure the answer is at the top of the page or stands out so the user can find it instantly.

Gone are the days of hiding key information throughout an article to trick users into staying longer on the page.

Make sure your content is clear and correctly structured with paragraphs and headings for easy navigation.

5. Don’t forget your basic SEO

The most important thing to consider after the BERT update is providing value to the user and moving towards more natural language, but that doesn’t mean you can disregard the SEO basics.

Ensuring your content has header tags, using alt text in your images, having a mixture of links across your website (internal, external, backlinks), optimising meta information and regularly posting fresh original content are all super important to maintain. Oh, and making sure you have a positive user experience across all devices, of course!

You don’t scare us BERT

See, no need to panic is there?

A Google algorithm update can seem a bit scary, but there’s really nothing to worry about if you’re focused on providing your user’s with the best online experience possible.

Got questions about optimisng your e-commerce store?

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