Google recently announced an algorithm update that may affect 10% of all search results. This makes it one of the most significant Google updates in the past five years.
Breaking Down Google’s BERT Algorithm
The latest Google algorithm update is based on a tool created last year, the Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, or BERT for short.
BERT uses artificial intelligence (AI) to understand search queries by focusing on the natural language and not just choosing the main keywords.
The most significant change Google is making is that they are now paying more attention to connecting words, such as is, a, for, to, etc. Google has found that taking these connecting words into account can help give a more holistic idea of what the search user is looking for. This allows Google to return a more high-quality search result for the user’s query.
What does this mean for healthcare marketers?
We won’t sugar coat it. You may see a dip in organic traffic to your website if you haven’t already. With Google’s greater understanding of natural language at work, you may find that you’re no longer appearing in the top results for some searches that you were previously.
However, if you have a robust content and SEO strategy in place, this could mean that your targeted content is more likely to rank in search. The fact the change impacts ten percent of all search results could also mean an increase for some websites that have already been optimizing for targeted search queries and writing in a more natural, conversational tone. Putting a greater focus on answering the questions of your target audiences could help contribute to this increase.
So, what can you do?
This isn’t the first time Google has announced an algorithm change that seeks to understand search queries better — and it certainly won’t be the last. While you still have to keep up with Google and optimize content that’s right for your users and search engines, you shouldn’t try to optimize for the BERT update specifically. Rather, you should continue to keep your users, or patients, top-of-mind when developing your content strategy. Ensure your content is answering users’ questions and meeting their search intent.
If you notice a drop in search traffic, don’t panic. An excellent first step is to look into what’s been impacted – including landing pages and queries. You may even notice that while traffic has gone down, engagement hasn’t. A scenario like this would point to this algorithm update helping to remove irrelevant or underqualified traffic that wasn’t engaged or converting.
It’s also important to conduct keyword research to see what consumers are searching for in your area and how they are conducting those searches. Look for the keywords that have the highest SEO value in your target region that return local results when searched. Optimizing for these keywords is a great way to make certain your pages retain quality and stay relevant for users and Google alike.
Create a Plan to Focus on Users
If you need help with your SEO or content strategy, our experts are here to help. Contact us today to ensure your optimization efforts are always focused on users and not at risk when Google makes updates.