Google has announced that it is implementing a major change to its core search algorithm. These changes could affect result rankings for up to one in 10 queries. If your resort business is dependent on being found by search engine results, this is could have a huge impact on your business. Imagine seeing a drop in your inbound traffic, sales and revenue by 10 per cent?
Inc. editor Jeff Haden explains: “In the past, Google's algorithm treated a search sentence as a "bag of words." It picked out what it considered to be the important words--in "who is a great keynote speaker," clearly "keynote" and "speaker" are more important than "is" and "a." But doing so eliminates context from a search sentence's intent.
With the old algorithm, if you entered the search sentence: “Can you get medicine for someone pharmacy? it picked out the words "medicine" and "pharmacy”. Google then displayed local results believing you are looking for a nearby drugstore. And you would get frustrated and search again, as this is not what you were looking for.
Google's new algorithm notices "for someone" and determines you're looking for information about whether you're allowed to pick up someone else's prescription for them. And displays very different search results which answer your query.
The new algorithm is based on something called BERT, or "bidirectional encoder representations from transformers." Google said BERT helps better understand the nuances and context of words in searches and better matches those queries with more relevant results.
In non-techie terms, BERT is a tool that helps optimise natural language processing by using A.I. and a massive data set to deliver better contextual results. Or even more simply, Google now better understands what you're looking for when you enter a search query.
In another example Google shared: "Parking on a hill with no curb." The old algorithm discarded "no," delivering results that reference how to park on a hill with curbs. The new algorithm realises "no" matters and delivers a top result showing how to park uphill or downhill with no curb.
And one more example: "2019 brazil traveler to usa need a visa." Old Google ignored "to" and returned results on U.S. citizens traveling to Brazil. But "to" clearly matters, and BERT picks up the difference, returning results for Brazilian travellers to the U.S.
With these changes it is only some search queries that will be affected. How the algorithm works is still something of a mystery, even to the most dedicated SEO professionals (although we are able to help with that).
So, if your site suddenly ranks lower for certain search terms, BERT might be to blame.
Either way, according to Pandu Nayak, Google VP of research: "This is the single biggest ... most positive change we've had in the last five years and perhaps one of the biggest since the beginning."
What can you do? Well, it is worthwhile spending time watching your search rankings and analysing your keyword context, especially if you try to rank well for longer-tail keyword strings. And if your search traffic remains stable but conversion rates dip, that's a sign at least portion of the traffic you receive isn't interested in what you provide.
Haden believes it's likely to be impossible to truly optimise for BERT, so make sure you create content for people, not search engines.
BERT is just another step in Google's effort to understand what people want when they search. The more you deliver what people want, the more value you give, the more likely you are to rank high in search results.