A month ago Google announced a significant update for its search algorithm. Google BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) is a form of AI that allows Google to interpret search queries better than ever, understanding words not only separately, but also in relation to each other and in the context of a search term.
The new language processing technology is the most significant for the last 5 years, and one of the global for all time.
In Google’s blog, there are some good examples that demonstrate how search results have changed for some queries (especially, for long-tail search terms).
So, BERT allows users to get the most relevant answer at the top of the SERP, regardless of how this query was formulated. This eliminates the need to make a bunch of useless clicks trying to find necessary information.
For example, recognizing local intents (it can be also commercial queries like “to buy iPhone”, or category queries like “laptop repair …”, or branded “papa john’s near me”), the search engine returns a Map Pack, regarding request parameters.
Google representatives didn’t comment on whether websites should expect more or less traffic. But if we consider BERT relative to the trend of “zero-click” searches, we will notice that launching the update should strengthen it because it will avoid users clicking to third-party sites.
Thus, the features brought by the update will improve Google’s ability to “understand” queries even better (including voice searches) and provide the answers as “zero-click” results.
Accordingly, organic traffic to the sites will continue to fall.
Also, Google representatives explained that the update will allow the search engine to respond to more niche requests (containing long-tail keywords), so organizations should focus on them.
What does BERT mean for local companies?
Today consumer-focused businesses are not ready not only for “zero-click revolution”, but are not even optimized for local search.
Local business should “protect” itself with proper optimization (by means of local SEO).
Brick-and-mortar organizations can get great benefits just by submitting business information to the maps, company directories and other sources working with local search.
It is extremely important when a search engine can interpret “complex” queries like “the nearest cheap laptop repair in manhattan” and provide the results at the top of the SERP (Local Pack) or as Knowledge Panel.
Described changes rid users of the need to click-through to the sites giving maximum significance to map signals (Google My Business by local queries).
So, here are some tips for optimization:
1. Check the accuracy of your company’s information on the maps and other relevant sources.
If a company has numerous branches (like retail, banks, HoReCa, police and post offices, etc.) it can be very laborious and time-consuming to go through each source manually to look for data discrepancies. Professional services offer free brand audits to help businesses get a better understanding of how their locations are performing online to answer users’ long-tail requests.
2. Submit the company’s information to the maps, business directories, and other relevant sources.
3. Optimize listings:
– Fill in NAPWCHD information about each store/branch of the company (name, addresses, phone numbers, website, category, hours, description). In brief, provide maximum information, photos, additional attributes, and answers to FAQ.
– Select the correct business category (main and then — additional).
It is really very important and does have an impact on local ranking factors. Your primary category shows what your business is (dentist, plumber, etc). It is also the only category that will be published publicly.
Use the additional categories to your advantage and be sure to add all of the ones that are applicable to your business. Check category options regularly as they are often updated and new opportunities may be available for you.
4. Work with reviews. If there are a lot of unanswered questions and negative comments without feedback in the company’s listing, the business can lose potential clients. Stimulate customers to write comments, answer their questions and show an interest in solving conflicts and disputes.
33% of the customers that received a response from a company after posting negative feedback turned around and posted a positive review, and 34% deleted it.
So, working with your reputation online is able to rank you higher.
It’s very important to work with reviews not only on Google My Business platform but on the other relevant sites too.
5. Create Google Posts as they can help you rank higher on generic local searches: this happens by means of behavioral “signals”, improving the click-through rate.
6. Use Schema markup for local SEO.
5. Claim your listings by submitting data to the business directories, company catalogs, social networks, review sites, etc.
Citation signals are perceived by the search engine positively. Moreover, local links are one of the most important local search ranking factors.
The company’s information should be detailed (NAPWCHD) and accurate with no mistakes.
On the whole, location management refers to the updating of the listings, monitoring if the information is correct, rejecting attempts to change it, and using local SEO to rank higher on local searches.