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BERT is Here to Shake Up Voice Search

I know, I know, you’re probably sick of hearing about BERT. Google announced the update in late October. LSC Digital just held a webinar on the update, but there’s more to look at mostly when it comes to voice search. This is particularly important as 2020 is predicted to be the year of voice search according to Dialogtech. So what will BERT do for voice search, and what can you do to prepare for the influx?

Voice Search

We talked about voice search in another article. If you’ve used voice-to-text programs or asked Alexa to play Ariana Grande, congratulations, you’ve used voice search. In fact, most people have. According to Google, 72% of people own a digital assistant and use it as part of daily life.

What are people searching for? According to Search Engine Journal, most voice searches are product or shopping-related. “54% of users believe that digital assistants will help them make retail purchases within 5 years.” People also search for quick facts and directions. Voice searches make for convenient results without typing or scrolling on a device. The device reads the answers aloud – perfect for anyone trying to find a quick answer while juggling a few tasks.

What will BERT do for voice search?

BERT is Google’s latest algorithm update impacting the search engine’s ability to understand human language. A previous update, RankBrain, matched in-the-moment keywords with behavior and location to generate the most relevant results. While this update was revolutionary, it did not give Google the ability to understand language like a human might. BERT’s continuation of RankBrain helps bring a more human understanding to RankBrain’s behavioral and location-based results.

With BERT’s ability to understand language, it can better understand what someone is looking for in a casual search. If you conduct Google searches the same way you ask questions, you’ll find that BERT’s language program will fulfill your query to a T. Now image using that same language when asking your Google Assistant a question. You’re bound to get another satisfying response. According to the Search Agency, “Naturally, Google’s emphasis on learning how humans speak further suggests that the search engine is hedging its bets on voice search becoming more mainstream.”

Dave Clemen, VP of Digital Marketing at LSC Digital, said in his last webinar that there’s no way to optimize for BERT. With that in mind, how can people optimize for voice search?

What can I do to capitalize on this?

Google suggests writing how you speak. Since voice search uses speech patterns to generate results and BERT will understand language nuances from a more human perspective, creating content that better suits spoken queries will satisfy those queries. In LSC Digital’s “What’s Up With Google” webinar, Dave Clemen also suggests writing content that answers questions to play Google’s position zero game. This will increase your content’s chances of appearing in those zero click search results, the results that keep users on Google’s SERP. This will also make you content easier to read, which is an automatic thumbs up for search engines when it comes to SEO.

Take into consideration that nearly 30% of those searches will be  conducted without a screen. This means that featured snippets will be more important than ever. BERT’s understanding of those smaller, connective words make featured snippet results more accurate to the queries. This is a great opportunity to work schema into your website, especially around sections that could be stand-alone answers to questions. Schema is popular among the online recipe community. This is why your next Google Assistant query for “how do I make an apple pie” will result in a list of ingredients and methodology.

Voice search is also driven by location. Someone might be using voice search out of convenience or in a pinch, looking for the nearest rest stop or the closest mechanic. In the past year, 58% of users have found new restaurants by using voice search. Local businesses can use this to their advantage by employing Google My Business accounts to develop a local presence.

At the end of the day, good SEO is good SEO. Updating your content frequently and making sure your website is always growing in traffic will no doubt secure your high-ranking spot in the growing voice search world.

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