Google Transforms Search by Putting People First

Although our business is SEO, for many years now we’ve advised clients that if you want search algorithms to like you, you need to focus on people first. If you write for search algorithms rather than people, neither are going to end up liking your content much. With the introduction of Natural Language Processing and Passage Indexing, Google has taken another step in the right direction, continuing to align search with the human experience.

What is Natural Language Processing?

Natural Language Processing lets computers understand languages better. Google and Bing use BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers), a neural network-based technique for language pre-training, which helps them better understand searcher intent and the context of words. So, for example, Google demonstrates with the query “do estheticians stand a lot at work.” Before, Google would match the terms, such as matching the word “stand” in the query to “stand-alone” in the response, but that’s not the correct use of stand (see image of before and after BERT). Google gives several more examples of how BERT works to make Google’s results more relevant.

Since rolling out BERT in 2019, it now processes nearly 100% of queries.

What is Passage Indexing?

Passage Indexing is Google’s way of identifying and processing content within a page as a result for a specific query. Google gives the example below. For the user query “How can I determine if my house windows are UV glass”, Google used to return a more general result, but since it can now rank passages within content, Google can select just the right passage from a page of content to specifically answer the searchers query. Google estimates Passage Indexing will affect 7% of search queries.

How will this impact SEO?

We think that this will impact SEO in 4 ways:

People will write more for people rather than search engines

Don’t get me wrong, properly marking up content and keyword research are not going to disappear, but marketers will be able to focus more on how content pleases humans rather than search engines. There will be no need to optimize for BERT. Ultimately, BERT looks at the context, the words surrounding the words, to better understand the meaning and/or usage of the original word. So, BERT is going to help Google better understand your content, rather than the other way around.

Keyword research will be more topic focused

Keyword research will become less about individual keywords and more about addressing the topics people are looking for. Since Passage Indexing lets Google select a passage within a longer form of content, it won’t be a simple match of terms that determines whether content is selected or not, but rather whether that specific passage within the content matches the query.

Zero-click searches will increase

Google will become better at providing answers to people’s queries within the search engine results page (SERP), which means that searchers may not find it necessary to click over to the source website. Zero-click searches are so impactful to marketers, we wrote a blog post about it. Zero-click searches though aren’t as bad as they seem and at the end of the day, if more people are satisfied with searches via Google, then more searches will be conducted, which gives more chance for your content to come up as a result.

More relevant results is better for Marketers

More relevant results works for everyone: Google, the searchers and marketers. As mentioned above, the more search works for people, the more they will use it, and the more-likely your relevant content will come up as a result. It will also allow marketers to be less rigid with their copy, allowing content to be shaped better for human consumption. This will help marketers provide a better experience, which will ultimately help them sell more products or services. Really, this is a win-win situation for us all. Thank you Google.

Tired of trying to keep up with the Joneses when it comes to search? We’re here to help. Contact us today.