You Ask, I Answer: Understanding BERT's Role in SEO?

Tara asks, “With the confirmation of BERT’s role in search ranking as Google DeepRank, could you explain more what this means?”

BERT is a model, which is like saying it’s a blender or a frying pan. It’s how BERT is used that impacts our understanding of its SEO impact.

BERT is great at:
– classification of text
– named entity recognition
– question answering
– concept and text extraction
– understanding complete text context

Based on those capabilities, how do these impact search, and how is it likely being fine-tuned? For that we turn to the Search Quality Rating Guidelines, aka at least part of the fine-tuning/training data set, along with user behaviors in production.

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for watching the video.

In today’s episode, Tara asks, with the confirmation of burts role in search ranking as Google deep rank? Could you explain more what this means for SEO? So it’s a good question.

This is comes from a revelation on search engine roundtable that the BERT model is being used as part of what Google is called Deep rank.

They’re part of their ranking algorithm.

And to understand this, we have to understand what the BERT model does.

And what it’s good at.

BERT is a piece of software, right? It’s no different in some ways than say on Microsoft Word.

And so it’s less about it, the technology being used, and more about how it’s being used.

You could write a book with Microsoft Word, or you could write a shopping list, there’s so many different applications of it.

The same is true for the AI model.

So in order to understand this, from an SEO perspective, we need to understand a few things, what it’s good at what those capabilities have offered, you know, search and ranking, and then what we should be doing about it.

So BERT is great at really about what, four or five big things one, classification of text, being able to say, you know, this text is good, this text is bad.

It’s good at named entity recognition, being able to say like, Okay, this is a, you know, a person, this is a place this is a thing understand context, it is good at question answering, being able to give a reasonable answer based on data, it’s extracted from text.

It’s good at extracting pieces of text out from a larger passage and understand the importance of any given sentence or paragraph.

And all that comes from this is ability to look at a block of text as a whole, not just look at, say, the next word in the sentence.

That’s what makes it such a different model from other older natural language processing models.

So based on those capabilities, what’s the impact on search? Well, first, you know, classification of texts is good or bad is pretty straightforward.

As Google gets more and more training data, from its search engine, Search Quality Rating guidelines, as Google gets more user data from people how people use Google, BERT gets better and better at classify text.

This is a high ranking page.

This is a medium ranking page.

This is a low ranking page, and so on and so forth.

When you think about concepts like expertise, authority, and trust, which is a core part of the Search Quality Rating guidelines, those are things that are not explicit in text, but you human users, rate pages, sample pages, and then deep learning model like Bert goes through and says, Okay, well, the hiring pages, what do they all have in common? How do they use prepositions? How they use named entities? Do named entities show up? And what’s their relationship to text and all this happens in the software that’s not influenced by humans that we know of? And I should caution This is speculation, because nobody that I know of has an inside line to Google to ask them exactly how they change their model.

And if they did, they wouldn’t tell us.

But this is based on the understanding of the model.

So the Search Quality Rating guidelines, essentially, is providing a training data set for Google to say, Okay, what pages that are rated favorably have in common, what pages that don’t, and relying on things like those named entity recognition, capabilities, and snippets of text, to understand the context of a page.

All of that is fed into work.

And then live pages on the web are fed into it, and it classifies them.

Right? It says, This is what it should be ranked us Now, again, BERT is a really big computationally intensive model.

And we know it is not the core part of Google search algorithm.

It is part of it.

Just like core web, vitals are part of it, just like, you know, the the the knowledge graph is part of it.

And we don’t know the percentages.

That’s what we do know that it’s in there, at least somewhat.

So with all this technical information, what are we supposed to do about it? Well, a few things.

One, everyone should be reading the Search Quality Rating rating guidelines and understanding the training data set that’s being fed to BERT, because that’s critical for understanding how Google wants its engine to be trained.

These human raters are going in and reading pages and saying go this is this looks good, this looks bad, you know, thumbs up thumbs down high, medium low in, in their rating guidelines.

That gives us the information we need to know for understanding what the the model is likely to see on a page now, is it for sure.

No.

And part of deep learning is that deep learning can engineer features that are not there.

are not explicitly declared.

That’s one of the reasons why it’s so valuable.

So we need to understand what the Quality Rating guidelines are and then use them as guidance to help improve our content.

When we are using Google, we should be paying close attention to things like for example, when an outlines a snippet in their new passage results, why what made that snippet so important, that piece of text so important on that page? Can we get a sense of what makes that credible enough to display it as part of the search result? You’ve probably seen on Google too, when you click through on a result, at least in Chrome, it will highlight the the passage of text that is most relevant to your query.

Again, this is something that based on Burt’s ability to extract text and understand, you know, individual passages and sentences within to be able to say, yes, this is important.

So when we think about how we write our content, we have created our content, be thinking about, is there something that from a language perspective, they would say, this is like the most important point, how would you write your content to be determined? This is the important passage that belongs here that if Google highlighted it would answer the user’s question.

And then, third, when it comes to interpreting how these models work, and how our content works, we need to be thinking about the features of the text and other things we publish, that things are named entity recognition, if you’re writing, for example, a post about I don’t know, coffee, right? What are the major expected entities that you would expect to see the named entities in a piece about coffee, right? If you’re writing about the history of coffee, you know, Lloyd’s of London should be in there, because it’s an integral part of the history of coffee.

And so that demands domain expertise that demands subject matter expertise.

And that, again, is is why the BERT algorithm is so powerful, because it can look at the stuff that would be considered credible, and see how many named entities are in there, how many certain types of texts, prepositions, and all these things are used.

Our goal as marketers is to create content that looks and reads and sounds like the stuff that will be rated the highest quality in the Search Quality Rating guidelines.

So original, in depth, well researched lots of citations, kind of like, you know, writing a really good paper writing a really good article.

The good news is that if you actually are good at what you do as a as a brand, or as a company, and you have subject matter expertise, and you can put that subject matter expertise on display, the algorithm will naturally tend to favor you, as long as you check off a few of the tactical things, you know, like the the use of proper named entities and things behind because it’s going to be comparing your content versus what’s in the quality weighting guidelines, which is the training data set.

So as long as you continue to pay attention to that, and keep your content up to date with its recommendations, and you write for the humans that will be reading your stuff, you will do well, you will do reasonably well with Google’s algorithm.

On the other hand, if you create low quality stuff that’s thin, that doesn’t have any citation that doesn’t look like authoritative, credible content, you won’t do well, that’s just the nature of the way that the model is going to examine your text.

And there’s other things that go into that, too.

We can save that for another time about you know, some of the technical page layouts and things.

But at the very least, you want high quality content, as governed by what’s in the training data set.

So that models like BERT, when they look at your page, and they look at your content, we’ll be able to compare it side by side with the things that they know are valuable.

And go Yep, this is valuable, too.

Right.

So it’s a lot of mimicry in some ways.

It’s a good question.

We could spend a long time on this, but that’s a good start.

So if you got follow up questions, leave them in the comments box below.

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