In the fourth episode of our I’ve Heard That podcast on the Hurrdat Media Network, host Meghan Trapp talks with SEO Director Ross Allen and Content Director Bailey Hemphill about how Google’s search engine algorithm works, how it understands search queries, and more.
What happens when you conduct a Google search?
Allen: Obviously, Google is a really smart search engine. It has billions of pages. When you enter your search phrase or query, in a fraction of a second, Google will go and search its huge library. It’s going to pull back the most relevant pages for that query. It can be done so quickly because they have multiple data centers throughout the world. It’s super fast, it’s super smart, and it knows exactly what you’re looking for. Even if your query doesn’t make sense to most people, it makes sense to Google. It’s looking at the relevance of what you’re searching for and the meaning of your search.
What are some important things to consider when creating search optimized content?
Hemphill: Because there are so many different types of content, if you want to play the full hand with Google, you need to have written content, visual content, video content, voice search-optimized content, and local intent content. Combining all these different channels and types of content can help you be more visible based on whatever Google decides to show on that particular search engine results page for the search query. For example, if you’re searching for a recipe, you’re more likely to get visual content or video content versus a post with a link that goes to the recipe itself. We have to approach each piece of content and the audience differently depending on what the subject matter is.
What’s BERT and how does Google use it?
Hemphill: BERT was an update that came about a year or two ago. It’s a natural language processing update. Before BERT, Google would get a search phrase, and it would look at everything on a word-by-word basis. Let’s use the phrase “tips for traveling to Paris.” Google would look at each of those words individually rather than consider them as part of a whole phrase. It would try to assemble what it thought was the best result for those words. Most of the time, the results came back and were fairly relevant, but occasionally, certain things like prepositional phrases would throw off what your results were.
Now, however, with BERT, Google is looking at search phrases in its entirety, so it’s understanding semantically what each of those words means in the full phrase. It’s fascinating that it’s doing this. The AI is learning language the way we understand it. We understand everything by context. A single word, when it’s by itself, could mean anything. But when it’s in a phrase, you get more of an idea what the intent behind it is.
How does mobile experience affect Google ranking?
Allen: Come March 2021, every website will be assessed using the mobile crawler. If you don’t have a mobile presence, you’re going to be losing out on valuable rankings. Google will be looking at everything through a mobile microscope, so it’s imperative that you have a mobile presence on your website like…yesterday. And you can have a mobile presence, but it may not be optimized for mobile devices. You may still be displaying the same image you’re displaying on the desktop device, which is 10 or 20 times bigger than what you need it to be.