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How Google is elevating conversational search

December 23, 2019 -  By
Person with a smartphone (Photo: Ivanko_Brnjakovic/iStock Editorial / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Photo: Ivanko_Brnjakovic/iStock Editorial / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Google and BERT (short for Bidirectional Encoder Representation from Transformers) are taking out the trash. Together, they are making the old way of optimizing website pages obsolete.

BERT is Google’s natural language-processing model that now powers search queries. It’s capable of understanding content based on its context from associated phrases and sentences. This essentially kills traditional keyword optimization.

For years, Google has been telling us that natural language is important. Foundational SEO criteria, expertise and authority are now measured more by context than keywords.

You should not abandon keywords altogether, but know that they are not enough. If your competitors are also using the natural, conversational language that BERT trusts, they will win out.

People look for experts to solve problems and know they’ve found them from the language they use. True experts have a voice that resonates with people, and Google knows the difference, too.

Content that may be keyword rich but that’s otherwise average quality is dead. Instead of behaving like a real person, this content games the system, and that’s not what Google wants.

BERT’s launch signals the beginning of data-driven systems that will expect marketers to be smarter. Here’s how to plan for that:

1. Be the best answer. Forget about making basic, how-to content because it has been done. You will attract more leads by giving people the best answer to their question.

It’s a shift from a keyword mindset to focusing on problems that need solutions. Are people searching for “Who’s the best landscaper in Miami?” Not likely because the answer to that is, “It depends.” You need to be more specific.
“Is pine-straw mulch better than hardwood?” Now that’s a question that comes up a lot in the Southeast. You could own the answer to that with well-researched content that quotes recognized industry experts.

2. Engage the audience. People listen to storytellers because stories capture and hold attention. Case study interviews of landscaping customers are practically guaranteed to be story based.

While BERT cannot understand a story the same way a human being will, the sentence structure and articles in the copy will suggest relevance that will be compared to proven high-quality content. If it checks out, it will rank well.

3. Reorganize for ease and relevance. Regardless of the quality, if your marketing content is not discoverable, it may as well not exist. You have to anticipate the problem-solving process buyers will take with your website.

If they inquire about the cost of a tree, the logical next questions will relate to delivery, installation and warranty. How your website makes that information available can set your business apart.

Think of your website as an interactive library that gives feedback to questions that lead people down a path. This may not necessarily be the one they had envisioned, but it should be one that delights them with its usefulness.

A comprehensive guide that answers 10 or 20 carefully researched questions regarding a particular topic is far better than expecting people to search your blog. The answers could be articles, links to YouTube videos or a combination of both with other resources.

How to get conversational

Training and practice are the only ways to develop your conversational marketing skills.

You’ll have to work at this because it won’t happen overnight.

Use this as an opportunity to start or reinvent your email newsletter to deliver fresh insights.

Keep it light and you’ll enjoy developing your natural voice. Whatever you do, encourage the audience to reply to make it a genuine conversation.

If you stay with this approach, I guarantee it will become your most valuable marketing channel and a source of inspiration for the others.

This article is tagged with , , , and posted in 1219, Business
Jeff Korhan

About the Author:

Jeff Korhan is the author of Built-In Social, founder of Landscape Digital Institute, and a Duct Tape Marketing Certified consultant. Jeff works with service companies that want to drive growth and enhance their brand experience with digital platforms. Learn more at www.landscapedigitalinstitute.com

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