Google’s Switch to Natural Language and What It Means For Your Business’ Website

As a business owner, you want your company’s information near the top of any search results list. And a search engine’s top priority is to provide the most thorough answers to their searches. Your website designer and your SEO specialist work diligently on your behalf to get the attention of those who are in the market for your product or service. And that’s accomplished by making sure you know who your customers are and then speaking their language. When all the pieces in this scenario work well together, your business is visible and it grows. 

About three years ago Google rolled out Google BERT. The landscape of customer search with BERT on the scene requires everyone to re-learn how websites must be optimized to stay in the game. And we can’t forget the explosion of voice searches, which are put in the form of more conversational syntax by the speaker. 

In this article, you will learn what natural language searches are, what BERT and voice searches have to do with it all, and what you and your online marketing team must do to optimize your site for these changes.


What Is Natural Language Search?

For a long time, searches were done mostly with short keywords or phrases. For example, if a backyard gardener needed a new rain gauge, their internet search might have been “garden rain gauge.” That left a lot of fuzzy space, though. Did the person want the one with the highest consumer rating or was it more important that it was made of weather-resistant molded plastic? The gardener had to spend some time figuring out the words or phrases that would produce the results needed. It was often a matter of hit or miss, trial and error until they stumbled upon what they were looking for. 

Until now. Today, natural language searches can provide context to the search engine before hitting ENTER. “What is the highest rated rain gauge for amateur gardeners?” is a very specific question and now Google can crunch that question just as if you were asking an employee in a garden shop. 

Source:Cult of Web


Things in the search world have come full circle. That’s interesting, but what does it mean for you as a business owner? Your marketing team needs to be on top of this especially when it comes to optimizing your site for natural language searches. 

In 2018, Google rolled out a solution. The concept has been around for a while–some may remember Ask Jeeves in the ‘90s–when the searcher simply asked a question. And Jeeves served up an answer.  But searching in that more natural language that provided context was more than Google could handle at the time. Keyword search was the answer. It allowed Google to zero in on results that proved to be vast but sometimes not right on the mark. Remember our amateur gardener earlier?

The amateur gardener entered something vague like “rain gauges” when they really wanted a list of the best gauges for their purposes in their home garden. The results were vast with many sites that were not exactly what the gardener needed. The gardener already knew what gauges did, but they had to spend a lot of time reading off-topic information until they found what they wanted: a rain gauge that was one of the top-rated for amateur gardeners. 

These longer searches are known as long-tail keywords. The search engine gets a much more specific idea of what the searcher really wants. You can try it yourself. Pick a subject you know about already and enter just a few short keywords; did you get a whole lot more than you wanted, much of it off-topic? Now enter it as a question with context provided. The difference is immediately evident and you can see how much time you will save by not having to read through irrelevant information.

These changes are primarily due to two developments: BERT and the increase of voice searches, both of which support and extend one another. But how?


Google BERT and Voice Search

BERT is an acronym for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. In understandable terms, BERT was launched as an open-source training device in 2018. This language model’s primary purpose was to teach search engines how to recognize the context in long-tail keyword searches. And by allowing access as open-source, BERT was getting constant input that helped it learn natural language as quickly as possible. 

The symbiosis between natural language and voice searches supports the re-emergence of searches put in more conversational language. Speaking to Siri or Alexis or Google voice systems to find a product or service online won’t be in one or two words. It will be in a question like, “What are the best rain gauges for amateur gardeners?” According to Review 42, half of all searches today are done using a voice-activated device. Even on a desktop computer, laptop, or tablet, it takes the guesswork out of searching when all it takes is typing in the question that needs an answer. BERT has learned a lot since 2018 and has proven its ability to understand the context around a searcher’s question. 



From a business owner’s perspective, this change is huge.  Websites have to be optimized to adapt to these natural language long-tail keyword searches. It’s an SEO expert’s playground.


Optimizing Your Site to Keep Up

Optimizing your website to adapt to all of this needs to be done and it needs to be done quickly if you hope to keep up.  But it will take more than your SEO expert mining for more keywords. 

It will involve understanding who your current customers or patients are and what their intent was when they searched for you and then chose your business. Hopefully, you already have a grasp on the persona of your customers. Who exactly gravitates to your website and how did they get there? Having a clear profile of your customer provides the springboard for lots of things, such as pertinent content topics and intent when searches were done that brought paying customers to you. 

This is technical work and often beyond the scope of what business owners have time or proficiency to do. Work closely with your SEO person or hire one to optimize your website for you. Here at My KPI, we have our finger on the pulse of BERT, long-tail keywords, and the changes brought by voice searches.


Welcome to the Future of Internet Searches!

Juniper Research estimates that $80 billion per year will be generated worldwide by voice searches by 2023. Your business’s website must understand these natural language searches. In this time of readjustment due to COVID-19, maximize this opportunity to adapt and reconfigure in whatever ways are necessary to protect and even raise your visibility to the public. 

We can help you do just that. My KPI is a leader in digital marketing and our team of experts works with businesses like yours. Contact us today!