Good morning, Marketers, the machines are catching up to us.

Google welcomed BERT into the search system fold last week. The company’s latest search algorithm rolled out for English queries last week and will expand to other languages in the future. BERT will impact the search results for about 1 in 10 queries, Google said.

BERT, which stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (I will never get that right in trivia, so bet against me now), is designed to help machines better understand the nuances of natural language. As voice queries, in particular, grow, BERT should help Google surface more relevant results.

BERT’s fundamental benefit is in helping close the gap between what machines understand and how humans speak and write.

Whereas so much of early SEO was about striking a balance between writing for machines (to gain search visibility) and writing for readers (to gain, well, business), advances like BERT will enable marketers focus more on their customers — and further shift SEO priorities away from on-page content optimization. Google said it’s the biggest change since Rankbrain, and, as with Rankbrain, you can’t “optimize” for it.

I asked Google if BERT was being used for ads, yet. It’s not, but it’s easy to see how it could help solve some of the bad close variants matching we currently see.

In other news, Amazon’s ad business grew by more than 45% year-over-year in the third quarter. It is focusing on machine learning to deliver high ad relevancy and building out its video and OTT advertising capabilities. The company said it’s expecting a record holiday season, despite it being 6 days shorter than last year’s span between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Read on for a Pro Tip on using Google Ads’ new audience options and more.

Pro Tip

4 tips for setting up new audiences in Google Ads

“When you start applying new audiences to your search campaigns, Google’s guidance often mirrors how long you’ve been using your audiences,” explains Matt Lawson of Google. “That said, there are some specific things to keep in mind as you use new audience types. 1. Start the planning process by taking a look at Google Ads Audience insights. You can find out all sorts of information about who you’re already reaching, or who you might be better at reaching. 2. Apply audiences with the ‘Observation’ setting as a start. Add the audiences you think you might care about, then let the metrics roll in. This is a quick step, but an important one. 3. Start with the most relevant audiences first. Start with two to three of the most impactful ones, and only expand once you’ve shown them to be effective. 4. Apply audiences at the campaign level. You can apply at the ad-group level if you have specific reasons, but for most people campaign level should give you the coverage you’re looking for.

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Search Shorts

Markup changes, PDFs and site structure.

Corporate contact markup. Lizzi Harvey from Google said Google has deprecated the corporate contact markup for its knowledge panels.

PDFs rank. John Mueller from Google said Sometimes PDFs are a great way to help users with a specific question / problem they’re facing. There’s no inherent advantage or disadvantage…

Site structure. If you significantly change your site structure, yes, that can impact your rankings in Google, said John Mueller of Google.


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What We're Reading

We've curated our picks from across the web so you can retire your feed reader

Apple Will Launch AR Smart Glasses in 2020: Report – Voicebot

Automatically lazy-loading offscreen images & iframes for Lite mode users – Chromium Blog

Beyond link quantity: four ways content contributes to your brand – Builtvisible

Global ad spend has slowed but 2020 looks set to be a bumper year – CNBC

Google My Business Testing Auto-Suggested Replies For Reviews – Search Engine Roundtable

Google releases new ‘How Search Works’ video explainer – 9to5Google

How to Target International Users with SEO – Portent

New from Majestic: Related Sites brings you breathtaking Backlink Analysis – Majestic Blog

Yandex Announces Third Quarter 2019 Financial Results – Yandex