Natural Language Processing and SEO
PHOTO: Greg Westfall

Previously we discussed Google BERT, which is the latest Google algorithm update that leverages natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to improve searches. The big question surrounding this, however, is how NLP affects SEO and the content that brands need to produce going forward.

We wanted to know how NLP can help a company’s SEO efforts, and how brands can produce content that ranks well for voice devices, so we went to the experts.

How NLP Can Help With SEO

Google BERT uses NLP to gain an understanding of the intent behind a search to improve the results it provides. “It helps Google to understand what words in a sentence mean, but with all the nuances of context,” explained Boni Satani, head of marketing at Zestard Technologies. That means longer, more conversational queries — like those from voice devices — will deliver better search results to users. “The way NLP/natural language generation (NLG) helps is creating vast amounts of natural language content that boosts a brand's SEO visibility without additional effort,” stated Robert Weissgraeber, CTO & managing director of AX Semantics. That’s because any content that’s relevant, well-written, and offers precise answers to search queries will rank well from an NLP standpoint. Brands that have already been producing high-quality content, therefore, may see an SEO boost under the latest Google BERT.

Laura English, copywriter at Sonder Digital Marketing agreed, “BERT will mostly benefit the SEO and content creators who've been plugging away at quality content for a while.” That’s because she believes NLP affects informational queries where content performs well over transactional or navigational queries.

Related Article: How Google BERT Will Impact SEO and Marketing

Producing Content That’s NLP-Friendly

While Google BERT and NLP require a strong focus on high-quality, informative content, the experts do believe changes to the content production process could help brands improve their SEO results. Here are some tips they offered up.

Change Your Process

“The process for creating content is ultimately just as important as the type of content,” stated Weissgraeber. He said you need the technology in place to optimize your content for desktop, mobile, voice and more. “What was a human domain now has to get to a software level, with content for the product of tools and processes rather than human efforts.” There’s still the human element needed, but without a way to create and reuse content across a multitude of digital channels many brands will struggle to keep up.

Create Informative Content

With NLP, informational content becomes even more crucial than ever. Brands, therefore, may need to change their tactics towards creating high-quality content that answers highly-specific questions. “You can create FAQs, anticipate specific questions asked in a conversational manner, and make a blog around it,” suggested Satani, “and you can even use snippets too, as they have content that is specifically designed to help a real human in resolving his queries.”

Related Article: How the Voice Technology Industry Is Transforming

Think Depth Over Breadth

Matt Erickson, marketing director at National Positions believes brands need to be thinking about the depth of content, not the breadth. “Google is going to use that context to try and get the RIGHT people to your site, not all people,” he said. Brands should be asking themselves what questions their audience would ask, and then create in-depth Q&A style content. “Adding questions throughout your content that you then proceed to answer can help you capture more voice searches,” Erickson added. Brands need to invest the time to make sure their content is as contextually relevant as possible.

Focus on Long-Tail Keywords

English believes brands should focus on long-tail keywords to rank better for voice searches or to capture the SEO benefits of the Google BERT update. That’s because when people search using voice, they speak like a human using longer sentences rather than short keywords as they might when doing a text-based Google search. “So, in written content you should vary these keywords and long-tail keyphrases so that you're ticking both boxes,” English said.

Transcribe Podcasts & Videos

“Another interesting tidbit about voice search is podcasts are beginning to rank on Google, thus on voice assistants too,” English said. That means transcribing your podcasts — and especially videos or visual content — can get it indexed and ranked by Google as well. There’s a good chance podcasts have more information and insights than any long-form blog post, so brands can provide more value without much additional effort by transcribing this content.

Finally, Weissgraeber concluded, “One good development is that the collective emphasis on good content is in line with natural language, so well-written content is now just as eligible for SEO as hyper-optimized content.” There are some changes companies can make to their content processes, but in the end it’s the same old tune — high-quality content is best for search engines and readers alike.