“My keywords are ranking on page 1 but my traffic went down”, is a common concern in our industry. Traffic has a number of elements that no one can control, including seasonality, industry trends, bots, and Google algorithm updates. When BERT was implemented in October of 2019, many business owners saw a drop in low-intent traffic as BERT was used to better understand context and nuance in search queries. This update helped computers understand language more like humans do and helped match a searcher s intent with more relevant results.
For example, let’s say someone from Brazil wants to know if they need a visa to visit the USA. According to Google, the word to and its relationship to the other words in the query are particularly important to understanding the meaning. It’s about a Brazilian citizen traveling to the U.S., and not the other way around.
Previously, our algorithms wouldn’t understand the importance of this connection, and we returned results about U.S. citizens traveling to Brazil. With BERT, Search is able to grasp this nuance and know that the very common word actually matters a lot here, and we can provide a much more relevant result for this query .
When small business owners saw their traffic dip after BERT’simplementation, it was largely traffic that was not relevant to their business, to begin with.
While it’s important to always keep an eye on organic traffic, it is not a metric that should be viewed in isolation when deeming whether an SEO campaign is successful or not.
If traffic is viewed correctly in year-over-year data, accounting for as many controllable variables as possible (correct installation, spam/bot/internal filtering, goal/conversion tracking, etc.), then it is a metric that can be viewed and used accurately to help support the benefits of increased organic rankings and organic leads/conversions. Otherwise, it is best to keep organic traffic as a tracked side metric, but not touted as a guaranteed byproduct of SEO.