Frederic Dubut from Bing said recently that search engine marketers will need to change their approach to keyword research in 2020 and focus more on intent research. Since the era of SEO began, keyword research has been at the heart of strategies for improving page rankings. However, with Google rolling out its most reliable language processing algorithm, BERT, Dubut believes search engines are shifting from keyword research to intent and the SEO community should do so too.
BERT algorithm update
In October 2019, Google rolled out BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers), its biggest change to search since the release of rank brain in 2015. The algorithm is designed to better understand the context of keywords in searches and improve the way it matches those words with results. It doesn’t just analyse the singular word in a search but takes into account the entire phrase.
Is this the end for keyword research?
Fully shifting from keyword research to intent is a lot easier said than done. Yes, the idea of incorporating more intent-based models and practices into research should be a key focus in 2020, with search engines becoming more advanced. However, from a classification perspective, intent research models can be very subjective. Relying solely on one person’s view to decide the user intentions behind a list of keywords is not reliable enough.
For search intent research to be valid, the intention behind a keyword needs to be supported with reliable data metrics, such as CTRs and CVRs. This will create better informed definitions of what is classed as a purchase or research intention keyword. Even with data-informed intent research, keyword research will still have its role. Showing specific words to users will only make it easier for them to understand what a page is about.
When asked about the topic, Google’s John Mueller said that “there’s probably always going to be a little bit of room for keyword research, because your kind of providing those words to users”.
So, maybe this isn’t the end for keyword research. However, paying more attention to intent and enforcing more intent-based practices off the back of keyword research is definitely something we’ll see more of in 2020.