June 24, 2019

BERT – Google’s Biggest Algorithm Update in Years?

Well this week has been abuzz with reaction as Google rolls out one of their most significant algorithm updates to Search probably since RankBrain back in 2015 when they revealed their AI search update.

If you’ve heard people talking about BERT, or if you’re an SEO expert/enthusiast/small business/just interested individual, and wondered what it means for you and your website, here’s the basic takeaways.

Why is the update called BERT?

Googles latest update is labelled as Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. Sound technical? It is. But in laymans terms, Googles neural network is now better at understanding, and capable of processing (and ranking) human language nuances much better.

We’re sure it just irks Google to see people in broken English because they know the machine can’t handle their natural language query. We all do it, its like talking to a toddler, you dont want to confuse them with your prepositions, transition and linking words, so you just give them the basics.

This has its benefits, but it also has its downsides (they dont FULLY understand your meaning). Now, with BERT, the language processing updates means searchers can be fully comprehended by Google, and results will (most probably) be more relevant.

BERT algorithm
BERT – Making a comeback – Image sourced from Pixabay

What does it mean for my content?

Is your content written for computers or humans?

This is the division Google wants to make. Trying to game the system doesnt work. Just like when the Penguin algorithm update came along and threw out all those sites trying to stuff their sites full of relevant keyword lists (written in white on white background – yeah the whole world saw you not just Google!) this update will effect attempts to write for computers.

Keep your content for humans, write well, make sure its readable and makes sense. The robots at Google are watching to make sure of that.

What does it mean for the future of search?

Well, it doesnt take a genius to draw correlation of this update and Google’s Voice pursuits. With BERT, Voice search is more accurate, and people actually find it hard to search without using natural language in voice, so watch this space for strong improvements in that field.

SEO wise? Just like point 2, make your content understandable and searchable in human sounding terms, and you’ll be fine.

However, Google is also trying to ensure the searcher gets the most from their featured snippets as possible. A controversial concept in the SEO world, as these snippets are designed to keep the searcher on the SERP without acutally visiting the page.

Enhanced featured snippets DOES mean a faster, more relevant search, but this will come at the cost of the information provider – the page. Again, the best thing we can do is ensure your page is useful, the people will come.

So thats about it. BERT is here, it’s a sign Google’ AI is still forging full steam ahead, and still is on message to provide a better search result for the user. Search Engine Optimisation efforts would do well to ensure full understanding of BERT. Failing to do so will certainly eventually see rankings suffer.

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