A review of “BERT” – Google’s latest algorithm update

By Aaron Rudman-Hawkins
November 4, 2019

As some of you may be aware, Google recently launched an algorithm update. If you weren’t aware, you’ve come to the right place to find out all about it. Read below for The Evergreen Agency’s lowdown on BERT, and what it means for your website.

What is BERT?

BERT is a brand new algorithm update from Google. Now, Google update their processes all the time. Pretty much every day, Google thinks of new ways to better a customer’s search experience. However, most of the time these changes are so slight, there is no need to make a song and dance about it. Occasionally, though, Google comes along with something they want to shout about, because of how much the update will impact SERPs and user experience.

What is an Algorithm Update?

Okay, let’s start by taking it down a notch. An algorithm update is Google’s way of updating and bettering their own processes. Essentially a self-evaluation, Google knows that the only way to be the best is by finding new ways to provide the best search results for users. As we often reiterate, as its key to getting SEO right, Google is there to provide information. Nothing more, nothing less. It is a search engine, at the end of the day, and no matter what users are searching for, Google will strive to make that search as easy as possible. (You can find out more about making that possible with your website here)

Back to the point…

Google constantly focuses on better search results. An algorithm is, specifically, a complex system that Google uses to retrieve data from the search index to deliver the best results.

An algorithm update, therefore, is Google basically saying ‘Hey! We’ve made searching easier. And this is how.’ The bottom line is Google wants to find the most relevant information that will help the user, as fast as possible. It is the relevancy of the search query which is key, and this is what BERT focuses on.

Previous algorithm updates by Google have included:

  • Rankbrain
  • Google Panda
  • Google Penguin

(You can find a cheat sheet here which covers most updates up until last year)

What Does BERT Stand For?

BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. It is essentially a new machine learning technology, that focuses on natural language processing.

Still with us?

BERT, in a nutshell, tackles Google’s understanding of natural language to take it to the next level. This is so the more unique, complex and exotic search terms are still coming up with the most relevant result possible, every time. We’ve all been there when we’re trying to remember a specific date, time, fact or statistic. Take that query and pair it with another random piece of context, and you can really complicate the query.

For example:

  • How old was *** when *** was released?
  • When did ***** and ***** break up the first time?
  • How do I change **** when I have already ****?

You can use your imagination when it comes to filling in the blanks, but essentially, the above questions give you an idea of what a more complex search query is. BERT is a way that Google handles these more complicated search queries, so the search engine doesn’t get its swords crossed.

Still not sure? We’ve broken it down below.

How old was *** when *** was released?

With this specific query, the BERT update would help to ensure that the age of *** would be the first result, as opposed to the release date of ***. Before BERT, Google may have thought you were simply searching for ‘When was *** released.’

Essentially, the more controversial and detailed the query is, the bigger the role BERT will play in helping Google find the answer. BERT looks at the sequences of words as a whole as opposed to standalone phrases within the search, and will glean more information on the true intent of the query. After all, the beauty of the internet means you can get pretty specific with what you’re looking for and still find something relevant. Why shouldn’t Google keep up with this?

How Does This Impact Your SEO?

Don’t panic too much. As explained above, the more complicated the query, the more BERT will be needed. This means that immediate search terms of queries that your webpages are optimised for won’t be affected. If anything, BERT will simply aid users in finding you, should your webpage prove useful for that query. What BERT does prove, though, is the importance of relevancy.

The Takeaway

One thing you can take away from this algorithm update is that staying relevant is still absolutely key when it comes to achieving a high ranking. As long are your web pages are optimised and provide the most relevant, up to date information on a web page, sprinkled with keywords throughout, then you’re good to go.

Don’t forget….

Keep your content updated and your webpage usability tidy! Just because you’ve got the right keywords, if your UX is still poor you’ll soon drop in the rankings. This new update doesn’t mean Google will immediately trust you with the right keywords alone. Merely that, with a strongly optimised site you can now hope to be found by people searching for those complicated questions that can get us all in a muddle.

For more information about improving your SEO, simply head to The Evergreen Agency knowledgebase. If you still feel a bit lost, give us a call or contact us, and see how we can help you with your SEO. It’s what we do best.

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