Welcome BERT, Google’s Largest Search Algorithm Update Since 2014
In a Tweet published on 25th October, Google Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, introduced BERT – a new way for Google Search to better understand language and improve the given results. BERT is currently being used in the US in English, helping with 1 out of every 10 searches, but is expected to expand it’s reach to include more countries and languages in the future.
Google has since confirmed that “by applying BERT models to both ranking and featured snippets in Search, we’re able to do a much better job helping you find useful information. In fact, when it comes to ranking results, BERT will help Search better understand one in 10 searches in the U.S. in English, and we’ll bring this to more languages and locales over time.”
Whilst Google sometimes offers a helping hand to SEO’s and prewarns them of coming updates and algorithm changes, BERT came out of the blue in most cases. Even though some people had noticed fluctuations in the SERPs and there was mild chatter across the SEO world, the impact of the update remained unknown.
BERT is expected to continue to roll out throughout the week and whilst it is just rolling out for English language queries, it is expected to expand to other languages in the future. What makes this update so significant, however, is that it has been described as “the biggest leap forward in the past five years and one of the biggest leaps forward in the history of search” by the search engine itself.
BERT vs RankBrain
BERT has been described as being a lot like RankBrain, an artificial intelligence program used to help process Google search queries. It was launched at the start of 2015 and was primarily used to process “rare” or “one-of-a-kind” search queries. It handles around 15% of Google’s daily search queries, most of which Google have never seen before. Now, we have BERT.
BERT stands for “Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers”, which essentially means that its purpose is to allow Google to better understand queries that are more “human-like”. Essentially, it helps Google to “understand the nuances and context of words in search and better match those to queries with more relevant results” and, as one of the biggest steps forward in the history of Search, there is no doubt that this update is huge!
“These improvements are oriented around improving language understanding, particularly for more natural language/conversational queries, as BERT is able to help Search better understand the nuance and context of words in Searches and better match those queries with helpful results.
Particularly for longer, more conversational queries, or searches where prepositions like “for” and “to” matter a lot to the meaning, Search will be able to understand the context of the words in your query. You can search in a way that feels natural for you.”
What Should I Do Next?
While there are no strict guidelines for working with BERT, there are steps you can take that may help the performance of your content not only in light of the latest update, but to adhere to RankBrain, and other recent updates. Google advises that sites that may have seen fluctuations following this update should “write for humans”. The likes of RankBrain and BERT take a bit of smarter thinking and care for producing content that is not only relevant and of high quality, but offers value to the reader and fits the search query at hand.
Google wants to better the delivery of relevant results and encourage people to enter queries in a more natural way and so the production of high-quality, relevant and valuable content is a core focus of this update. For this reason, it should also be a core focus of any SEO and content marketing strategy.
For more information about Google’s latest search algorithm update, BERT, or for a content marketing strategy that remains in line with these changes, get in touch with a member of our expert team on 0800 088 6000, today.