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What Google’s BERT Algorithm Update Means for your Website and SEO

Natural Language Processing, Understanding Google Search Algorithm, Meaning of BERT, Google BERT Update, Improve Search Results, Googl, Search Algorithm Update

Google recently announced its latest update to its Search algorithm, and it’s a big one! The BERT update is said to be one of the biggest leaps forward in the history of search. It is believed that it will affect up to 10% of all searches. So what is BERT and how is it going to affect your SEO? 

What is the Google BERT Update?

BERT, short for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, is a new technology developed by Google to help improve natural processing language within its search queries. 

Simply put, BERT will help Google better understand context and language so it can better interpret queries. 

How Does Natural Language Processing Work? 

BERT is designed to help provide Google Search with context to the words in your query. In the past, you may have entered a search query where you felt like the results were way off. There’s a reason for that. Previously, Search would process words one-by-one. 

With the BERT model, Google can now process a word in relation to all the other words in a query that come before and after it. This is great news, as most queries are usually presented as a conversational question. 

With this new contextual understanding, Google Search will do a better job presenting you with more helpful and relevant results. According to Google, this new technology will provide users with the opportunity to train their own question answering system.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of BERT’s ability to understand context:

Natural Language Processing, Understanding Google Search Algorithm, Meaning of BERT, Google BERT Update, Improve Search Results, Google Search Algorithm Update

Reading this query, you can tell the user wants to learn more about obtaining a travel visa from Brazil to the US. However, Google’s search algorithm analyzed that query’s text individually and the first result it generated was about US citizens traveling to Brazil from the US. Google realized that their algorithm does not always provide helpful or accurate results with these types of long-tail searches.

The BERT update has changed that. The same exact query now results in travel and visa information for those in Brazil seeking to go to the US. Through BERT’s natural language processing, Google realized what the user was searching for in an accurate context, and has given them the proper information from a trustworthy source, the US embassy.

These longer searches, where wording can sometimes be ambiguous in the eyes of search engines, will now be connected with relevant and useful content much more frequently.        

What does the Google BERT Update mean for your SEO?

Our SEO experts indicate that this update will be especially beneficial for websites that are well-organized and that regularly produce high-quality, informative content. As the BERT rolls out, it’s more important now than ever to increase your content marketing efforts. 

Unlike many of the previous significant Google Core updates, BERT will not overly affect rankings, impressions, or clicks in the short-term. If you haven’t seen any major fluctuations in any of your site’s key metrics, you are in the majority. However, this does not mean the BERT update is not a big deal moving forward.

While the algorithm update is not intended to sanction sites, it will be rewarding pages & websites that have stronger content that is more responsive to conversational search queries in the future. This will greatly impact content creation and how Google assesses what should rank.

How do I Optimize My Site for BERT?

Google has expressed that there’s no way to optimize for BERT, stating the goal of this update was mainly to improve search results. While this is true for the most part, we do have some advice on how to get ahead of your competitors.

Instead of optimizing content for machines, the focus should shift gears towards optimizing content for people. In other words, do not try to overstuff keywords or force unnatural ones in your content to impress search engine algorithms. Research and create content that is optimized for people that will interact with it.

One tip is creating content that clearly answers highly-searched questions in your industry. This long-form question answering content will definitely help your pages rank higher because it’s incredibly helpful to those searching for more information on those topics. The ultimate goal of this type of content is to boost your site’s chances of being listed as a featured snippet atop the Search results. 

Just Remember:

This update is a win for everyone. Better content will not only help your site’s ranking, but will also help educate users with relevant information. Here’s what you should take from this update:

  • Search can now understand the context of all the words in your query.
  • The Google BERT Update should not overly affect your SEO.
  • Don’t worry about BERT optimization, just focus on making great content!

If you still have questions about what this update means for your website or are looking to take your content marketing to the next level, reach out to the professionals at Ballantine. With proven SEO and content marketing experience, we can help increase your website rank and overall digital presence.

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I'm the Director of Digital Services and Partner at Ballantine, a family-owned and operated direct mail & digital marketing company based in New Jersey. and started in 1966 by my great uncle!