Everything you need to know about the BERT update


Organic Search

At the end of October, Google announced that it had made the biggest update to their algorithm in 5 years. It’s an update designed to improve the way that the search engine understands the way that we search with ‘natural’ language. The system is now better at understanding the nuances of a search and the results that are most likely to be relevant in context. For those conducting Search Engine Optimisation on their site, it’s one of the most important updates to be aware of to avoid poor rankings.

Google’s official release said:

QUOTE: “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.

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.”

Google, Oct 25, 2019

Their release stated that they predicted that the update would affect 10% of queries; so one in ten searches now has an improved understanding of the intent behind it. The update is built on some incredible neural-network technology for natural language processing – the “Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers” – which is how BERT got its name.

In short, this algorithm has learned the way that we use connecting words to change the meaning of a search. Take their example: previously, the query ‘do estheticians stand a lot at work’ would have shown an article comparing the jobs of a medical and spa esthetician due to the inclusion of the word ‘stand’ in both the search query and the article. However, in this case the word takes on a different meaning in context. BERT is clever enough to have understood the difference in intent and now shows a far more relevant result about the physical demands of an esthetician.

So, what does BERT mean for the world of SEO? The number of articles that spring up following any algorithm update are countless. Of course, any good marketer knows that Google are not in the habit of disclosing exactly how to appease their algorithms. Nevertheless, they’ve made it clear that there’s no danger of a penalty as a result of BERT. You will simply benefit from creating content that it can understand well, and lose rankings if your quality isn’t high.

If you’ve already been creating quality content written for humans, instead of purely for Google crawlers, you’ve not got anything to worry about when it comes to the new algorithm. You might even see improvement, as we have with many of our clients this month. If you’re noticing a drop, take a look at the content on your site and consider its clarity. Make sure it’s written for a person to read and gain information you’re trying to convey. It’s not a case of trying to play the system, it’s a case of writing for your users.

To talk about your site’s SEO with a team of marketing professionals, speak to Zinc.

We work on websites of every shape and size to achieve great rankings and conversions. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

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