magnifying glass hovering over google logoBryan Miller

6 minute read

Google BERT: The Largest Google Algo Update in 5 Years

Published 2020-02-17T06:00:42 by Bryan Miller

Google BERT is a neural network-based technique used by the latest Google algorithm for natural language processing. This Google algorithm update is designed to help the search engine understand how people communicate.

What this means is that search engines will perform better at processing conversational nuances. This tool is able to better understand the context and nuance of words used in search engine inputs, which allows for more accurate matches between queries and helpful results. Google BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers and was initially released on October 21, 2019.

It’s currently estimated that the BERT update will impact upwards of 10 percent of all searches within the Google search engine. By providing users with more accurate search results, it will be less of a hassle for them to get to their intended destination. This could increase traffic to your website. This is the single largest change that Google has made in five years, which is why it’s very important that you understand how the update can affect the SEO efforts of your website. This article aims to provide a closer look at Google BERT and why it may be important for website owners who want to bolster the popularity and visibility of their site.

The BERT Update Brings Big Changes

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Now that BERT has been implemented into the Google Search algorithm, there are some key changes that will occur with searches and other elements of the engine. As mentioned previously, BERT will directly impact around 10 percent of all search queries, which is a significant amount. Because of this large update, Google is now able to understand searches much better than before. For instance, the Google search engine can identify the meaning and importance of contextual words, which wasn’t possible before this update.

As an example, let’s say that a user was searching for “2020 USA traveler to Paris need a passport”. Before this update to the Google algorithm was implemented, Google wouldn’t understand the context or meaning of the “to” word, which meant that the search results might not directly provide the user with information about obtaining a passport for visiting Paris from the U.S. Since this update has been integrated into Google Search, users are now provided with much more relevant results that take every word into account. All propositions, such as “for” and “to” are handled better with this update.

Another example of a search query that is now better understood by the Google Search engine is “do waiters stand a lot”. In the past, the Google Search engine wouldn’t be able to recognize the “stand a lot” portion of the sentence, which is referring to the physical demands that come with being a waiter. Now that the update is available, Google should always recognize the context of this phrase as well as similar phrases.

Keep in mind that the search results impacted by this Google algorithm only refer to English queries in the United States. The reason that the update only affects around 10 percent of these search results is that the tool is designed mainly to focus on lengthier and more conversational queries. If a query is three words long and is based on a simple phrase, the Google BERT update is unnecessary.

What makes Google BERT Unique?

While the natural language processing aspect of this update isn’t new to search engines like Google, the Google BERT update offers an advancement to NLP via bidirectional training. In general, natural language processing is an element of artificial intelligence that’s centered around linguistics. The goal of this tool is to assist computers in better understanding of how humans communicate. Aside from Google BERT, the main advancements that have been made to natural language processing include chatbots, word suggestions that you can view on your smartphone, and various social listening tools.

The capabilities of BERT might seem similar to the ones of RankBrain, which was the very first method of artificial intelligence that was created by Google for the purpose of understanding search queries. There are, however, distinct differences between these two technologies that you might want to be aware of. For instance, RankBrain works alongside the Google Search algorithm to adjust search results by looking at past queries and by interpreting search queries to provide precise results for users.

BERT is entirely different in that it’s able to look at the content before and after a word in the search query at the same time, which allows for better and more accurate results. Before this update, NLP was only able to look before or after the word, which created issues where some context could be missing. For now, RankBrain and BERT work alongside one another to ensure that users are provided with the exact results they’re looking for.

What Does the BERT update Mean for Your Site’s SEO?

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When you find that there’s a significant update to the Google Search algorithm, you might wonder what this means for your site’s search engine optimization. Google says that you can’t really optimize for BERT specifically since it’s only used to understand conversational nuances better. BERT only affects searches, which is why you can’t use this tool to improve search engine optimization for your website. However, the inclusion of BERT in the Google Search algorithm may be able to help users get to your website easier when they type a query into the search engine.

In the meantime, it’s highly recommended that you keep writing user-focused content as before. If you provide your site visitors with content that they want, they will be more likely to stay on your website. Optimizing this content will also make your website more visible. While the search engine optimization that you perform is important if you want to improve your ranking on search engines like Google, it’s also essential that the content on your website is well written and relevant to the interests of your target audience. Great SEO doesn’t matter if visitors leave your website shortly after entering.

The BERT Update is a great reminder to perform an SEO Audit!

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There are many things that you can do to improve the quality of your website without spending all of your budget. For one, you should definitely consider using ample amounts of imagery. The modern user is more likely to become engaged with a website if they are provided with beautiful imagery and appealing color schemes. Since you only have three seconds to make a good first impression when a visitor enters your website, likely the best way to do so is by creating a design that focuses on imagery.

If you want to provide visitors with value, you might want to consider adding videos and other interactive content to your web pages. This content can also help you keep visitors engaged and interested in your website long enough for them to make a purchase or sign up for your newsletter. A few additional ways that you can add value to the pages on your website include providing exclusive offers, implementing contact information on most pages, and by integrating social media buttons that will allow for effortless sharing.

Once the content on your website has been improved, you can start to focus on additional search engine optimization that will improve your rankings. Now that Google BERT has been included within the Google Search algorithm, users will be able to reach their intended destination even when they enter a conversational search query, which means that you need to be ready for them. If your website doesn’t rank highly enough in the search results, these users will select other websites instead. To avoid this issue, there are many steps that you can take if you want to bolster the efficacy of your SEO techniques.

Quick Tips to Improve SEO after the BERT Update

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A way you can improve your SEO is by learning more about what your customers actually search for. Once you’ve identified some of the keywords and phrases that a user might enter in order to reach a website like yours, these words should be integrated into the content on your website. Likely the easiest way to continually optimize your website for search engines is by creating a blog for your website, which will allow you to add regular articles to the blog that include the words and phrases that are relevant to users and will help your site rank higher with search engines.

When you’re trying to make sure that your website is well optimized, it’s important that it performs well and is quick to load. The modern user wants to access a website quickly without any slowdown, which means that they will leave your website if it takes longer than a few seconds to load. Websites that are properly optimized will be much quicker to load than others. When you want to improve site speed, you should try to minify CSS, HTML, and JavaScript code while also enabling compression and optimization of images. If your website has great content, is well optimized, and loads quickly, you should be able to increase site traffic and significantly bolster your customer conversion rates.

Bryan Miller

Bryan Miller

Bryt Designs

Bryan Miller is an entrepreneur and web tech enthusiast specializing in web design, development and digital marketing. Bryan is a recent graduate of the MBA program at the University of California, Irvine and continues to pursue tools and technologies to find success for clients across a varieties of industries.

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