Google just announced its latest algorithm update called BERT. According to the release, Google says that this will affect 10% of queries, which means this is one of the biggest Google updates of the last 5 years!
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the 15 years working on Google Search, it’s that people’s curiosity is endless. We see billions of searches every day, and 15 percent of those queries are ones we haven’t seen before–so we’ve built ways to return results for queries we can’t anticipate.
“Last year, we introduced and open-sourced a neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP) pre-training called Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, or as we call it–BERT, for short. This technology enables anyone to train their own state-of-the-art question answering system.”
What is The Google BERT Update?
At its core, this new update is focused on interpreting the intent of search queries better.
Instead of looking at the user’s search query on a word by word basis, BERT allows Google to interpret the entire phrase better to give the searcher more accurate results.
Slight modifications or even simple words in a search query can dramatically alter the search intent.
With this new update, Google is getting better at interpreting what the users are truly looking for when they search.
Google laid out a few examples in their announcement:
In this example, Google shows how the search results change when interpreting when a user is looking for information about traveling to the US vs. from the US.
Here is another example where BERT has helped us grasp the subtle nuances of language that computers don’t quite understand the way humans do.
What Does This Mean For Your SEO?
The biggest thing to look for is if there are any changes in your traffic in the next coming days and weeks.
The good thing is that this is not an algorithm that penalizes anyone – It just is meant to better understand the user query and search intent.
The best way to make sure you win with this update is to have content that answers the questions of your target audience.
Bert also impacts featured snippets in a big way, and not just for English language featured snippets like with core search but many different languages.
BERT is a lot like RankBrain, in that it is a machine learning algorithm that aims to better understand queries and content on a page.
It does not replace RankBrain or other language algorithms, it can be used in conjunction with them.
You cannot optimize for BERT like you cannot optimize for RankBrain – just write for humans.