It’s time to brace yourself for yet another Google algorithm update. BERT or Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers seeks to strengthen search results for more complex queries. According to Google:

“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.”Simpsons Reference to "Bort" Plate

So, what are the main takeaways about BERT?

  • 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. 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.
  • BERT is expected to impact 10% of all searches when it is rolled out globally. It will also have a significant impact on featured snippets across multiple languages.
  • The best way to make sure you win with this update is to have content that answers the questions of your target audience.
  • With this new update, Google is getting better at interpreting what the users are truly looking for when they search.
  • The best way to make sure you win with this update is to have content that answers the questions of your target audience.
  • With the BERT update, Google improved its understanding of natural language.
  • Google described BERT as its “biggest leap forward in the past five years.”
  • BERT was a ‘query understanding’ update. This means Google got better at identifying nuances and context in a search and surfacing the most relevant results.
  • BERT is most likely to affect longtail searches. Google provided these examples to illustrate BERT’s impact:
    • 2019 brazil traveler to usa need a visa
    • do estheticians stand a lot at work
    • Can you get medicine for someone pharmacy
  • BERT is NOT replacing RankBrain or other elements of the search algorithm that focus on language—it will be used in conjunction with those elements.

What does BERT mean for SEOs and marketers?

  • You can’t optimize for BERT. So, what can you do?
    • Focus on writing better content for your users
    • Focus on responding to the intent of a searcher
    • Focus on satisfying the specific motivation of a searcher
    • Focus on creating incredible experiences for your audience

Is BERT going to hurt my SEO performance?

  • Current industry chatter says the impact of BERT has been minimal (though there are mitigating circumstances). It’s worth paying close attention to:
    • Longtail keyword ranking performance
    • Organic acquisition performance for top of funnel/awareness content
    • Featured snippet ownership
    • Positive competitor movements across any of the above

Rest Easy with a Multi-Pronged Marketing Plan

When you have a content marketing plan that produces valuable, engaging content regularly, it’s much easier to ride out the slight disruptions of Google’s algorithm updates. With a content marketing team that stays ahead of the game and publishes great content that informs your visitors, you can remain a top result for the business you want to attract. Find out how a strategic content plan can insulate you from the ever-changing world of Google algorithms with a marketing consultation.