BERT: The new Google update explained

Google have recently released a new update, “BERT” (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers). The purpose is to help Google understand the natural language, particularly within conversational search, a lot better. So, what exactly is BERT? Why have google said it is the ‘most important update in five years’? How will this update affect SEO? We will explore all this further in this article, and explain the fundamental purpose for BERT.

The BERT update will impact upon around 10% of queries, as well as featured snippets and organic rankings. However, BERT is not just a normal algorithm update, as it is also a research paper and what is known as a ‘machine learning natural language processing framework.’

In essence, the new update will focus on complicated search queries which depend on context. Google have said the following regarding the BERT update:

“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.”

This means that the BERT update will bring a deeper learning algorithm in regards to natural language processing, helping a machine better understand what the words in a sentence mean, as well as a better understanding of the use of context.

What does the BERT update mean in terms of SEO? Firstly, the update will not assist poorly written webpages. The update is mainly focused for on-page SEO, helping out with understanding context and pronouns, which have been historically quite a big issue. BERT is helped out with this due to the bi-directional nature of the update.

BERT also vastly improves search query understanding through analysing the search queries themselves, rather than the web page. This means that on-page SEO needs to be improved in terms of using precise wording, as poor writing may not be assisted with the BERT update.

The Bert update provides opportunities to bring in more accurate and relative content in relation to search queries, which allows for more traffic to content that is more structured, organised and focused.  This is a huge step in making Google more intuitive with the user and has great potential to build upon in the future.

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