Google’s New BERT Algorithm Update: Explained

3 min read

Avatar Sophie Rizan

15th November, 2019

Business advice,Digital Agency,News,SEO,Technical SEO

Just in case you didn’t know already, Google updates its search algorithm hundreds of times every year. This happens so Google can improve and continue to deliver and return the best possible and most relevant webpage results on its search engine results pages (SERPs) based on a user’s search query.

Most of these updates are so small that they sometimes go unnoticed and don’t cause drastic changes on search rankings. 

Core Google updates have recently occurred this year in March, June and September with this new BERT update happening at the tail-end of October, which is still currently being rolled out this month.

What Is Google’s BERT Algorithm Update?

This new BERT update now helps Google understand natural language better, especially in conversational search queries. 

This isn’t looking at changes in the way data is indexed or ranked, but rather, it’s all about how Google understands the context behind a search query and provide users with more relevant results.

BERT went live on 24th October 2019 and to start with, only US search results on Google.com were affected. Other countries’ indexes will be updated on a gradual basis and there is no fixed timeline. 

The update will also be rolled out for Google’s featured snippets, which appear above organic search results and is already being used in all 25 languages.

In total, the update will affect around 10% of search queries, so it’s no small change!

What Does BERT Actually Mean?

Did you know that BERT isn’t just known as a Google algorithm update? 

BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers and is also a research paper and a machine learning natural language processing (NLP) framework. 

This means that Google is working even more towards being able to interpret the complexity of natural human language in order to understand users’ search queries and return them the best and most relevant results.

Despite it all being about how a machine learns a human language, it is still built on mathematical models called Transformers. These analyse words in search queries in relation to all other words in order to understand the user intent or context as opposed to just analysing keywords in isolation.

This means that Google will better understand what you’re searching for as a whole, rather than translating words separately.

Why Is The BERT Update So Important?

According to Google, around 15% of search queries are new, which means that they are getting more and more sophisticated, natural and closer to human communication. Users are using the same keywords in a search query. We’re basically just saying and/or typing what we need to know and ask. We’re now talking and typing to machines as if they were humans, so they need to understand this. 

Not only are search queries more complex, but they’re also getting longer and more often in the form of long sentences and questions. 

Again, 70% of search queries are long-tail, which requires Google to understand long queries and return precise answers. BERT now makes up a significant part of this technology to make this possible.

Optimising For Google’s BERT Update

What’s important is that part of your SEO strategy includes a regular content audit, which will help your site remain relevant, sound natural and answer the queries that bring people to your content. 

Google’s mantra is all about delivering the right content for the right searches, so trying to game the system, keyword stuff or over-optimise articles is a technique that is even further in the past with BERT.

How Can Digital Ethos Help?

The team at Digital Ethos understand that Google is constantly changing and updating their algorithms. We ensure that we adapt our approaches to these changes and we’d like to let all of our clients know that we always keep a close eye on your SEO campaigns and keyword movements. We always measure results to make informed decisions so our clients don’t experience a knee-jerk reaction to their campaign.

If you have any queries (not search ones!) with regards to this Google algorithm update, please don’t hesitate to contact us today or call us on 0333 772 0189.

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