Understanding Google BERT & How it Impacts Your Business

By Boost Social Media Managing Director
Elisha Fiorentino

The introduction of Google’s new algorithm named BERT has set tongues wagging. Not simply because BERT is honestly a hilarious name, but because it’s one of the most monumental upgrades Google in the past five years. The last extensive upgrade was the addition of RankBrain (part of Google’s main algorithm that teaches computers to self-learn).

This article will explain the basics about:

  • What is BERT?
  • How the algorithm will affect search queries?
  • What does the introduction of Bert mean for your SEO?
  • What changes you need to make

What’s BERT?

Short for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transforms, Bert has been created to understand natural language patterns, essentially processing the way humans actually speak.

How the algorithm will affect search queries

Google is already making changes. The first language to experience BERT is English since it is spoken by 360 million people. Google has it will affect approximately 1 in 10 search queries. You may have already seen the results yourself, but not know it was Google in action.

BERT UpdateTake the above search: Where can I watch. It tries to predict what you are going to type next based on the most common searches. As you keep typing, it will keep throwing up suggestions. This has been happening for some time and I know you’re thinking so what?
But what happens to the search results when taking into consideration the BERT algorithm.

An example Google provided was a search for a Brazilian traveller needing a visa to visit the USA. Now before Bert, Google would have trouble understanding the correct context and you would be served up mixed results including USA citizens travelling to Brazil, visa requirements for US citizens and so forth. Now with BERT and the introduction of Natural Language Processing (NLP), Google has better comprehension and is able to distinguish between words like going to and going from.

With the introduction of BERT, there will also be changes to featured snippets
An example of a featured snippet.

Before Bert, if you searched parallel parking uphill, Google would have served up results about parallel parking, ignoring the ‘without a curb’ or ‘on a hill’ part of the sentence. So as you can see the silver lining of introducing BERT is going to mean you’re going to get much more relevant results.

The bad news is when searching on Google, users are getting ultra-specific with search queries, which means badly written content or lack of content won’t cut the mustard. Most SEO experts will encourage you to put time and effort into developing long-form content, but Google looks at quality, not how many words.

If your content on your website isn’t up to scratch, you may notice web traffic starts to drop off, or you no longer appear on the first page of search results. It’s important to remember it’s not simply SEO that will keep your website ranking, Google takes an all-encompassing approach. It looks at your Google reviews, your Google My Business account, your social channels, your content, and your SEO.