Why Google’s Algorithm Update, BERT, Isn’t That Scary After All
Google’s new BERT algorithm update began rolling out last week. It’s the biggest algorithm update since RankBrain. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, check out my post that goes over the different algorithm updates with a nifty little infographic.
Generally, RankBrain is thought to be one of Google’s biggest algorithm updates that really changed the game for how the search engine understood queries and returned relevant results dependant upon conversational tones and keywords. To give you an idea of the size of this, RankBrain was 5 years ago. This kind of algorithm update doesn’t come along every day.
About the BERT Algorithm Update
What Is BERT?
BERT has the same goal as RankBrain and most other algorithm updates: to make results more relevant to exactly what the user is searching for. BERT focuses on long-tail keywords and delivering answers within context. It uses artificial intelligence to respond to natural language more effectively. BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, named after the technology Google used to create the system. Basically, it’s about processing words in relation to other the other words in a query, rather than on their own.
What Kinds of Google Searches Will BERT affect?
Google says BERT will impact 10% of queries, which sounds small but think of how many times in a day you use Google, even for just quick searches. It’s possible that you’ve already experienced the changes without realizing it and that you’ve gotten better results because of it.
Examples Of BERT
For example, for the query “parking on a hill with no curb”, before BERT, Google would see the word curb and place the emphasis on the word “curb”, giving you results about parking with a curb. With BERT, Google will recognize the order of the words and realize that “no curb” is the important part and that those two words together in that order fundamentally change the meaning of the search. Google will now give you results about parking without a curb, which is what you were looking for to begin with.
Why BERT’s Not That Scary
Yes, algorithm changes are daunting. You don’t always know how they will affect your site and if it will be negative. But it seems that we shouldn’t be scared of BERT; maybe we should even welcome it because it means we’ll get better search results as Google users, and so will our customers. When our customers come upon our website because your site answers their exact question perfectly, they’re more likely to stick around. In essence, it helps us to get higher quality traffic, which is more likely to lead to conversions.
Will Rankings Drop?
So how do you prevent a drop in rankings now that BERT is here? Well, according to Google, you don’t need to or perhaps they mean, you can’t. There’s no way to optimize for BERT. The best thing to do is to keep making good content. As long as your content answers the questions people are asking, you’re in good shape! Make sure you’re continuing to do keyword research and answering specific questions that people are asking. For more broad keywords, you probably won’t see a big change in your rankings.
There's nothing to optimize for with BERT, nor anything for anyone to be rethinking. The fundamentals of us seeking to reward great content remain unchanged.— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) October 28, 2019
In summation, BERT is probably a good thing, as long as you have a great website with high-quality content. If you don’t have good content, you probably already know that you need to fix that. If you have questions about BERT and how it could affect your SEO, you can always contact us.