The BIG Google BERT update (and its impact on SEO)

Here we go again.

Another algorithm update from Google.

A big one this time.

An update to Rankbrain.

Google claims this is massive and will affect  1 in 10 searches.

Globally.

This is easily one of the biggest updates in the last 5 years.

This is the Google BERT update.

Formally, Google announced this on October 24, 2019 but it had already begun rolling out.

Let me clear your fear first:

This update does not penalize websites.

Phew!

That being said,

What is the new update?

As mentioned in the header, it is called BERT.

And as in a usual case, it is an acronym.

BERT stands for “Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers”.

Don’t panic on the term, I’ll explain.

“Transformers” here refer to processing words in relation to all the other words in a sentence, rather than one-by-one in order.

You see how big it is now, right?

All words will now be taken together to form a better meaning.

Words that actually represent USER INTENT.

That’s right.

This huge update is all about User Intent.

Users intent is basically based on personal interest.

Which makes it hard for search engines like Google to interpret.

I’ve already mentioned earlier that User Intent is one of the top SEO ranking factors.

And well, here is the proof!

BERT basically understands search query better.

Wait.

You may ask, “Google always focuses on improving search.

 So, is this such a big deal?”

Yes, it is.

I’ll explain how.

Google gets billions of searches EVERY DAY.

In that, about 15% of queries are new ones.

As in nobody has searched for those ever before.

Let me take a step back here.

What is Google Search?

It is basically the information that we want.

From websites that Google stores.

But Search differs from person to person, right?

There are cases where we may know what we want,

But not where to start from.

And hence use words  that may technically mean something else.

But conceptually mean what we want.

We search using words that we use in conversation.

Which may not accurately represent the words that you use to search.

And that is what BERT is for.

BERT is a significant improvement to how Google understand queries.

 It represents a big leap forward.

BERT is a deep learning algorithm related to natural language processing (NLP).

Don’t worry about the term.

BERT helps a machine to understand what words in a sentence mean contextually.

Google needs to match the query result as accurately as possible.

It has successfully done that till now.

But not completely.

What about words that fall into the above criteria?

Take the below example as given by Google.

Google Bert Pharmacy example

You see the difference in the results?

As you can see the query is more verbal-oriented that has been used for a Search.

And now Google can understand it.

Take another Google example.

Google BERT example

Amazing right?

Machines understanding human communication.

Now the next big question:

What should you do?

Google has also stated that there is nothing to optimize for with BERT.

But there’s no harm in checking :).

First, check if your site has been impacted by this.

How?

Login to Google Search Console (You can also check out my guide to New Search Console).

In the Search Results section of Performance,

Apply the proper date range.

Try – “Compare last 7 days to previous”.

search console compare date range

Scroll down and click on “Queries”.

You can see the terms and the difference in Search numbers.

search console compare query

Check the pages that have dropped in Search.

You have the pages, now what?

You have to re-work on the content.

Check the relation of the queries and the content of that page.

Eliminate multiple-meaning words and concepts.

Keep it accurate.

Use tools like SEMRush to improve the content.

Work on a plan to produce superior quality content.

Remember:

BERT is focused on understanding conversational queries.

Can you guess another area where BERT would be more useful?

Answer:

Voice Search

Yes, as you know, when we use Google Home for Search, our queries would be different.

Compared to typing it.

Verbal queries by definition tend to be conversational queries.

Again, BERT to the rescue.

Another area which will get impacted is:

Featured Snippet

With the Intent is getting recognized, lot of changes may happen with existing Featured Snippets.

BERT on eCommerce

So how does BERT affect eCommerce sites?

If you have noticed while browsing on such sites,

You will see many products with different attributes.

Like color, size, material, format etc.

Adidas shoes title

So, the product pages are where you need to work on.

Elaborate the products with attributes properly.

Why?

BERT now takes into account prepositions that were ignored earlier.

Like “with”, “on”, “,”in” etc.

Using prepositions is usually what a product title comprises of.

Xiaomi mobile product title

To render it unique.

How your product pages express these details is even more important now, with BERT.

 It’s an opportunity for you to optimize the descriptions of your top products with accurate content.


Conclusion

Needless to say, SEO is evolving.

Search is growing.

With BERT, Machines are closer to understanding human language.

But if you monitor properly and update the necessary changes,

This is a reason to update your content and bridge the gap.

Between queries and website pages.

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