Google describes the new update algorithm called the Google BERT update as “one of the greatest breakthroughs in the search history.” It’s not really.
To SEO authors and content creators, the change, known as BERT, is a good thing.
To appreciate why, let’s boil down to SEO-focused web marketers ‘ seven most relevant BERT takeaways.
What is BERT?
If you’re used to messages from Google that look more like cute animals and less like characters from Sesame Street, you’re not alone. BERT is an unusual name because it is an acronym for a new technology that Google’s AI team has created. The terminology is particularly nerdy: Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers.
For a short time, you can see why they call it BERT. Google is using this technique at its heart in order to better understand what is known as natural language processing or NLP.
In terms of layman, BERT is here to help Google understand language and articulate it more like a human being and less like a robot. BERT is used to train the search function of Google to understand the meanings and search query contexts which is a good thing for SEO writers.
Don’t change your existing practices
Here’s the good news: there’s absolutely no reason to think about BERT, and you have a huge reason to celebrate if you create natural user-friendly content.
In the past, an update to Google’s algorithm sent the SEO community into utter chaos as Google was extremely vague about some of the updates, causing traffic loss to websites at an alarming rate.
This time it’s not happening.
The aim of the BERT update is to do only one thing and one thing: make it easier for users to search on Google more easily and get more relevant results based on those searches.
While writing content that appears in search essentially means adapting your content to the way people search, you will obviously feel more comfortable writing, particularly when looking for longer, more conversational keywords and phrases.
Ultimately, you don’t have to do anything but keep writing in a natural way. Are you not sure yet?
BERT is all about understanding the Context
If you want to appreciate what BERT really is about, the core of this update is summarized by two words: meaning and its context.
BERT’s technology allows Google to better understand search queries in their entirety rather than as a string of words.
When looking for something, people sometimes type long strings of words into Google. Each of these words are usually understood independently by Google’s AI before BERT.
Today, Google is doing a decent job of understanding the words as they refer to each other. Here’s a great example from the official BERT site of Google.
Let’s say you think you’re functioning as an esthetician, but you’re worried about how long you might be able to stand on your feet.
You go to Google and type in “The estheticians stand at work a lot.” In that sentence, let’s concentrate on the word “stand.” “Up” can mean a lot: you should stand up. A lemonade stand can be opened. You should set up a microphone stand.
Being people, of course, we know that the searcher means “standing on one’s feet” in the sense of the case. Google did not understand this before BERT. This compared the word “stand” to “stand alone,” which clearly has nothing to do with the searcher’s search for.
BERT understandings prepositions better!
You might like this little perspective for all of you word nerds: BERT helps You better understand prepositions like “for” and “to”–perhaps the most complex and confusing pieces of English. Though small, prepositions can change the meaning of a sentence.
BERT only affects one in 10 searches now, (mostly) limited to U.S. English
If in the essay you’ve come up this far, you shouldn’t be too concerned about BERT. But if you’re still nervous, there’s something else to make you feel comfortable: BERT is being used for one out of every 10 searches right now. This means that 90% of searches are still returning results without the input of BERT.
For fact, BERT is used only in the U.S. Unless you work in a different language or are based outside of the United States in an English-speaking country, you won’t see much (for now) improvement at all. Of course, after this initial testing period, Google plans to roll out BERT in a larger way, but assuming it works as they think it will, it’s going to be a good thing.
BERT works on featured snippets and non-English languages as well
Google hasn’t said how BERT is used to boost featured snippets, but believing it’s close to what BERT is doing overall is safe: delivering more relevant results based on a search query background.
BERT makes its international debut in the two dozen countries where excerpts are already available when it comes to featured snippets.
Google is on a mission to eliminate keyword ese
Google refers to a phenomenon known as “keyword-ese” in its official blog post on BERT. What is it? Essentially, it’s the vague jargon that users often use in attempting to get Google to understand what they’re talking about.
For example, let’s go back to the aestheticians example above. If you weren’t happy with the results of “do estheticians stand a lot at work,” you may re-enter the quest as, “do estheticians stand a lot at work on their feet.” The second sentence may give you the answers you like, but it’s not necessarily a normal way of writing.
Yet Google knows that from time to time you are still going to stump Google. Google’s people know that, of course, but it means BERT is just another step in the long march to making the web experience more real.
That’s a lot of it. If there is one thing you should take away as a SEO writer from the BERT report, this is: Google WANTS you to write a user-friendly, realistic content. It wants you to write with the reader in mind, not with Google.
Hey, the keywords are still valid. But thanks to BERT, writers can worry less about forcing into their content awkward keywords and phrases just to appease the gods of Google.
And it’s a good thing.