Google BERT update - The blog stack

Quick Guide to the Google BERT Update and Its Impact on SEO

Google recently announced one of its most important updates in the last 5 years- The BERT update, which apparently impacts 10% of search queries. Do you know what exactly BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) is and how it will affect SEO? Let’s find out.

In Google’s own words:

“These improvements are oriented around improving language understanding, particularly for more natural language/conversational queries, as BERT is able to help Search better understand the nuance and context of words in Searches and better match those queries with helpful results.

Particularly for longer, more conversational queries, or searches where prepositions like “for” and “to” matter a lot to the meaning, Search will be able to understand the context of the words in your query. You can search in a way that feels natural for you.”

What Exactly is BERT Algorithm?

According to Search algorithm patent expert Bill Slawski (@bill_slawski of @GoFishDigital):

“Bert is a natural language processing pre-training approach that can be used on a large body of the text. It handles tasks such as entity recognition, part of speech tagging, and question-answering among other natural language processes. Bert helps Google understand natural language text from the Web.

Google has open-sourced this technology, and others have created variations of BERT.”

BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) algorithm is a profound learning algorithm associated with natural language processing. It basically enables a machine to understand and grasp words from a sentence with all the nuances of context.

How BERT Impacts On-Page SEO?

According to expert Dawn Anderson (@dawnieando on Twitter)

“BERT and family improve the state of the art on 11 natural language processing tasks. Even beating human understanding since linguists will argue for hours over the part of speech a single word is.

But what if the focus of a page is very weak? Even humans sometimes will be like “what’s your point?” when we hear something.

And pronouns have been very problematic historically but BERT helps with this quite a bit. Context is improved because of the bi-directional nature of BERT.

There will still be lots of work for us to do since we need to emphasize the importance, utilize clear structures, help to turn unstructured data into semi-structured data, utilize cues on content light pages (e.g. image-heavy but not text-heavy eCommerce pages) using such things as internal linking.”

The BERT update enhances the understanding of Google for search queries. It examines search queries and not web pages. But just like Dawn said, on-page SEO now becomes even more significant in terms of using relevant ways. Poor and mediocre content might not be a big help by this update.

Since many on-page SEO Blogs and web pages are written with overly used focused keywords rather than the content, the natural language processing that makes BERT different will prevent the algorithm’s ability to pick up on this type of content. For customers and consumers, this is extremely good as the quality of the search query will increase and good content will be displayed. For many businesses that do not prioritize the quality of their content, the BERT update could become bad news.

Dawn Anderson also mentioned:

“It’s knocking human understanding out of the water in loads of natural language understanding tasks. BERT is like a WordPress plugin which is a starting point and then they customize it and improve it.

The word “rose” means several things but it’s exactly the same word. The context must accompany the word otherwise the word means nothing.”


May Be This Is Just Starting Of BERT

Dawn Anderson said:

“A researcher I know used BERT in his work with assistants, e.g. similar to Google Assistant, to test the use of clarifying questions. So it has many uses. It’s just a starting point.”

I asked:

“So you see this as one step in a long journey?”

And Dawn replied:

“Yes, but it’s a big step. Huge… It’s like a quantum leap huge.”

Dawn is correct. This is definitely an opportunity to attract more traffic with strong and relevant content that is organized and plagiarism free. The key is to make sure that your content is solid and original. While keywords will remain significant, they shouldn’t be your single priority. So, generate top quality content for the sake of your business.


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