Google has described its new algorithm update as one of the biggest leaps forward in the history of search. And while that might sound pretty scary, it’s actually not all that bad. This update, known as BERT, is good news for content creators and SEO writers. Let’s take a closer look at why, by examining some of the facts about BERT.
What does BERT mean?
If you’re used to different types of names for Google updates – Panda or Penguin, anyone? – then you’re not alone. BERT isn’t quite the name you’d expect for an algorithm update from Google because it’s an acronym for a new type of technology from Google’s AI team: Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. So, you can see why it’s been shortened to BERT because that is a bit of a mouthful. BERT’s purpose is to help Google understand language and phrasing more like a human and less like a robot. It teaches Google’s search function to better understand and interpret the nuances and context of search queries, which is a very good thing for SEO writers.
There’s no reason to change anything:
The good news is that there’s no reason why you should worry about BERT – in fact, if you write or create natural copy, it’s a reason to celebrate. In the past, Google algorithm updates have sent the SEO world spiraling into chaos because Google has been notoriously mysterious about them, but this isn’t going to happen this time. The BERT update aims to make it easier for users to search Google more naturally and receive more relevant results.
Since writing copy that’s going to have a higher chance of showing up in search results usually means trying to match your copy to the way that people search, copywriters should feel more comfortable writing naturally – particularly when aiming for longer phrases and more conversational keywords. There’s nothing that you need to do other than keep on writing in a natural way.
Context is important:
If you want to get a better understanding of what BERT is all about, context sums it up. And, it’s no surprise – context is hugely important in pretty much everything that we do and say. BERT’s technology helps Google get a better understanding of search queries as a whole rather than a string of words – often people will type long strings of words into Google when searching for something, and prior to BERT, Google’s AI would normally interpret each of these words individually. Thanks to BERT, Google now does a better job of understanding the words as they relate to one another.
BERT gives Google a better understanding of prepositions:
BERT is helping Google get a better understanding of prepositions like ‘to’ and ‘for’; words that are arguably the most confusing and nuanced parts of the English language. Although they may be small, prepositions can have a huge effect on the meaning of a sentence and can even alter it completely. As a result of this greater understanding of prepositions, Google can bring up more relevant results for users.
BERT is limited for now:
If you’re still feeling a little anxious about BERT and what it means for your website, then you’ll be glad to hear that right now, BERT is only being tested on one of every ten searches – 90% of searches are still returning results without BERT’s input. And, BERT is only currently used on U.S. English search results, so if you’re working in a different language or based in an English-speaking country outside of the U.S., you’re not going to see much change at all, at least for now.
BERT’S going to help Google get rid of keyword-ese:
In an official blog post where Google talks about BERT, a phenomenon known as ‘keyword-ese’ is referred to. Essentially, this is the awkward language and phrasing that people often use when they are trying to get Google to understand what they’re trying to say. BERT’s purpose is to help make it easier for users to get the results that they want in Google without having to write unnaturally.
BERT will help improve international SEO:
BERT is programmed to spot linguistic patterns in multiple languages, as there are a lot of patterns in one language that will translate into other languages. There’s a possibility that a lot of the learning could be transferred to other languages, even if BERT does not fully understand the language itself.
Can you optimize your content for BERT?
The answer, in short, is probably not. Google work is a framework for a better understanding of natural content – it does not judge content but rather better understands what is out there. For instance, Google BERT might understand more and then find pages that are over-optimized, which could then be impacted by Panda, for example, because BERT realizes that a particular page was not actually relevant for a specific search query. So rather than optimizing content for BERT, you’re much better off writing naturally in the first place.
What exactly does BERT mean for online marketers?
While it’s too early to know for certain how BERT is going to play out, certain things do seem quite likely. Testing and updating content is going to be essential; as with all Google algorithm updates, it’s advisable to audit your existing content to see whether there have been any major changes. And, the way the algorithm works means that Google is likely to continue increasingly giving privilege to content that is on point and as relevant as possible to the searchers’ needs. This means that content that tends to talk around the point, rather than addressing the questions or requirements of visitors directly, isn’t likely to rank well.
There have been some worries that human writers are going to be replaced by computer-generated alternatives thanks to the rise in AI-assisted searching, but BERT demonstrates the opposite; its main purpose is to filter out high-quality human writing from low-quality, nonsensical or irrelevant content.
Google’s latest algorithm update may be alarming for some but will also inspire others to create even better content.