Hold the phone! Google has finally released details on its latest overhaul to its algorithm software. It goes by the friendly name of BERT. It’s been described by Google as their biggest update for five years and it’s stirring a lot of chatter in the world of SEO. BERT is sure to be one of the biggest Google Updates 2019 will see. If you’re new to this world then don’t hesitate to check out our previous post, SEO BASICS: 3 THINGS YOU MUST KNOW, to get yourself clued up.
In this post we’ll be talking you through what’s new with this update and try to elucidate some of that confusing jargon surrounding the issue. SEO is complex, but we at Monumental Marketing, an SEO agency in London, are here to help you understand. Just think of us of your fairy godmother of SEO, sweetie.
First things first, let’s be clear about what BERT is. As friendly as this Bert chap sounds, the title is, of course, an acronym. BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. This jargon may sound rather confusing, but in layman’s terms it simply means Google is getting a bit more conversational. The ‘bidirectional’ part of BERT means that Google no longer has to analyse each individual word in a search query separately. Updates to the software mean that the query can be interpreted by Google as a whole phrase, so that more sense can be made of it.
A keyword here is ‘context’. Many search queries are more complicated than one might think, because phrases rely on their context to make exact sense. For example, the word ‘bear’ has 5 different definitions as a verb and 3 as a noun. With the help of BERT, Google will now be able to determine more easily which definition is meant, by better assessing the context of the query. This should help Google users to stop using what has been termed as “keyword-ese”. When a user’s initial query doesn’t return the correct results, the next port of call is often to rephrase it in an unnatural way. In a blog for Google, Pandu Nayak stated that, “In fact, [rephrasing is] one of the reasons why people often use “keyword-ese,” typing strings of words that they think we’ll understand, but aren’t actually how they’d naturally ask a question.” BERT will remove the need for this, making Google search a more user-friendly experience.
Another important facet of BERT lies in its ability to interpret prepositions such as ‘for’ and ‘to’. These are words that are common to us in general speech, but are actually quite difficult linguistically for software to understand. Google is focused on allowing users to interact with its services as though they were dealing with a person. BERT, one of the most tectonic Google Updates for 2019, is a key step in this direction.
That’s the burning question that’s on the lips of the SEO aficionados out there. Well, here’s the tea. BERT only analyses search queries, it does not crawl webpages. So, there’s no need to get your panties in a bunch – your site’s rankings aren’t going to be doing backflips. SEO wiz Danny Sullivan has confirmed this:
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
On top of this, BERT is currently only functioning with U.S. English. For those of you living outside the States, you needn’t be concerned just yet.
However, it is worth noting that Google is becoming more wise to the quality of written content. As BERT-like software becomes incorporated into site-crawling software, it will become even more imperative that the grammar of web content is impeccable. Currently, Google updates like this are more concerned with improving search functions like ‘featured snippets’, which provide targeted answers to search queries. The bottom line is, BERT is a big change, but no cause for panic in regards to SEO.
We hope this blog had been illuminating for you. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions.
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