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2019 Google BERT Update

What You Need to Know

I admit it – I’m a keyword-based, shortcut, acronym, I’m-smarter-than-Google kind of Internet user. For years now my searches have only contained the keywords that I know will be effective in finding what I want. 

With the new BERT update, I will no longer do that, and neither will you. Right? With this update you can type your queries using the exact same words you might use to phrase your question verbally, and Google will be able to use those ”filler” words to better understand your query. 

What is the BERT Update?

BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. It won’t mean much to us mere mortals, but it’s actually the result of years of diligent research and analysis by Google.

Essentially, what BERT does is introduce a higher level of sophistication when interpreting the filler words used in user queries.

If you remember from your 8th grade English class, prepositions such as “to” and “for” serve a critical purpose in our language. Prepositions show the relationship between a noun or a pronoun and some other word or element in the rest of the sentence. They help to discern the subject and object of a sentence, which then reveals the intended meaning.

The order of the words is also important, and factors heavily in the BERT algorithm update.

That’s where the “transformer” part of the acronym come into play. A transformer is a data analysis model (an algorithm) whereby every word in a request is compared to every other word in the request, rather than interpreting each word in sequential order. 

An Example of BERT at Work

If a user types “2019 Brazil traveler to USA need a visa” as their search query, Google can potentially interpret the sentence in the following ways:

  • A person from the USA needing a visa to travel to Brazil
  • A Brazilian traveler who needs a visa to travel to the USA

It is the word “to” that holds the key to understanding the query. It shows the direction and intent of the traveler. They are traveling “to” the USA, not the other way around. From that the algorithm deduces that the user is seeking  information on a visa to stay in the USA, not a visa to stay in Brazil. 

Does the BERT Update Affect Me?

Google claims that this update will improve around 1 in 10 search query results. There are over 5.6 Billion searches per day, which means that 560 Million searches will be improved with this update. That’s a lot more happy Googlers!

How it Affects Your SEO

If your organic SEO strategy for the past few years has been to keyword stuff, you haven’t done any on-page optimization, and your site content is thin – you’re in deep trouble. There’s no sugarcoating in these blog posts.

On the other hand, if you’ve been following our advice, and have been focusing on keeping your content “natural” in tone, posting regularly and often, and offering information that is unique – you’ll be fine.

I’m guessing you may need some help with the transition. 

As an Internet user, your job is now to remember to compose your queries as naturally as you would speak. If you want to know how to DIY drywall, you want your query to be something like:

How do i hang drywall at home
Do i need a professional to hang drywall
Hanging your own drywall

Can you now see how the user intention is clear in these examples?

You don’t even need a question mark, because Google knows that the word “how” indicates that the query is a question. The word “home” helps to clarify that this is a DIY question, and the word “I” helps clarify that it is the actual homeowner who is asking.

But, if you pride yourself on your grammar skills and would like to keep using the question mark, go right ahead. It won’t affect the result. 

Weidenhammer has experienced SEO experts who can tune your website for maximum performance.

Give us a call and find out all of the ways we can help get you ranking for your important keywords, and way to keep you competitive as the technology changes.

This blog was written by Andrew Woodward, Digital Marketing Specialist.