Sesame Street Bert character and google results search field for BERT

SEO Alert: BERT Google's Algorithm Update

David Gibson

For those with an SEO hat on, any change to Google's search algorithm causes major anxiety. It's been a while since anything major like Panda or Penguin. This update called "BERT" is considered a significant Google update - affecting 10% of search results. The update, which began rolling out at the end of October, is a major artificial intelligence upgrad that introduces "context"... to extract clearer meaning and intent of the user searching. That is big. No longer is a query a series of individual keywords. Now, it's a sentence in which intent and meaning is derived from the context of the entire string and the relation between individual words.

Context is everything. We have so many words that are spelled exactly the same. Their definition can only be derived from the context of the other words in a sentence. Take the word "bank". You can rob a bank. You can also sit on a river bank and fish. More subtle example is 9 to 5, which has such a different meaning in our culture than 29 to 35. BERT gets this.


Example of BERT comparing before and after search results
source = Search Engine Land


Who... I mean, what is BERT?

BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. Why the need for the acronym, right? BERT is a neural network-based technique for natural language processing. It hunts for patterns in human language processing, and takes AI for language to the next level. 


Will BERT affect my SEO?

Many are seeing its effects. Especially content publishers. There are always winners and loosers, but if your content is well written and not overly written in a keyword centric dialect, you should be good. Likely better.


How do we optimize for BERT?

Most say you can't. I'd say that it's just increasingly important to have solid natural language content, titles, headlines, etc. If your headlines are rough keyword, keyword, keyword... then smooth those out.


More Reading About BERT and Google's Recent Updates