Meet BERT - Google Releases New Update to Improve its Search Results

Google announced that it's been rolling out a new update called BERT. 

This new algorithm is designed to understand natural language queries better. According to the release, BERT will affect 1 in 10 search queries, which means it's one of the biggest Google updates of the last five years. In other words, your site will most likely be impacted.

What is the BERT Algorithm Update?

Following in the footsteps of Panda, Hummingbird, and RankBrain, BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) is a deep learning algorithm related to natural language processing. It helps a machine interpret an entire phrase or sentence to give searchers more accurate results. 

Here's Google's explanation of the update:

"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."

Before we dive into how the update will affect your site and the adjustments you'll need to make, let's take a look at BERT in action.

Let's say you search for "2019 brazil traveler to usa need visa."

Before BERT, the top result would be an article on how US citizens can travel to Brazil without a visa. The result after the BERT update is more relevant.

Here's one more example:

Pre-BERT, Google matched the word "stand" with "stand-alone," which was the incorrect version of the word for this search query. Thanks to BERT, Google interprets the query more accurately, showing an article focusing on the physical demands of the job. Google is also doing a better job interpreting the meaning of prepositions like "for" or "to."

So, What Does This Mean for Your SEO?

Google was quick to state that there is nothing to optimize for. In fact, the search engine's public Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, responded on Twitter and affirmed that BERT does not change anything on the content side of things.

Here's what he tweeted:

"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."

Our number one piece of advice? Don't optimize for BERT. Optimize your content for humans. 

Sites with tons of well-written, long-form content, will be the clear winners of this update. If your traffic is dropping, this creates an opportunity to create super-specific content around a topic.

Want to Improve Your SEO Rankings? Let Max Connect Help!

Our SEO specialists continuously analyze web analytics and search console performance reports to determine how each Google update impacts sites. Between technical SEO, optimized content, intuitive user experience, and keyword research, our digital marketing experts create a balanced SEO strategy so your business and website can thrive.

If your website needs an SEO audit or complete overhaul, contact Max Connect at (801) 260-2835, or send us an email at