Google Update BERT: Top Things You Must Know in 2020

By | January 6, 2020

Here we go again — there has been another Google algorithm update. In October 2019, the world’s dominant search engine introduced the BERT algorithm, leaving many in advertising curious as to what BERT is, and how it will impact marketing, advertising & search results now?

Read on to find out everything you need to know about the latest Google algorithm update.

What is the BERT Algorithm?

BERT — Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers — is a neural network-based technique that facilitates a natural language processing (NLP) pre-training approach. In layman’s terms, BERT helps Google get a better understanding of the context of user search queries.

This deep learning algorithm uses the context and relationship between all the words in a sentence, rather than one-by-one in sequential order.

It’s quite obvious that this query seeks to find out if a traveler from Brazil needs a visa to enter the USA in 2019. In the past, Google would omit stop words like “to” and “for,” which would change the meaning of the query.

BERT takes everything into account, so that it deciphers the true meaning, and returns the most relevant, accurate results for the query.

This is a big step forward from Google, as BERT marks the most significant change to the search algorithm since RankBrain made its debut in 2015.

When was the BERT Google Algorithm Update Released?

The BERT update was released on October 24, 2019. However, the influence of the latest Google algorithm update is yet to be analyzed globally.

Testing on U.S. organic search results indicates that BERT affects one in ten results. It is due to be rolled out in other countries soon.

While organic search results are set for a gradual transition, BERT is already in action for 25 languages of Featured Snippets.

What’s New About BERT Compared to the Previous Google Algorithm

BERT is the newest Google algorithm update in a long succession of changes that the company has made to improve its systems. In the past, some of the major updates include:

  • Panda – Originally known as Farmer, the Panda update was incorporated into the existing Google Algorithm in 2011.
  • Hummingbird – Released in 2013, Hummingbird allowed Google to interpret entire phrases rather than focusing on individual words.
  • RankBrain – The 2015 Google algorithm update enabled the system to process search queries that had multiple meanings, including colloquialisms, dialogues, and neologisms.

 So, how is BERT different?

The BERT update allows Google to understand “text-cohesion” and determine between phrases and sentences, specifically where polysomic nuances could potentially alter the contextual meaning of words.

How BERT Gives Google a Better Understanding of Search Queries

Google uses BERT to analyze search queries. The algorithm update improves Google’s understanding of context, especially with longer queries. In a time when long-tail keywords and questions are more common — because of the rise in voice search queries — it’s vital that Google knows what users want.

Here are a couple of examples to demonstrate how BERT will help Google provide more relevant results in the future:

Example 1: “Parking on a hill with no curb”

Before BERT, Google would analyze this query with more emphasis on the word curb, and it would overlook the word no. With the Google algorithm update, the search engine now considers every word, ensuring you get the results you want.

Example 2: “do aestheticians stand a lot at work”

Before, Google took the approach of matching keywords. This query may have yielded results with the term “stand-alone,” even though that isn’t the correct use of the word stand from the original query.  With BERT, Google will know the word stand relates to the concept of the physical demands of the job in question.

How Does BERT Affect Search Queries?

To get a sense of how this Google algorithm update will affect user search queries in the future, we need to break it down to consider various elements of the algorithm.

  • Pre-training from unlabeled text – BERT is the first NLP framework that is pre-trained on pure plain text instead of on labeled corpora. This training was conducted through unsupervised learning.
  • Bi-directional contextual models – True contextual understanding is only possible when you can see all the words in a sentence at the same time — giving you the understanding of how every word impacts the other words in the sentence. As a machine, Google has historically struggled with this context — until now.
  • Transformer Architecture – Reinforcing the point above, the use of transformer architecture allows Google to analyze each word in relation to the other words in a search query. Without this, the query could have an ambiguous meaning.
  • Masked Language Modeling – By design, the BERT architecture will analyze sentences that have some words randomly masked out. It then attempts to predict what the “hidden” word is correctly, and factor that into its determination of the search query intent.
  • Textual entailment (next sentence prediction) – One of the most exciting features of BERT is its ability to predict what you will say (or type) next.

 
With such changes in its algorithm, it seems inevitable that another cornerstone of modern marketing will undergo a shift. We’re talking about search engine optimization.

How Does the Google Algorithm Update BERT Affect SEO?

SEO is always changing, and this latest change by Google is sure to have an impact. One thing for sure is that BERT will not help any poorly-written websites.

As BERT focuses on query evaluation at the phrase or sentence level, content creators should use more long-tail terms in their content.

More importantly, you should create in-depth content that explores topics in greater detail, offering valuable information to your audience. Doing this provides BERT with more information to analyze so that it can determine the context of your content.

How Does Google BERT Affect Content Marketing?

Now that Google is working harder to discern the context and intent of user search queries, content marketers must ensure they deliver higher quality content that is relevant for their target readers.

BERT is a huge step forward in the development of search engines, and so companies need to get in line if they are to generate a positive return on investment (ROI) from their content marketing efforts.

Content writers must write for people — not search engines. With the latest Google algorithm update, your content should be more “human,” using the terms, tone, and language that closely correlates with your audience.

During the training process for BERT, the model was given a pair of sentences so it could learn to predict whether the second sentence was the subsequent sentence from the original document.

As voice search and mobile use continue to grow, people demand faster, more accurate answers to their questions. Google is evolving to figure out user intent and to focus on delivering results for that rather than for the precise keywords that the user entered.

How Does the BERT Google Algorithm Update Impact Your Website?

Have you seen your organic traffic slump, especially when it comes to Featured Snippets and voice search? The chances are that BERT has hit you hard.

Without a doubt, voice search is one of the most significant developments in SEO and digital marketing for the past few years. As technology advances, it will become even more crucial.

The release of the BERT update shows Google is serious about nurturing voice SEO and technology, as it is all about delivering better contextual search results.

This Google update is all about content focus and user intent, so some technical changes like page speed and design are unlikely to turn things around.

Instead, you must look to improve the quality of your content, so that it is more current, comprehensive, relevant, and actionable. You can use Audience Mapping to ensure your content strategy always has the target audience in mind.

How Advertisers Can Take Advantage of BERT

As BERT will affect SEO and content marketing, we can surely expect it also to cause waves in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. After all, your PPC ads rely on keywords and user intent too.

PPC advertisers should focus more on Dynamic Search Ads, as this option leverages Google’s artificial intelligence (AI) to create relevant ads depending on the search query automatically. Over time, as you gather more consumer data, these dynamic ads will work well with BERT to help you drive ROI on your PPC campaign.

Another potential benefit of BERT for PPC advertising is that the model can be applied to other languages. So, say you had a successful PPC campaign for an English market. Google can learn from this success to improve featured snippet results in many other countries and languages, making the search engine system more effective in Chinese, Korean, Hindi, and Spanish, among other languages.

Myths about Google’s BERT Algorithm

Since the new Google algorithm update was released, there has been a lot of speculation about its impact and what it really means for marketing and advertising. Here are a couple of myths you should know about:

After BERT, you should optimize your site for long-tail queries only

BERT is all about helping Google understand what users mean when they enter search queries, so it can connect users with the specific solutions they need online. As a content creator, you don’t need only to use long-tail keywords. You can continue to mix short and long keywords. It’s more important to work on the quality and context of your content than to worry about the length of your keywords.

The effect of BERT is small and insignificant

It hasn’t been long since BERT was rolled out, and already the latest update from Google impacts 10% of search queries in the U.S. Over time, this will grow, which means a lot of traffic will be directed to the right pages they need.

Wrap Up

So, Google is getting smarter. In the age of AI, automation, and voice search optimization, marketers need to respond by getting smarter about their content creation.

Unlike any other Google algorithm update, BERT gives the search engine a better chance of understanding what people mean, even when they use complex or confusing phrases. This change is great news for users, and it throws the baton down for content marketers, SEO professionals, and PPC advertisers.

Companies need to adopt a customer-centric attitude that encourages more useful, relevant web pages and paid ads, which are laser-focused on delivering the information and results that people want to find.

Now that BERT is here, how will you improve your content and ad copy in 2020?

What is the BERT Algorithm?

BERT — Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers — is a neural network-based technique that facilitates a natural language processing (NLP) pre-training approach. In layman’s terms, BERT helps Google get a better understanding of the context of user search queries.

When was the BERT Google Algorithm Update Released?

The BERT update was released on October 24, 2019. However, the influence of the latest Google algorithm update is yet to be analyzed globally.
Testing on U.S. organic search results indicates that BERT affects one in ten results. It is due to be rolled out in other countries soon.

How BERT Gives Google a Better Understanding of Search Queries

Google uses BERT to analyze search queries. The algorithm update improves Google’s understanding of context, especially with longer queries. In a time when long-tail keywords and questions are more common — because of the rise in voice search queries — it’s vital that Google knows what users wan

How Does the Google Algorithm Update BERT Affect SEO?

SEO is always changing, and this latest change by Google is sure to have an impact. One thing for sure is that BERT will not help any poorly-written websites

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