post by Stephanie Nelson
Google recently announced that it’s in the process of implementing a major algorithm update. This “BERT” update is said to affect results for one in ten queries. That’s a lot. So here are a few details on what we know so far to help you understand what’s going on.
- BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. At the end of the day, that’s just a fancy way of saying that Google is working even harder than ever to make its algorithm understand what you’re ACTUALLY searching for.
- In the past, when you entered a query, the algorithm picked out what it deemed to be “important words”, and that’s what your results were based on. With the BERT update, all words will be analyzed in an effort to keep context AND intent encompassed in the results.
- An example of how BERT works used in Google’s announcement was the word “bank.” It could be meant as where money is kept or the sides of a river. Prior to the BERT update, searches for “bank account” could have the same results as searches for “bank of the river” because the algorithm would have deemed “bank” the “important” word. Now that all of the words in the query will be analyzed, these two searches will bring back very different results.
- So what should one to do optimize for BERT? Well, this one isn’t really an update to optimize for. The best thing you can do is write clear, concise content that people want to read. Providing value-based content has always been the best policy, but in this instance, it also seems to be what will be rewarded most.