Google’s BERT update and what it means for SEO


What exactly is the new algorithm update that Google has released and how will it affect your SEO?

Written By

Thomas Coughlan

Posted On

30 Oct 2019

Google announced last week that they have released their latest algorithm update – BERT. The update has been called the most important update in five years and will affect one in ten search queries. It will also be the largest change to Google search since Rankbrain was introduced in 2015. However, what is the update and will it affect you?

What is the BERT update?

The BERT update was released to help Google better understand the intent of search queries. Now, instead of looking on a word by word basis, the search engine is able to look at the entire phrase to provide more relevant results. Google said that this will allow users to “search in a way that feels more natural to you”. This means that prepositions like ‘to’, ‘no’ and ‘for’ which can change the meaning of a query, will be taken into account. As you can see in the image below, the results after BERT was introduced are more relevant to the user’s search

It is not only organic results that are going to be affected by the new update either. This will also affect featured snippets. The good thing about this update is that unlike previous updates, it will not focus on penalising anyone. However, websites with poor content will not be helped by the BERT update.

What does the update mean for your SEO?

Unlike previous algorithm updates, tracking tools did not notice big changes when BERT was rolled out. This is because they tend to track shorter queries whereas the BERT algorithm affects longer queries. Google has said that you are not going to be able to optimise your content for the new update. However, if you are writing good content for your users, this is an opportunity for Google to bring your site more relevant traffic.

You should already be creating content for your users rather than the search engine, and this new update reiterates this. By doing so, you are ‘optimising’ for the BERT update. Look at how your target audience is searching on Google and how they phrase their queries. You can then create content that answers their questions in a more natural way and is understandable for your users.

Let us know if you’ve seen any changes on your website since the BERT update.

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