How to Understand Bert, Google’s Latest Algorithm

By Chris Roberts


Category: SEO

Google’s latest algorithm update, Bert, was announced in October 2019. The goal of Bert is very straightforward: It is going to help Google understand natural language – the language people use to communicate with one another, as opposed to an artificial language created for computers.

“Understanding intent is fundamentally about understanding language, and is a critical aspect of Search”says Google.

The name for the algorithm stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers – don’t worry if it sounds too complicated to you. In this article, we are going to guide you to understand the concept behind Google’s latest algorithm – a system used to retrieve information from a search query.

Why Is an Algorithm so Important to Google?

Let’s start by determining what Google Algorithms are in the first place. Millions of users search for information daily, and even a previously non-existent verb, Google is now officially in the Oxford English Dictionary. Sometimes there are thousands or millions of web pages that have information regarding a specific query, and Google not only finds relevant pages but sorts and organizes them. For finding related webpages and arranging them, Google uses a series of search algorithms. If there were no algorithms, Google would be just a chaos of millions of web pages, where chances of finding the most relevant information would be much lower than it is today. It’s the same as going to a library without a sorting system; you’d end up digging through hundreds of books to find the one you need. And would you even see it? Google’s latest updates regularly monitor websites and their content to give the best results to users and to make sure they find what they need.

Why Should We Care About the New Algorithm?

First of all, if you want your website to appear on the first page of relevant search results, we must make sure your website ranks high. When users search for something, the results are organized from most relevant to least relevant content, and this is what is called ranking. To make sure your web page ranks, we optimize your web page for search engines like Google. Although the exact algorithms are unrevealed to the general public, we know most of the primary factors Google uses for ranking the pages, like content quality and relevance, content length, page speed, user experience, and other technical aspects of your page. So, is Bert going to affect rankings? As soon as the update was announced, the internet got filled with articles that talked about optimizing for the new algorithm. However, Danny Sullivan from Google posted the following on Twitter:

“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.” – wrote Sullivan.

Despite his tweet, SEO experts and website owners claim the algorithm does change the ranking, and it affects 1 in 10 search queries according to Google itself. Then, as a response to these controversies, Danny Sullivan tweeted again:

“My answer was that BERT doesn’t change the fundamentals of what we’ve long said: write content for users.  You or anyone working with clients have long been able to say this is what we say.

Understanding Bert and How It Impacts the Search Results

We came to an understanding that both Google and SEO experts are right: The algorithm will affect search queries, but there is nothing to optimize for Bert. But how? Just like we said at the beginning of the article, the goal of Bert is to help Google understand the natural language. The answer to the controversy is hidden behind the term, “natural language.” As we already said, by the natural language, we mean the language people use to communicate. And with the new algorithm, Google tries to better understand the intention of the user behind the search, rather than specific words in a sentence.

The broader the keyword is, the harder for Google to understand the intent. For example, if someone searches information about Form 12203, which is a Request to Appeal an IRS Audit, there is an implied intent in this query. This person may, of course, be curious about how this form looks or is a law student who is learning about it. However, chances are there is an implied intent when looking as a lawyer. Google may return information about how to appeal an IRS audit and how to find a tax attorney, or perhaps, they are looking for the mailing address, instructions, or the PDF itself. Bert wants to better understand the intent and implied needs of the searcher so that Google returns more relevant results to the user. It is also designed to help Google better understand the intentions behind the longer and more conversational type of queries that have prepositions essential to form the meaning of the search.

“Particularly for longer, more conversational queries, or searches where prepositions like “for” and “to” matter a lot to the meaning. The 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.”Said Google.

Understanding what users want should be the main priority in the search process. Today, there is almost no topic, issue, or subject that isn’t online. And when users don’t see what they are searching for on the first page, it’s not because it’s not available online, it’s because of the possible miscommunication between the user and the search engine. And that is why Google wants to understand our language better.

Is Bert Going to Affect Your Ranking?

Just like Sullivan said, if the content is relevant to a search query, the website is optimized for the search engine, it loads fast, and everything is in good shape, your ranking shouldn’t be affected by the latest algorithm update. As we understand, your web page ranking will be changed only when Google analyzes the intention of the user’s search and it isn’t connected to your website as much as it is to another page that will rank better in a specific query.

In conclusion, while Google is trying to improve its search engine to deliver relevant content to users better, your goal should be creating and providing content to users that will solve issues and help them understand specific problems or topics. We should also continue optimizing pages so that, when your content is relevant to a query, your page ranks well and gets discovered by your potential clients.

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