Have you met BERT?

If you haven't already been introduced to BERT, then let us do the honours.

In October 2019 Google released the new BERT algorithm update and began to roll it out to all searches made within Google. That means it could affect searches made in every language, and in every country.

BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, but you don’t really need to know what that means.

In more simple terms, BERT is a Natural Language Processing (NLP) Technology, which works to improve Google’s understanding of context, and to help Google decide how the context should be treated.

Prepositions have become a big focus. Words such as to, from, and on are often overlooked by search engines. By putting more of a focus on these, users will receive more differentiated results for searches such as “train times in Bath” and “train times to Bath”.

Google is usually pretty good at guessing this information from using data such as your location, however you don’t always want train times from you’re in at that exact time. You may be looking at train times elsewhere so that you can plan ahead etc.

Google now recognises that this search will most likely be made by someone travelling to the USA and not someone from the USA.

Where has BERT come from?

Before semantic search and voice search, it was more common to google something like “Indian takeaway Bristol road shut down” than “Has the Indian takeaway in Bristol road shut down?”

Prepositions didn’t really feature because they didn’t really have an impact. Whether you searched for “singer in Trowbridge” or “singer from Trowbridge” you’ve have probably received results that included live music events in the area combined with famous singers from the area.

And it’s not just prepositions that are getting an increased focus. Google will no longer ignore your negatives.

In the past a search for “Bath to Bristol no trains” would have given you all the train journeys from Bath to Bristol. But now Google will recognise the negative and find you what you really want.

How to accommodate BERT

1 in 10 searches has been affected by the BERT update.

1. Put humans first, not Robots

To be honest, you should have always been writing your content for your human audience. If you were, then great.

If not, then now’s the time to make a conscious effort to do so. You should also set some time aside to check any old content and make sure that this is written for humans too.

2. Create unique content

Because of the BERT update it is now more important than ever to make sure that your content is specific and unique.

It used to be that we were told to gear our content towards keywords, and then this changed into key phrases, and then onto longtail keywords. But now you’re aiming to target incredibly individual sentences.

Danny Sullivan, Google’s public Search Liaison, has said:

“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.”

Confused by SEO or unsure of what content to create to improve your Website? Contact us today for some friendly advice.

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About The Author

Tony Heywood

Tony Heywood

Tony manages the Search Marketing Team at Dentons Digital. He has over 15 years’ experience in SEO and is passionate about helping businesses grow online.  Tony is Google Analytics Qualified and loves website data, behavioural economics and UX. He is also part time football coach and local community radio DJ.

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