First Look at Google’s BERT Update

Google recently announced that they will be unveiling their BERT update, which is Google’s self-proclaimed, biggest update, in about five years. Anytime Google announces a major update, it is important for search optimizers to understand what the update will do, in order to adapt their SEO efforts to a changing optimization landscape. With that being said, let’s take a brief dive into this new update and see what it will mean for optimization efforts moving forward.

What Is The Update For?

The most important question to address first is the function of this update. The BERT update was designed to assist with more complicated inquiries, and Google estimates that it will provide assistance with about 1-in-10 searches. Here’s what Google had to say about the purpose of the update.

“These improvements are oriented around improving language understanding, particularly for more natural language/conversational queries, as BERT is able to help Search better understand the nuance and context of words in Searches and better match those queries with helpful results.”

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

What Does This Mean For SEO?

Now that we understand the purpose of this algorithm, let’s explore what it means for SEO. Google will be better at understanding context, even if a phrase doesn’t seem to make a lot of outward sense without the insider context of the topic. This means that instead of having to optimize your content for more commonly searched keywords and long-tail phrases, you can use terminology that you wouldn’t have used otherwise for fear that it would yield no results. This isn’t to say that you can write anything you want and that Google will be able to pull meaning out of poorly written content. This simply means that a more advanced context, such as a single word having multiple meanings and using a niche definition in a particular instance, will be better understood by Google now.

Moving Forward

Well, this shouldn’t change SEO on a major scale, for the time being, this is likely to be the first step of many. While this algorithm is a huge first step towards teaching search engines to better understand the context, the algorithm will continue to be improved and updated, which means it’s not time to immediately rewrite your site’s content to optimize for endless long-tail keywords. This update will benefit searchers more than it requires optimizers to rewrite content. However, keeping an eye on this algorithm moving forward is a good idea to ensure your content is as optimized as possible.

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