Google has announced new changes to their search algorithm in order to continue search quality updates for users, which may or may not lead to new critical changes for SEO for search marketing professionals. Businesses may also be potentially impacted by what is called BERT, a shortened acronym for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers.
Simply put, BERT is a new way that changes search engine results pages (SERPs) for users by using technology that uses the relationships of words within a sentence to create the best search result. The transformer models that power BERT are able to process a variety of word distinctions, related synonyms, and context of words in a sentence.
What happens when BERT is applied to search engine results is that new keywords are found between prepositions and specific phrases appear in search results. For example, Google’s previous search algorithm would have been unable to the slight distinctions between “parking on a hill with no curb” and “parking on a hill.” Per Google, these specific results would allow users to get the most accurate definitions of search queries based on modifying information such as prepositions and noun-specific terms.
Per Pandu Nayak, Google Fellow and Vice President of Search, the changes are intended to help users of all languages and locations to find the most relevant content. However, Nayak emphasized that the search engine giant is always trying to better search results for users on a consistent basis, which means more changes could come as well:
“No matter what you’re looking for, or what language you speak, we hope you’re able to let go of some of your keyword-ese and search in a way that feels natural for you.,” Nayak said. “But you’ll still stump Google from time to time. Even with BERT, we don’t always get it right. If you search for “what state is south of Nebraska,” BERT’s best guess is a community called “South Nebraska.” (If you’ve got a feeling it’s not in Kansas, you’re right.)”
Experts have already started to identify the potential impact of BERT once the final changes roll out in the coming months:
Boston Web Marketing breaks down BERT changes
Boston Web’s own John Wagenkenecht had an excellent breakdown on BERT and search engine optimization and how the changes will impact content and general SEO practices for companies.
As John explains, the changes won’t require websites and SEO experts to drastically update their content. Instead, it will simply refine between 1 out of every 10 search results to help decide the best content for users. If anything, the new changes will allow search engines to understand more detailed and in-depth context of your webpages and blogs.
Definitely keep and eye out for any new observations and changes that support BERT. If you need help navigating these changes, please contact Boston Web Marketing ASAP!
BERT aims to avoid machine learning penalties associated with Google’s “black box”
The Verge write up on the new BERT changes add onto the news that the new changes are not completely transparent in order to prevent users from spamming or gaming the algorithm. However, machine learning changes like the ones that power BERT could be a problem without proper oversight. Representatives from Google stated that BERT won’t have an increase in search bias due to changes:
“That so-called “black box” of machine learning is a problem because if the results are wrong in some way, it can be hard to diagnose why. Google says that it has worked to ensure that adding BERT to its search algorithm doesn’t increase bias — a common problem with machine learning whose training models are themselves biased. Since BERT is trained on a giant corpus of English sentences, which are also inherently biased, it’s an issue to keep an eye on.”
BERT is likely a big change in search, which means you have to pay attention to the quality of content
Search Engine Journal spoke to search engine algorithm experts to determine the extent and potential long-term impact of BERT. The changes are expected to impact a significant portion of searches in the near future and require even higher quality standards for web content writing, according to the conversation:
“Google’s BERT Update improves how Google understands search queries. BERT analyzes search queries, not web pages. However, as Dawn [Anderson, search expert] said, on page SEO becomes more important in terms of using words in precise ways. Sloppy content may not be helped by the Google BERT update.”