Google’s BERT update is, no doubt, something that you may never have heard about. The noise surrounding its launch has been somewhat muted. That is really surprising, considering that it is probably Google’s most important update in the last five years! BERT will be affecting at least 10% of all search queries, making it important for all bloggers to understand what it really is all about. But what is BERT and why is it important? 

What is BERT?

BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoders Representation from Transformers. I know; the full name is something of a mouthful! But that’s not going to take away from the fact that this is an important update from Google. 

Google is always on the lookout for ways through which to enhance the search experience. The aim is to make sure that people who carry out queries get as relevant results as possible. That’s the whole idea behind BERT. According to Google, the goal is to understand searches even better than before. What you need to understand here is that Google receives billions of search queries every day. Of these, 15% are unique. (This figure is actually very surprising. One would think that by this time, Google has heard it all!)

When faced with these kinds of queries, Google does its best to give people what they are looking for. However, oftentimes, it is found wanting. The result is that search ends up becoming a hit and miss affair. That is what Google is trying to eliminate through BERT. 

How does Google’s BERT update work? 

BERT is all about natural language processing and trying to teach machines to react in the same manner as humans when asked questions. Behind the system are what are referred to as transformers. When human beings hear or read something, they do not look or listen to the words individually. Rather, everything is taken within its context. Transformers are models that help teach machines to contextualize language in the same manner. 

Thus, when you carry out a search on Google, the search engine should be able to look at the query, not in terms of individual words, but in terms of the context that is brought about by the mix of words. BERT, in this regard, is a great leap towards the wonders of Artificial Intelligence. It helps the search engine understand more what a person is saying when they type in a search query. 

It’s not all about software

BERT, as we have already mentioned, is a major update from Google. If you think we are exaggerating, then you only need to consider the following: BERT is not only about software. It also entails coming up with new hardware on the part of the search engine. According to Google, some of the BERT elements are complex to such an extent that available hardware cannot cope!

A simpler explanation of BERT

Okay, the above explanation is rather technical. But, what does BERT mean in simpler terms? What does it mean for the average blogger? 

From the point of view of the searcher

If you use Google to carry out searches, then BERT will be a great way through which you can get relevant content for your queries. That’s because, as already mentioned, Google will be able to better understand your intentions. Instead of typing long strings of sentences in the hope that you will get something relevant along the way, BERT simplifies life for you by bringing out information that is useful to you. Because of BERT, one in 10 queries that are made in English will now be better understood by Google, which is a great leap forward. 

BERT is particularly helpful for search queries that are longer and conversational. Once you type these in, Google will be better able to understand the context and bring you what you are looking for. Indeed, BERT enables people to search in ways that are more natural to them. 

What does BERT mean for bloggers?

So, what does the BERT update mean for bloggers? How will it affect websites and what should you do to stay in the game in the cutthroat environment that is Search Engine Optimization? Well, for bloggers, there is good news and there is bad news. 

The good news is that BERT works great for websites whose content is well written. Its language processing systems supposedly work even better than humans when it comes to recognizing speech patterns. If you have a site whose content is up to scratch, then you should be able to benefit in terms of getting better traffic. That’s because BERT enables Google to recognize and reward the relevancy of your content. 

One of the things that you will notice is that on-page SEO has become even more important as a result of BERT. You need to think in terms of context when writing your articles; otherwise, they will not rank very well. Most words have a variety of meanings, and you need to make sure that your articles are contextually sound if you are to continue ranking well. 

If, on the other hand, you have web pages that are not up to scratch in terms of having well written content, then you are going to be sorely disappointed. There are instances when, while reading through an article, one struggles to find its relevancy. Part of it has to do with Google itself; one of the enduring SEO tenets is that more is better. This has led most bloggers to stuff their sites with content that is hardly relevant! If you are one of the people who have done this, then you are likely to witness a fall in your traffic volumes as a result of BERT.

Going forward

Clearly, machine learning still has a long way to go. However, Google’s BERT update is a step in the right direction. Google has clearly put a lot of effort into better understanding how human beings utilize language. Implementing this to the machine environment will go a long way in ensuring that users get content that is relevant and well written. 

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