This week, Google announced a major new artificial intelligence development for their Search function: Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, or BERT for short.
Google claims that BERT is “one of the biggest leaps forward in the history of Search” and its introduction will affect “1 in 10” search queries in English. There are billions of questions asked on Google every day, so that’s a really huge impact!
BERT is a technique for natural language processing – which means it can capture the nuances of words and understand their context and intent – and it’s going to be a game-changer when you’re searching for information. To put it simply, the new algorithm is designed to understand what’s important in “longer, more conversational queries” (Google, 2019).
There are several examples Google have offered to highlight the benefits of the BERT update:
The search term: “2019 brazil traveler to usa need a visa”
The word “to” implies that the traveler is going from Brazil to the USA. Before the BERT update, Google wouldn’t acknowledge the importance of the word “to”, and would return results about travelers going from the US to Brazil.
The search term: “Can you get medicine for someone pharmacy”
The “for someone” part of the query is what’s important here, and the BERT model acknowledges this importance. Previously, Google would have brought up results about picking up your own medication, but after the update, the results are tailored to other people picking up prescriptions for you.
The search term: “parking on a hill with no curb”
Before the BERT model, Google would put a lot of importance on the word “curb” and ignore “no”, leading to results focusing on parking on hills with curbs, or even just parking next to a curb. “No” is a critical part of this query, which is now understood by Google.
So what does this mean for SEO?
Google’s Danny Sullivan has confirmed that “there’s nothing to optimise for with BERT, nor anything for anyone to be rethinking. The fundamentals of us seeking to reward great content remain unchanged.” So don’t panic – you don’t suddenly have to consider the BERT algorithm as well as your current SEO techniques! In fact, you may be able to lessen how much you write for the algorithm, and can focus more on writing great content for the people who are searching for it.
BERT analyses search queries, and the information which might appear in a snippet or meta-description. However, it’s still important – and maybe more important – to make sure you’ve got great quality on-site SEO content that doesn’t just rely on keyword stuffing to rank highly on Google. Google’s algorithms favour helpful, valuable content which can provide answers to users’ queries.
If you haven’t invested in SEO for your website yet, now is the perfect time. Get in touch with us and see how we can help you with SEO.