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What is BERT and what will it do for my website?

If you’re a sesame street fan, you know Bert. He likes oatmeal, pigeons and bottle caps. Unfortunately, Google’s BERT is nothing like our grumpy and lovable friend. The BERT update, introduced in October 2019, will impact ranking for 1 in 10 of all search queries. Google considers this the largest search system update since the introduction of RankBrain five years ago. So what will BERT do for websites?

What is BERT?

BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. BERT’s main objective is to understand language more like humans. A significant shift in SEO has been in SEO writing. Instead of keyword-rich, unnatural sounding content aimed at search engines, marketers have tried to tailor writing to humans. This makes sense considering humans are conducting searches and are eventually reading your content with a goal in mind.

BERT is the most important update since RankBrain. RankBrain, another machine learning algorithm in Google, processes search results to speculate the best results for each query. RankBrain, in addition to links and content, is one of the key ranking factors in Google’s algorithm. Though BERT is another machine learning ranking factor, this update will not fully replace RankBrain.

What is in store?

As BERT rolls out, search engine marketers can expect to see more specific responses based on language nuances Google failed to emphasize previously. This will have a significant impact on featured snippets. As Google understands human language patterns, results in featured snippets will shift towards more accurate suggestions. Understanding how words relate to one another in the query (instead of understanding what each word means individually) will populate the SERP with content closer to the intent of the query.

BERT is currently being rolled out across English language websites but will eventually be available in all languages. There is no conclusive impact on web traffic just yet, but in the weeks following the introduction marketers should keep tabs on any changes in web traffic.

Want to learn more about Google’s updates? Join us for a webinar all about updates to come and some more recent updates to Google.

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