What is Google BERT and How Does it Impact SEO?

If you’re a digital marketer, chances are you’ve heard the term “Google BERT.” Or maybe you haven’t.

So what is it? And why should marketers care?.

In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at what Google BERT is, how it works, and how marketers can use it to their advantage.

Table of Contents

What is Google BERT?

Google BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) is a state-of-the-art AI-powered algorithm that helps Google understand and interpret natural language.

It was first released in October 2019 and has been a major game changer for SEO.

Google BERT uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) to better understand natural language queries.

It does this by using two methods to understanding human language: word order and context.

Word order looks at the order of words in a sentence; context looks at the relationships between words in a sentence.

By combining these two methods, Google BERT can better interpret complex questions and statements that are posed as search queries on Google.

In the end, BERT helps Google better understand the context of words in a sentence. With this, Google can then serve more accurate search results to users.

How does BERT impact SEO?

Before BERT, Google’s algorithms relied on keyword matching to determine the relevance of a webpage to a search query.

This often led to irrelevant or incomplete results, as the algorithm couldn’t fully understand the context or intent behind the search.

Example of how SEO results changed

As an emphasis was placed on keyword matching, Google could end up delivering incorrect results as they couldn’t properly decifer context of a users query.

The example Google used to showcase the before and after of Google BERT is this:

Google BERT before and after

What was happening here is Google had the intent back to front.

The query is about people from Brazil travelling to the USA.

Pre BERT, Google understood this query as people from the USA travelling to Brazil.

Post BERT, Google returns sharper results that better match search intent.

SEO advice post BERT

Creating content that serves a users query has always been the goal. Here are some important content tips for SEO:

You need to really ensure that your content is written in such a way that it makes sense when:

  • it is read in its entirety.
  • it provides a quick answer to the query being asked by the searcher. 

Additionally, using synonyms in your content can help you stay ahead of the competition.

As BERT better understands synonyms and context now, usage of topically relevant terms can result in higher rankings for your content than if you were only using one single keyword throughout your page or post.

Take note of the content medium Google is now ranking. This is vital. Google loves to display short and sharp answers, however, many of these answers might be best served in certain mediums or content formats. Some examples:

  • Video and images
  • FAQs with schema
  • Tables
  • Statistical highlights

Lastly, in addition to improving the accuracy of search results, BERT has also introduced new ranking factors for SEO.

Google now takes into account the relevance and context of a webpage to a search query, as well as the overall user experience of the website.

Summary

For many, BERT poses no change to their content SEO strategy. For others, it might.

But by understanding what this new AI technology does and how it affects SEO strategies, you can make sure that your website remains competitive.

Knowing how Google processes information and the types of content they reward is key in your ranking efforts.

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