On October 24th 2019, Google announced the latest addition to its algorithm: BERT. Affecting 10% of all Google search queries worldwide, this is one of Google’s biggest updates in the last 5 years!

What is the Google BERT update?

One of the major things that Google is constantly trying to work on is matching the user’s search queries with their intent. So, instead of matching keywords to searches by cross referencing the search keywords to the words on the webpages, Google is now taking natural language processing/NLP (essentially the way we process and use language, and how machines process and understand human language) into account, to show the most relevant search results for the intent of the user, rather than to simply match the words that they use.

To better explain this in practical terms, here is one of the before and after BERT examples that Google has identified.

In the first example on the left, Google matched the word ‘stand’ in the query to ‘stand-alone’ in the metadata, which didn’t meet the user’s intent when searching about estheticians. Post-BERT update, Google would show an article on the physical demands of estheticians, better matching what the user was actually looking for.

Will Google BERT affect my traffic?

It might do. Now, we know this isn’t very conclusive, but already there have been some reports of significant increases and decreases in traffic across some big websites. However, if you notice that your traffic is decreasing, it could mean (in BERT terms) that your page and its content are not matching the intent of your audience. Therefore, if certain pages do decline post-BERT, it’s important to revisit your long-tail keywords and see if your content can better match user intent. A good takeaway note from this, however, is that although you may suffer a dip in traffic, the quality of your users after the BERT update should remain the same or increase, and you should continue to achieve a similar level of conversions as before.

Does SEO change now Google BERT is active?

There shouldn’t be any significant changes to SEO now, and the changes that we do predict really will change things for the better. What’s great for SEO copywriters now is that they can be less focused on ‘writing for Google’ and will be able to spend more time creating engaging content for audiences and humans, rather than machines.

So, in short, the Google BERT update really is nothing really to worry about. If you’re already doing SEO, you’ll know that by creating good content for your audience, you’re already ‘optimising’ to Google’s standards. BERT is simply the next stage of evolution for Google, who are constantly trying to make sure that great content is rewarded, and that people get what they need when using the platform.

However, if you do find significant fluctuations in your traffic and you need a hand identifying your next steps, please give us a shout. Our in-house experts in SEO will be able to review your data to find out what’s changed, and to give you some tips on what to do next to keep your organic ranks and traffic volumes up!

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