During the final week of October 2019, Google started rolling out its new algorithm called BERT. BERT is the biggest algorithm change google has done since 2015 (RankBrain), affecting 1 in 10 query searches.
What is BERT?
Bert stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. It is not just a simple algorithm change. It is based on a neutral network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP). This means that BERT will try to base our search results on the whole context of our search, and no longer on just trying to find keywords in random articles, which is what RankBrain used to do.
An Example by Google
In an effort to better understand what BERT will be doing, Google has provided us with an example:
In a search for “2019 brazil traveler to USA need a visa,” the word “to” and its relationship to the other words in query are important for understanding the meaning. Previously, Google wouldn’t take into consideration the connection and would return results about U.S. citizens traveling to Brazil, while to us, it is clear that the search is about Brazilians traveling to the USA. Google further explains that “With BERT, Search is able to grasp this nuance and know that the very common word “to” actually matters a lot here, and we can provide a much more relevant result for this query,”.
What does this mean for us and our Google searches?
It is clearly a very big step forward. It means that Google can better understand natural language. This doesn’t change the way we do our searches. We do them as we used to, meaning that we proceed by writing the content we’re looking for and Google will try to better understand the meaning of the whole search and start matching it with more relevant results.
The importance of the update
According to Google, this update is “representing the biggest leap forward in the past five years, and one of the biggest leaps forward in the history of Search.”
As we have stated above, this change affects 1 in every 10 query searches, which is equal to 10%, quite a big percentage.
Is it available for all languages?
During the month of November 2019, BERT was only available for plain English searches, however, on December 10, 2019, it was announced that BERT was going to be available for a large number of additional languages. On December 10, 2019, “Google SearchLiaison” announced on its twitter account that BERT was publically available for many languages including Greek.
BERT is definitely one of the biggest steps forward we have seen in a while. Many companies are trying to implement BERT as well, such as Microsoft, however, nothing official has been announced. Official reports are yet to be released about BERT’s affection to the SEO world, so we’re definitely looking forward to those!
What is your opinion on BERT? Do you think that this advancement will be useful?
Bibliography and Further Reading:
Schwartz, B. (2019). Welcome BERT: Google’s latest search algorithm to better understand natural language – Search Engine Land. [online] Search Engine Land. Available at: https://searchengineland.com/welcome-bert-google-artificial-intelligence-for-understanding-search-queries-323976 [Accessed 12 Dec. 2019].
Nayak, P. (2019). Understanding searches better than ever before. [online] Google. Available at: https://www.blog.google/products/search/search-language-understanding-bert/ [Accessed 12 Dec. 2019].
Nguyen, G. (2019). FAQ: All about the BERT algorithm in Google search – Search Engine Land. [online] Search Engine Land. Available at: https://searchengineland.com/faq-all-about-the-bert-algorithm-in-google-search-324193 [Accessed 12 Dec. 2019].
Schwartz, B. (2019). Why you may not have noticed the Google BERT update – Search Engine Land. [online] Search Engine Land. Available at: https://searchengineland.com/why-you-may-not-have-noticed-the-google-bert-update-324103 [Accessed 12 Dec. 2019].
Anderson, D. (2019). A deep dive into BERT: How BERT launched a rocket into natural language understanding – Search Engine Land. [online] Search Engine Land. Available at: https://searchengineland.com/a-deep-dive-into-bert-how-bert-launched-a-rocket-into-natural-language-understanding-324522 [Accessed 12 Dec. 2019].
Csutoras, B. (2019). BERT Explained: What You Need to Know About Google’s New Algorithm – Search Engine Journal. [online] Search Engine Journal. Available at: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/bert-explained-what-you-need-to-know-about-googles-new-algorithm/337247/#close [Accessed 12 Dec. 2019].
Grundmann, J. (2019). Google BERT Update: Background and analysis. [online] Searchmetrics SEO & Content Marketing Blog. Available at: https://blog.searchmetrics.com/us/google-bert-update/ [Accessed 12 Dec. 2019].