October 25 will be a day we will remember for a long time. Google introduced the BERT update, the aim of which is to improve search results for users using more natural speech, conversational queries. As Google states on their blog “(..) when it comes to ranking results, BERT will help Search better understand one in 10 searches in the U.S. in English, and we’ll bring this to more languages and locales over time.” I will explain a bit more how the recently introduced BERT update will change search results both for users and SEO experts below.
The BERT update happened because of Google’s work on the science of language understanding. This was possible thanks to machine learning and improvement in comprehending queries. Last year, Google introduced and open-sourced a neural technique for natural language processing (NLP) called Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (abbreviated as BERT). This enabled anyone to train their own question answering system. This was a result of the giant’s research on transformers, which are models that process words in relation to the other words in the query and not one-by-one in order. Therefore, they (the models) are able to consider the full context of any word by also checking the ones that come before and after it.
Moreover, this algorithm is so powerful that the number of resources necessary for its operation forced the corporation to place it entirely in the cloud and to use Cloud TPUs for the first time.
Google states that the introduction of the BERT update will help users find useful information. Longer, conversational queries and searches will specifically be improved. When using prepositions like “for” and “to” which having an impact on the meaning, Google’s search will understand the context of the words in the query. Therefore, users will be allowed to search in a much more natural way and find the information they are actually looking for. Take a look at the examples below presented by Google.
As you can see, the results after the introduction of BERT seem to be more accurate for users.
Moreover, Google states that this update will improve the search for people all over the world. The algorithm learns from one language and is able to apply what it learned to other languages. So, as models learn in English, they will then apply their knowledge to languages like: Spanish, Polish, French, etc. The BERT model will also improve featured snippets in countries where this option is available.
Well, BERT will probably change a lot for websites’ owners and SEO experts. It looks like over the past few months we could already have been affected by BERT’s tests. But if you are thinking about what you should introduce into your SEO strategy right now, so this update does not affect your website – hold your horses. This update will not punish or reward different websites. It simply changes the understanding of keywords by the search engine algorithm by making them more relevant to what users are looking for. The only thing you can do is to catch the key phrases that your website ranks lower for and optimize it better with the keywords users use in a more natural way for them. You can read about optimizing your website with questions and conversational keywords here.
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All in all, the BERT should force you to focus much more on your users. Try to put yourself in their shoes, think like your website’s potential visitors. Moreover, be critical of your actions and your thoughts on your product and offer. Ultimately, the user decides whether your website meets their expectations.
In my opinion, this update will help Google to move forward in voice search development and match better users’ queries with the search results. That is why the most important thing you need to do is to keep your website’s user, your potential customer, in mind. Then, focus on optimizing your website with proper keywords and look at the technical aspects of your website that will help you rank higher for voice queries. Optimizing your website for voice search is not that difficult, you just need to keep an eye on it because Google’s search will be constantly improving, and introducing more major updates.