Getting your website to rank highly in search results is a key goal for web developers and marketers all over the world but Google don’t like to make it easy. The search engine giant are constantly changing their algorithms and systems to ensure that the engine runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible. With the team at Google known to make hundreds of updates a year it can be hard to keep up. One of the latest ones though is not one to ignore. Google’s BERT update is one of the biggest in 5 years so to help you out, we’ve put together this guide to all things BERT.
What is BERT?
Google’s updates never have normal names and this one is no different. BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers…we think we’ll stick to calling it BERT!
BERT is the latest algorithm change that Google has made (or the latest one they’re talking about publicly anyway!) and people are already claiming it to be the biggest change in the past 5 years.
To put it simply, BERT will help Google to better understand the intent of users search queries in order to ensure that they receive the most relevant results. For the first time, Google will read each of the words in a search query in the context that they fit with the other words used.
For instance, if a user was to Google ‘visa for US travellers to Brazil’ before BERT the results would have brought up details on visas for people both travelling to Brazil from the US and for those travelling to the US from Brazil. Now, thanks to BERT, the search engine will read and understand the context of the ‘to’ in the sentence, bringing up the most relevant results first.
It’s thought that BERT will affect around 10% of search queries which is a pretty hefty chunk. As peoples computer literacy skills develop and using technology becomes second nature, search queries are beginning to sound more and more like everyday speech. Therefore it’s important that the search engine can understand exactly what the context of the words used is.
When did Google roll out BERT?
People started to notice BERT was rolling out across the system during the week of October 21st 2019 but that was just for English-language queries, including featured snippets.
It won’t be long though until other countries start to be impacted by BERT. Although there’s no set timeline, Google CEO Danny Sullivan has confirmed that the algorithm will expand to all languages. A BERT model is currently being used across two dozen countries to help improve featured snippets and search results.
What does BERT mean for me?
Whenever Google rolls out a new update one of the first things you need to do is take a look at your SEO strategy, especially with one as important as BERT. Even if you haven’t noticed a drop in traffic or search rankings yet, that doesn’t mean you’ve escaped without being impacted by BERT.
With every search you make on Google the algorithm will get better and better suggesting that you need to take action now to make sure your website is ready. At the moment, Google has been focused more on short tail keywords and phrases but as we become more and more aware of BERT, it’s likely that this will change.
As BERT begins to understand the context of queries more, that’s where long tail keywords will come into play. People will start to use longer phrases and sentences if they notice that Google can understand exactly what it is they want to find out. Ensuring your websites long tail keyword tags are up to date and relevant is just the first step though.
As BERT focuses on long tail keywords and the users intent, your website should focus on content. Yet again, this update has shown that content is king and by focusing on niche and relevant high quality content, you can help your website to stand a better chance of coming up top in the results. Google will be even more focused on content that is relevant to the search query so by making sure your content is niche and answers the search terms you want to rank for, you may see an increase in your ranking results.
BERT should also have a positive impact on the overall SEO of your website. With Google focusing on bringing up results that are relevant to the user, this should in turn help to reduce bounce rates.
As BERT begins its roll out, now is the time to focus on relevant and informative content. Ensure your content and website is user friendly and focus on long tail keywords to help improve your traffic. Although you might not have noticed any sort of impact from BERT yet, by making some tweaks to your SEO strategy now, you should reap the benefits in the future.
I’m Sam Crawford, Squarespace expert and founder of by Crawford, a multi award-winning Squarespace web design studio.
I have built over 400 Squarespace websites for clients across every industry all around the world. I am also an official Squarespace partner, approved Squarespace expert, Squarespace educator and Squarespace Enterprise member, meaning you get an unrivalled experience – and a flawless website.