What The Google BERT Update Means For SEO

What The Google BERT Update Means For SEO

By Austin LaRoche, ATAK Interactive CEO

Google BERT marks another major update to the company’s search algorithm in 2019. 

The Most Important Update in Five Years 

At the end of October 2019, Google announced a Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers update, lovingly referred to as BERT. Google also took the unusual step of announcing that the release was the most significant update to its search algorithm in five years. They also stated that they expected BERT to impact at least 10% of ALL search queries.  

So, What is Google BERT? 

According to  Google:  

“Well, by applying BERT models to both ranking and featured snippets in Search, we’re able to do a much better job helping you find useful information. In fact, 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. 

Particularly for longer, more conversational queries, or searches where prepositions like “for” and “to” matter a lot to the meaning, Search will be able to understand the context of the words in your query. You can search in a way that feels natural for you.” 

In a nutshell, BERT has resulted in a significant leap in Google’s ability to not only better understand the context in queries, but to also apply the learning to longer and more conversational search queries.  

Google has been able to reach this breakthrough in query processing thanks to its work in neural networks and machine learning. 

What Does BERT Mean for My Site’s SEO? 

The long and short of it is, not much and everything.  

Because BERT deals with the way Google interprets user’s search queries, it doesn’t directly affect your on-site SEO. However, since Google is now much better at taking context into account, it’s far more critical than ever for your site content to be clear and well written.  

SEOs should look to focus on creating highly specific, well-written content. Your content should be unique, authoritative, and trustworthy. 

Ok, but Can I See Some Examples of Google BERT in Action… 

We get it. It can be hard to understand how Google BERT is going to affect search queries.  

Let’s look at some examples provided by Google:

Google search results example before and after Google BERT for travel to brazil

Notice how the search results changed drastically after BERT has been applied. 

Instead of returning a news article bout travel to Brazil, the algorithm is now intelligent enough to understand the intent of the searcher and provides a result that answers the search query more accurately.

Google search results page before and after Google BERT for

In this example, we once again see how Google BERT has greatly improved the understanding of the context of a question. The much-improved understanding of the search query provides a much better search result that not only answers the user’s question, but also understands their intent.


So far, we’ve told you what Google BERT is and what it does. We’ve also told you it’s going to affect a large number of searches and search results. That all sounds bad, but we promise it’s not. 

While the update may lead to a drop in search traffic, that’s not necessarily a terrible thing.  


Well, because Google is now better able to understand the context of queries, it should do a much better job of weeding out traffic that is not likely to convert and probably should never have visited your site in the first place. 

Lastly, BERT is an excellent reminder to all SEOs to go back and review their site content.  

In cases where you do see a drop in traffic, take the time to review the content on those pages and refresh and optimize them as necessary. 

SEO has long been about creating unique, quality content, and Google BERT is another reminder that all of the content you create should focus on answering the questions your site visitors are asking.  

If you believe your site has been affected by the Google BERT update? ATAK can help …..Contact Us Today.

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