BERT Alert

Posted by Ben Raley

Google recently rolled out their latest notable update with all the pomp and circumstance you would expect without so much as a whisper. That’s because this BERT update has been in the works for quite some time, if you’ve been paying attention. Since 2015’s “Mobilegeddon,” Google has made a concerted and wildly transparent effort to make two things clear:

  1. They deal in information
  2. They only care about the user

It’s true that Google is an enormous multinational with endless resources that’s probably developing a toaster that can do your taxes or whatever, but it started and still functions as an information delivery system.

They’ve taken steps for years to cater to those actually making the searches, like prioritizing sites that load quickly and expanding rich snippets. They even let you search with emojis now. Seriously!

At their core, they don’t want to simply reward websites that check all the mythical “boxes” and do just enough to show they’re playing by Google’s ambiguous “rules.” They want to provide the most accurate information to someone who is looking for it in the fastest and most painless way possible.

This is all good news for SEOs who have stayed up-to-date on industry trends. We’re all used to clutching our armrests and white-knuckling through past algorithm updates, but this recent one feels more like a relief than a gut punch.

What’s BERT got to do with it?

While it started with the aforementioned “Mobilegeddon” and has continued with things like voice search and smart assistants, Google’s quest to be a real boy has now led us to BERT.

Technically, it stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (yikes). However, we like to think it really stands for “Because Everyone Really Talks,” because that’s what you need to remember when planning an SEO or content strategy under BERT’s rule.

Essentially what this update means is that Google will be sharpening up their algorithm to better understand the nuances of how we speak to other humans.

For example, if you tried to ask Google for directions like it was a person you might say something like: “What’s the best way to make it to Idaho?”

With this query, your first search result would be a blog on how to make money in Idaho and the second result would teach you how to make the best baked potato. This is because Google matches certain words like best waymake, and Idaho and ignores words like to and it.

This is what BERT is here to fix.

Articles and conjunctions that Google has pushed to the side in the past will now get their just due. Although our brains have been conditioned to ask questions online like cavemen, Google wants us to know they can talk the talk as well.

What does this mean for users?

Congrats, Google cares about ya!

What does this mean for SEO people?

Continue optimizing for humans. Google can’t be easily fooled anymore and, scary as it sounds, they’re becoming more like us every day. Focus on what people need, not what Google wants, and the rest will take care of itself.