What Is Google BERT? And Should You Be Worried

What Is Google's Bert update?

Even if you only dabble in Digital Marketing you have no doubt come across the new Google algorithm update – BERT. But what is BERT? How will it affect your website?

Well, lets go back slightly. Google releases between 5 and 10 large updates every year, or at least they used to. Now you’ll find they release thousands and thousands of time on-going updates that make minor tweaks to the algorithm that affects how your website is found. In 2018 alone Google released 3,234 updates to the algorithm! But when a major update comes along it gets a catchy name. Penguin, Panda, RankBrain, Fred…. or BERT, because why not?

What do they change in theses algorithm updates?

That’s a best kept secret of the Google team. Sure, they give a little overview of what the aim of some of the updates are but they keep the technical stuff to themselves to stop people figuring out how to play the system.

This doesn’t mean we can’t figure it out though. Looking at the data most of the SEO community can piece together the changes and potentially how they might change a websites visibility in the SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages). For instance in the past two years we have had a move to mobile first indexing, Site Diversity (making it harder for one website to dominate a single search result), meta description size updates, etc. The aim always being to improve search results for customers and help you find what you are looking for.

What is BERT?

BERT is the latest addition to the search algorithm. It’s designed to better understand what’s important in natural language queries for both typed searches and the increasingly popular voice searches via smart speakers. It’s aim is to help the algorithm understand those longer conversational search terms (long tail keywords as we call them in the biz) that users pump into the system every day.

See, Google’s algorithm is great. It looks at what you are looking for and tries to match the results as best it can to your query. It even takes into account your search intent – whether you are doing research, looking at buying a product, interested in reviews etc.

But, sometimes it struggles to understand our little human idiosyncrasies in the way we type and talk. Human language is really difficult for a computer to understand at times. We have multiple meaning on certain words:

‘I left my phone on the left side of the room’

‘The baseball pitcher asked for a pitcher of water’.

We also have things like homophones – words that sound the same but have different meanings:

Where, Wear, Were

To, Too, Two

Bear, Bare

As well as Anaphoras, Synonymy, Polysemy and Homonymys that we use in every day life but never really think about.

We instinctively learn the context of these words as we grow, but Google really struggles to understand them at times. Particularly if the user uses the wrong one. It has to look at the natural language and the context of the words to help it understand the meaning of the sentences. Ultimately that is BERT’s aim.

So whats the impact?

At the moment not much! There so far hasn’t been any major spikes to the search results like we’ve seen in previous updates. But this doesn’t mean things won’t change over time as the system learns. We honestly don’t know what BERT will affect at this stage, or how you can optimise for it. In fact Google is telling you not to waste your time even trying! But the upside… we can stop (for the most part) trying to write for a machine when it comes to the content of our sites. Sure, we’ll still need to include keywords to be found, but we can hopefully start to write a little more human.

Want To Find Out More?

If you’re looking for more information on the BERT update then I would highly recommend reading Dawn Anderson‘s Search Engine Land ‘A Deep Dive Into BERT‘. As I type this is the most comprehensive article on the subject and well worth a read.

The Beginning Of A New Chapter

Right, well… this is it!

I guess we all must start somewhere and as you can see this is the first ever blog post on my new website as freelance marketing consultant!

Throughout my 10 year marketing career I’ve been lucky enough to work in some of the most high profile / prestigious companies in Cumbria. Setting up and marketing live theatre and gig events at The Sands Centre, honing my skills at Lloyd Motor Group as their Digital Marketing Manager, helping to improve their online presence and drive sales, to my most recent job as Marketing Manager at Far & Wild Travel – a new luxury travel start-up based near Penrith.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work on some creative and fun campaigns over the years. From setting up comedy events like ‘Live & Ungagged’ at The Sands to raise money for Amnesty International, driving sales forward on multiple international brands like BMW, Volvo, MINI and Honda, to helping people make their holiday dreams come true in Africa and India. I’ve learnt a huge amount with every opportunity and I’ve always been massively grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given. I mean, they’ve all led up to this moment, right?

Some would probably think I’m mad leaving a stable, decent, regular paying job – and maybe I am, am I!? But for a few years now I’ve had the desire to forge my own path and start my company. Every time I think about it, I always end up telling myself it’s not the right time. There’s always been more to learn, more to do, new potential jobs out there, getting married… blah blah – you get the gist. But I guess like the old saying goes – there never is a right time.

So here I am, at the ripe age of 35 deciding to branch out on my own, work for myself and see what opportunities are out there. I’ve had a great response so far and the projects have already started coming in. It also helps that my wife has been incredibly supportive in helping me go for my dream.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be perfecting my website, posting updates about projects I’m working on and sharing some marketing titbits that you can put into action. Hopefully they’ll help you get off to a great start in 2020.

Now, watch out, here comes the gratuitous plug!

If you or anyone you know is looking for help or support in all things marketing get in touch. We can improve your appearance in Google, run some effective PPC campaigns or drive engagement on social media. Maybe you have no idea what I’m on about, but would like to know what your business could be doing more of? Then get in touch and let’s have a chat!