Buckle up, SEOs, because Google is causing major waves again with the largest change to its search engine since the introduction of RankBrain almost five years ago. Google just announced it’s in the process of implementing a huge change to its core search algorithm that could change search results rankings for up to one in 10 queries.
This major change will be referred to as BERT. That’s Google’s neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP) pre-training. BERT is Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers.
Say what? Run that by me again.
Never mind, just know this: BERT helps to better understand what you’re actually looking for when you enter a search query. It’s supposed to better understand the nuances and context of words rather than just focusing on a few keywords in the query.
What this will likely really impact is how you use and target long-tail keywords. Also, this further emphasizes the need for your content to be written for humans rather than for search engines. So, make sure your content provides value and not just keyword appeal.
Google started implementing BERT this week and it should be fully live soon. It’s rolling out for English language queries now before expanding to other languages. Also, featured snippets will be impacted.
Google provided a few examples of how it will impact search queries:
If you search for “can you get medicine for someone pharmacy,” the old algorithm just picked out “medicine” and “pharmacy” from the query and returned local results for nearby drugstores. With BERT, the algorithm will now zero in on “for someone” and determine you’re wanting info about whether you’re allowed to pick up a prescription for someone else.
More examples from Google: If you search “parking on a hill with no curb,” the old algorithm wouldn’t take into account “no” and would tell you how to park on a hill with curbs. But with BERT, it realizes that “no” is relevant and would tell you how to park uphill or downhill with no curb.
If you searched “2019 Brazil traveler to USA need a visa,” the old algorithm ignored “to” and gave you results on U.S. citizens traveling to Brazil. BERT recognizes that “to” really matters in the query and returns results for Brazilian travelers to the U.S.
So, Google is getting better at understanding natural language. But optimizing for BERT will be challenging, perhaps even impossible.
Users should really love BERT. But businesses? Well, it could be a problem for you if your rankings drop and your leads start to shrink.
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