Google BERT – The Truth Behind Google’s Latest Update

Google BERT has been everywhere recently. Over the last couple of weeks,if your inbox and social media feed is anything like ours at Brave, everyone has jumped on the bandwagon. So, BERT is short for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, which is way too long to remember, even for us. There were so many scaremongering articles popping up left, right and centre. It’s the same thing that happens whenever there is another Google Algorithm Update – everyone suddenly comes out of the woodwork to tell you how this update is going to ruin your website and cripple your business.

Google says it could change the rankings of results for one in ten search queries. BERT is based on state of the art natural language processing (NLP) techniques developed by Google researchers which has been applied to its search product over the last 10 months.

However, they just end up throwing out the same spiel each time Google does an update without actually looking into the update properly. So, we wanted to lift up that magician’s curtain and bring to light the truth behind Google BERT!

What Is Google BERT?

To answer that question, we have to do a little bit of explaining about Google and how it runs, as well as what types of updates there are.

You see, at its core, Google looks at the words that you enter into the Search Bar, picks them apart and attempts to understand what you are actually looking for. It also does a pretty good job of it!

However, have you ever tried to explain to a 4-year old, what you are searching for, then asking them to look through the world’s biggest library and expecting them to find the best possible book or article?

That may sound like a silly question, but that’s effectively what you were doing when you searched for something in Google. That’s because Google would have to pick out individual keywords and find articles or sites that matched those words. That changed when Google Hummingbird was released.

Hummingbird made it so that Google was able to understand and interpret sentences and provide a better list of websites in the Search Results. That’s important for you to know when looking at Google BERT. This is because the easiest way to understand Google BERT is thinking of it as Hummingbird 2.

Google BERT is designed to allow Google even better understanding of languages. Specifically, the update is meant to give Google the ability to comprehend “natural language” – in other words, the way we speak, rather than the way we think we should search.

Should I Be Concerned About Google BERT?

In a word; no. Despite what so many articles are telling you, BERT is not an algorithm that penalises you. I repeat; you cannot get a Google BERT Penalty.

Now, you may very well have been told that you need some extra hours, more budget or any other such spiel in order to “counteract” or “protect against” Google BERT – that’s really not the case. In fact, you can’t actually optimise for Google BERT at all!

No, seriously. There is no way to optimise for Google BERT! If someone is telling you that you need to spend more, change tactics or anything else to save your website from total annihilation after this new Google update, it’s time to start questioning them. This update is about Google understanding natural language within search terms – it is not about how Google rates your website.

Google BERT Top Level Take-Away Summary

  • It focuses on improving the relevancy of Search Results to the Search Terms.
  • It only affects 1 in 10 search results.
  • It’s an Algorithm which better understands natural language processing.
  • It gives real value to prepositions (like To, For, etc.)

What To Do After Google BERT?

You may not know this but the industry hasn’t seen anything significant in ranking changes following Google BERT. With other big algorithms like Panda, Penguin or Mobilegeddon, there were very large movements and restructures of search result pages. That has not happened with BERT. Why? Because it doesn’t change how Google views your website.

Therefore, there really isn’t anything for you to do specifically related to Google BERT. As long as you’re doing SEO in the correct manner, your website will be fine. That said, if you’re doing something dodgy with SEO, it won’t be BERT that penalises you – it’ll be one of the other Google Algorithms like Google Speed or Maccabees.

So sit back, relax and enjoy watching continuation of panics and scaremongering around a Google Update that doesn’t actually affect your websites anyway. Then, if you feel you want to see if you can take advantage of your competitors’ blind panic, why not get in touch with us today for an honest and transparent look at your SEO strategy?

Written byGareth Torrance

Hello there. I'm Gareth, the Search Engine Marketing Lead at Brave. With almost a decade of experience in PPC and SEO, I've seen everything from Pandas and Penguins to the horrible time that was Mobilegeddon. As a Google Ads Certified Google Specialist, I have lived through almost every major shift in the industry! And that makes me feel old.

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