Google’s BERT Update: Explained

You may or may not have heard, but Google has recently rolled out its biggest update in five years, and with 10% of search queries being affected, there’s a good chance your SEO efforts may need to be tweaked.

This update is called BERT. It stands for Bidrectional Encoder Representations from Transformers.

Without going deep into the technical jargon of algorithms and neural networks, we’re going to explain what this means and what can be done to keep your website ranking highly in light of this update.

What the update comes down to is Google building a better understanding of natural language processing. Natural language processing is the artificial intelligence that aims to understand human communication better.

Before the update, Google primarily assessed search queries by looking at single words. It will now look at the entire phrase. Sometimes words like for, to, in etc, can give a sentence a different meaning. This means that Google now emphasizes understanding the context of your search.

Here is an example:

Google's BERT Update example



In the search 2019 brazil traveller to usa need visa, the word “to” makes all the difference to the search. Before BERT, the search results would target travellers from the USA to Brazil. If you look carefully, the search is actually the other way around. This is the kind of thing that BERT improves upon.

When people make searches on Google, they will generally come under one of three query types:



An informational search is when a user is simply searching for information. Perhaps they want to start cooking healthier meals, they might search what are the best healthy chefs. The correct answer may take them to a blog or website provides a list and information of the top healthy chefs.

The next step in this process could be a search for Tom Kerridge recipes. This is a Navigational search. The user knows what they’re looking for here and the search has more focus.

A further search here could be Tom Kerridge healthy book. This is a Transactional search where the user has a clear intent to make a purchase.

The BERT update focusses mainly on the informational keywords and phrases so that people get answers to their questions quicker and more efficiently.

How can I keep my website ranking up? 


Well, the short answer to this is to get specific with your content. Answer people’s questions.

In your SEO research, start focussing more on long-tail phrases as well as just words, and start developing very specific content around a topic, rather than one huge page that covers a range of topics and has an endless word count.

It’s about quality over quantity. 

Don’t worry too much


Although the BERT update is a big one, it won’t start penalising you for any new reasons, it’s purpose is purely to better understand what people are searching for and why. It wants content that answers questions.

If you have noticed a drop in your traffic recently or would like to get a more in-depth look at your domain and keyword ranking, then LimeGreen Marketing can develop a report that looks into this and can offer up and carry out required tweaks. Get in touch with us today to find out more.