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Here’s What You Need to Know About the Google BERT Update

December 13, 2019
By Joshua Hay
how to optimize your google search results

As a business owner, you know that search engine optimization is an integral aspect of your online marketing strategy. One reason that search engine optimization remains difficult is that search engines are constantly changing their algorithms. This means that an SEO strategy that works for your website today may not work as well in a week or a month when search engine algorithms update. As the top search engine in the world, Google’s algorithms are particularly important for business owners to understand and consider when creating their website. Every few months, Google releases a new update to its algorithm, and business owners and marketers everywhere scramble to determine how to adjust their websites to account for the new algorithm. Google’s newest algorithm is known as BERT. Here’s what you need to know about it.

What Does BERT Stand For?

BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. It’s one of the most important algorithm updates in the past five years and is estimated to have an effect on 10% of all search results.

Here’s What BERT Does
As with any Google update, the goal of the BERT update is to help Google provide more accurate search results to its users. Here are some of the key things this update addresses:

Provides Better Snippets: The BERT update better understands the questions users are asking and provides more relevant snippets from your website. This can increase the chances of your website ranking higher for long-term search terms. However, it may also reduce the click-through rate for searches where users are just looking to fact-check or gather a single point of data.
Understands More Conversational Queries: The algorithm understands how users are using language, including prepositions like “for” and “to”, and is returning more accurate search results based on the nuances of conversational language. The goal of this is to make it easier for users to phrase things and get the search results they want.
Emphasizes Context: The English language is filled with words that mean different things depending on context. The bidirectional nature of the BERT update allows it to interpret the context in a search query and return better results as a result.
You’ll notice that all of these effects are related to how the BERT update affects search queries. This is because the BERT update is focused on Google better interpreting what people are searching for rather than focusing on interpreting websites better. However, that doesn’t mean that the BERT update doesn’t effect websites.

SEO and the BERT Update

In many ways, the BERT Update is set to benefit site owners with high-quality, context-specific content. Websites will now have a better chance of ranking for longtail keywords and having their content returned for more specific inquiries. The update will also increase the odds that customers who come to your website are actually looking for the content on your website, which should reduce bounce rates.

As with any Google update, the BERT update makes it increasingly important that the content you provide on your website is rich, detailed, and easy to comprehend. The better your content is, the more likely it is that the BERT update will help your website. Poorly written content will continue to rank low with the new algorithms, and may even rank lower.


The BERT update is set to have a significant impact on search results, but if your content is good, the results should be positive. In fact, smaller websites may be more able to attain Rank 0 as a result of this update. If you find that your traffic dips after the BERT update, you may want to consider concentrating on improving the quality of the content on your website. Here at Hello Digital, we offer search engine optimization services. This includes helping businesses navigate Google algorithm updates. For more information, contact us today.