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Don’t Be Scared of BERT, He’s Very Understanding!

When was the last time you heard of BERT? While it seems like a name from Sesame Street or 1965 (Sorry to all the Berts out there!), BERT might be a name you’d like to know in 2019. That’s because it’s Google’s newest algorithm update and it has a big impact on marketers and their SEO strategy.

BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. In simple terms, BERT improves Google’s ability to detect and respond to natural language. According to marketer Liam Carnahan, BERT helps Google understand language "more like a human and less like a robot." He adds that BERT helps Google’s search function properly interpret the nuances and context of search questions and queries.1 Sounds like an update that was years in the making.

Google BERT Update in Action

By developing BERT, Google interprets the whole phrase, rather than each word in a phrase. This means that answers to queries will be more direct and contextually relevant. How noticeable will the difference be? According to Google, very noticeable.

In his article exploring BERT, marketer Neil Patel outlines a key example of how BERT makes a difference in your search results.2 Patel explains, that if you looked up "2019 Brazil traveler to USA need Visa" before BERT, your top result would be how US citizens can travel to Brazil without a visa.

Comparision of a search before and after BERT. Image taken from Neil Patel's blog: https://neilpatel.com/blog/bert-google/
(IMAGE: BRAZIL BERT RESULT)

However, after BERT, your result is more accurate – it’s about people traveling to the US from Brazil. That’s because BERT accounts for connecting words like "for" and "to" more accurately. They can add a lot of meaning and nuance to your search query.

BERT Won’t Hurt

While any new algorithm update might seem daunting to content marketers, you have nothing to fear. BERT is beneficial to most of us, as long we abide by the golden rule of content writing – writing naturally. If you’re unsure of how to make your content writing feel more natural, but effective, have a look at our article on writing tips that work. If you’ve crossed that hurdle, here are some things to know about BERT that can help you better optimize your content:

  • Context is Key: As mentioned above, BERT allows Google to understand the context behind words, rather than just words themselves. This is very helpful for words with multiple meanings.
  • Testing, Testing: BERT is still in its testing phase, which means it only impacts about 1 in 10 searches on Google.<3 Plus, it’s only being used on U.S. English search queries…for now.  
  • See it on Snippets: You’ll be able to see BERT at work on featured snippets and through PAA on Google. That means, it’s easier than ever for users to find what they’re actually searching for.

While BERT is a new update, it’s not a stretch to say that it could become the new normal for Google. With the rise in audio driven searches through smart phones and home assistant devices, Google and its competitors are working diligently to respond to naturally worded queries in an accurate way. BERT is a small step for the search engine, but a giant leap for SEO as a whole. 

Are you struggling to understand your NLA (‘no longer available’) from your SEO (‘search engine optimization’)? Content marketing may not be your strongest suit – and we’re here to help. At MintCopy, we have a team of talented SEO writers that can keep your content relevant and interesting. We use the best digital practices to optimize your content and keep your site, blog and other online platforms relevant.

Use our online form to get in touch. You can also follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to stay up-to-date with content marketing trends.

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