Google is always pushing boundaries and looking for ways to improve their services. One of their primary missions is to make Google searches more practical and relevant by enhancing the interpretation of queries, giving people the results they seek. This past October was a significant milestone in that mission with the new BERT update. Many that speak about BERT call it a significant step forward in making searches more precise, meaningful, and helpful. While this does sound amazing to users that browse the web, it also causes some concern for digital marketers that have already gotten used to the status quo. In order to anticipate how BERT can possibly affect the future of the online landscape, it is vital to understand it first.
What Exactly Is BERT?
BERT is the newest algorithm update from Google that focuses on AI (Artificial Intelligence). It stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, and it is all about natural language learning, essentially the process of enabling computers to understand language the way humans do. It is a pre-trained and unsupervised natural language processing model that utilizes the Wikipedia corpus. While this might not make sense to the layperson, it is good to know that you do not need to need to start looking into AI to understand what BERT can do.
How BERT Works
In essence, BERT is excellent at handling “context heavy” language problems, that were previously problematic for AI. While most Natural Language Processing models have a difficult time differentiating the context of words and returning relevant results consistently, BERT is different. It uses the relationship and context of all words in a sentence, rather than looking at a search query word by word. In this way, BERT can understand the meaning of an entire phrase by taking into account the words that came before and after (bidirectionally) the searched term. This multilevel analysis will enable Google to grasp the gist of a search and return results that match the semantics of a search and not just keywords.
Slight alterations in search queries that show different intent will be picked up, and the intent will dramatically change the search results. However, the new Google BERT update does not affect all searches made. Since its implementation, it only affects 1 in every 10 searches in the United States. It is also important to note that at this stage of the project, BERT is only affecting English searches. It will still need to go through some further testing and improvements to affect all searches and languages.
How Can This Affect Digital Marketers?
This new advancement in natural language learning can have some effects on search engine optimization. However, it is essential to say that these effects are all speculation in these early stages and that there are no facts currently. Even Google stated that they are uncertain of how BERT will affect results. However, it is great news for content marketers whose goal is to produce great quality and not just play the system. BERT will enable Google to understand the context of words better and predict upcoming sentences. It will also determine if search results are related to the topic or if they are just gibberish. Well written and structured content will be more important than ever before. Content that is spammy and focuses more on keyword stuffing will definitely take a hit thanks to the new update.
BERT is an incredible step forward for machine learning and natural language learning. While this Google update is a giant step forward, it is important not to start overhyping it. BERT is still in the beginning stages and is far away from understanding content the same way a human does. In the meantime, remember that no update can negatively affect good content, so make sure to focus on providing quality and not just quantity. If you wish to start enjoying good results for your business faster, don’t hesitate to contact me. I’d love to discuss your marketing strategy and help in any way I can.
Rob Dunford is a Marketing Consultant in the Great Toronto Area with over 20 years of experience in implementing marketing plans for small businesses.