Google BERT: What Does It Mean for Your Next Search Query?

Date: January 10, 2020

Think about all the subtleties and nuances of the English language. You’ve got homophones, synonyms, polysemous words, homonyms, idiomatic phrases, and many other parts of speech that can prove confusing. 

Traditionally, computers and search engines couldn’t understand all of the complexities of language. That’s all about to change now with Google BERT. 

What is Google BERT?

BERT, which stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representation for Transformers, is the biggest change to the search engine in over five years and is predicted to have a positive impact on at least 10% of the company’s searches. 

BERT is, in its simplest terms, trying to help the search engine perceive context for your queries. Its purpose is to distinguish the nuances of language. It will currently only be rolling out in English, but Google plans for BERT to be available in all languages in the near future. 

Rather than just knowing the words in the phrase you searched, BERT will help the site understand the meaning of the whole phrase, and give you stronger, more relevant, optimized search engine result pages. 

BERT is an example of a natural language processor. Natural language processing is the procedure of teaching computers how to understand how humans naturally speak and communicate. 

What Will BERT Do Specifically?

BERT will primarily work with longer, more conversational search queries. If your Google search has a preposition, it’s likely that BERT will assist in your search results. 

The application’s purpose is, essentially, to fine-tune the search results to yield stronger, more consistently relevant pages and increasing the user experience.

How Does BERT Work?

Another element that makes Google’s latest rollout unique is the way in which BERT was trained. It began learning language by interpreting the entirety of Wikipedia’s English entries and Brown Corpus. This helped it gain a firm understanding of the formal English language. 

After that, it was streamlined towards more conversational conventions of language, like answering questions and the little idiosyncrasies that make the English language so unique. 

One of the most innovative aspects of BERT is right it its name. It is bidirectional. This means that rather than reading a sentence from left to right, like the human eye is trained to do, BERT can analyze the entirety of the query simultaneously. 

Another unique and potentially game-changing facets of BERT is its use of transformers. 

Relating to Google BERT, transformers focus on the words within the context of all the other words in your search query. This means that they can help lessen the ambiguity of your search so that your results can be optimized to yield the strongest results. 

The encoders (the E in BERT) work directly with the transformers. The encoder interprets all of the information you typed into your search query. 

But Why?

The whole purpose of BERT is to help machines understand the complexities of language, so they can better assist us and predict what we’re trying to say. In its essence, Google BERT is trying to streamline the search process so that your search results become more useful and relevant. 

BERT is predicted to catapult Google’s voice-searches to new heights. Since Google will now be able to understand human communication on a whole new, unprecedented level, it is likely to assume that the use of Google assistants and voice-activated searches will reach new, previously unheard of heights. Conversational queries will result in answers with much more accuracy, thanks to BERT. 

What Will This Mean for Search Engine Optimization?

With BERT, Google’s organic search results will be much more relevant to the user’s query. However, this does not mean that you must revamp your entire SEO guidelines. 

Many have jumped at the opportunity to do extensive research on how to optimize your site to be compatible with BERT, but Google’s Search Liasion, Danny Sullivan clarified on his Twitter account that this is, in fact, not necessary. 

In his tweet, Sullivan clarified that “There is nothing to optimize for with BERT, nor is there anything for anyone to be rethinking. 

This means that nothing has to change regarding your site’s current SEO plan. BERT is not revamping how Search Engine Optimization is performed but is trying to strengthen the search engine’s ability to increase sentiment analysis in an attempt to yield stronger, more relevant results.

Google’s ability to directly answer questions will only improve its ability to produce increasingly accurate and streamlined answers to your queries. 

Pay attention to your search queries in the coming weeks. Do you notice an increase in accuracy? Are you noticing a rise in relevancy due to the BERT update?

If you’re interested in learning more about Search Engine Optimization and Google BERT, take a look at 9Sail’s website!

9Sail is a search marketing firm based in Fairfield, NJ that combines search engine optimization and pay-per-click management to help businesses solve their issues with lead generation, brand awareness, reputation building and management, and generating targeted website traffic.

Click here to contact the team at 9Sail.