Google recently announced it’s biggest change to the search landscape since the introduction of RankBrain five years ago, which they’ve catchily titled “Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers” (otherwise known as BERT). Google BERT utilises artificial intelligence and neural networking techniques to focus in on what the user’s intention is behind the search, rather than specific keywords within the query.
In practice, this means that Google is now better able to understand the nuance and context of users’ searches and can understand the intention of a complete or complex sentence. An easy example of this would be when a keyword has dual meanings (bass, crane, date etc), Google will now be able to interpret the information that the user provides within a search query and understand how the words relate to each other as a whole. This will allow Google to identify that someone searching “how to play the bass” is likely looking for information around the bass guitar and may not be interested in a website around bass fishing.
Whilst this update will predominantly impact longer tail, conversational and more natural search queries, it will have a tangible effect upon the organic search landscape. Google believes that 1 in 10 search queries will be affected by the roll-out of BERT and, with an estimated 63,000 Google searches currently being made per second, it’s easy to see how the impact of this update can quickly add up.
Whilst factoring the impact of BERT into any future SEO or content strategy is a must, particularly with Google identifying this as “one of the biggest leaps forward in the history of search”, all content should continue to be created with your audience, and their interests, firmly in mind. As and when BERT is fully rolled out, it should (in theory) mean that the users landing on your site are the ones who are likely to be the most interested and engaged with what they find on it. Now, it’s just a matter of making sure that your content matches their, and Google’s, expectations.