Google BERT Update: The latest algorithm update

Google BERT is the latest algorithm update. It’s the biggest search improvement in 5 years, and affects 10% of search queries. Find out how you can prepare for BERT.

What is the latest update of Google?

“BERT” is the latest Google algorithm update. It stands for: Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers

What is the BERT algorithm update?

  • Google’s biggest improvement to search in 5 years
  • Will affect 10%, or 1 in 10 search queries
  • BERT makes it easier for Google to interpret a full sentence, rather than a sequence of keywords
  • Focuses on long-tail semantic searches
  • Currently affecting English language queries
  • Impacts featured snippets across many different languages

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When was Google’s latest update?

  • The Google BERT update began rolling out on 28 Oct 2019
  • BERT is predicted to finish rolling out by 1 Nov 2019

What’s the difference between the Google BERT update and RankBrain?

  • BERT is similar to RankBrain, Google’s other semantic algorithm, in that it is a ‘Neural network’ based technique (Natural language processing)
  • Also similarly to RankBrain, the BERT update focuses on better understanding search queries and content in a ‘Human’ way
  • BERT will not replace RankBrain, but will instead work in tandem with it to understand searchers’ intent and deliver relevant search results

How do you optimise for the Google BERT update?

According to Barry Schwatz, like RankBrain, there is nothing specifically to optimise for when it comes to the BERT update. The takeaway is that you simply need to prioritise your reader and create quality content.

Neil Patel takes the view that you can improve your likelihood of benefitting from this update by amending your SEO strategy to focus on creating longer-tail content for informational searches – or those at the top end of the funnel. By that, he means creating content for readers that are in the very early stages of their purchase journey, and have low intent.

How does voice search come into the BERT algorithm update?

I may have a habit of looking at things through a ‘Voice search’ lens – given that I have been researching this topic for some time now alongside the University of Hertfordshire – but I have been testing voice queries for the last four years, and have found some astounding results which suggest to me that the BERT algorithm update could well be the re-awakening of voice search.

Our research suggests voice searches are producing better results (i.e. webpages, content or URLs returning in the SERPs), than that of their keyword counterparts.

The level of satisfaction expressed by the participants in our study was directly proportional to the length of their query: voice search SEO queries were 26.5% more likely to satisfy the intent of searchers.

Even if participants only began their online shopping journey with a voice query, they suggested that they would be more likely to make a purchase via voice, than when they searched with keywords alone.

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So how does the Google BERT algorithm update fit into this?

As we explored above, BERT makes it easier for Google to interpret a full sentence than a sequence of keywords. Well it looks like (according to our research) Google is already doing a pretty good job of this.

Google algorithm update - BERT - Will this affect voice search?

Interest in voice search related queries declined drastically over three years

Although Google BERT algorithm update only affects 10% of queries, it is aimed at more conversational searches and, naturally, this favours voice, so I think that after two or three years of declining interest in the subject of voice search SEO (see chart above – remember the 2020 quote that used to be heard daily?), things could all be about to change.

As we discovered, the SERP landscape is beginning to look quite a bit different from what we’re used to seeing with traditional keywords. Thanks to BERT, voice search is about to get serious and we had better be prepared for it.

Let me know if you are interested in seeing the full results of our unique research with The University of Hertfordshire!


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