The latest algorithm update aims to bring users results that are more relevant by understanding the context behind search queries with the help of artificial intelligence. The goal of this update is to enhance the user experience by making the process of a Google search feel natural.
In October, Google announced the biggest change to the core search algorithm in the past five years. Google is using an artificial language processing tool called Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, or BERT, to bring context to received search queries. In the old algorithm, Google focused on individual keywords in a search query, and used these individual keywords to return results. Users received results based on the words in the search query that the algorithm found most important. The problem with this method is that the algorithm lacked conversational context.
Google shared the following example of how the old algorithm worked: a user searching for “2019 brazil traveler to usa need a visa.” The word “to” and how it impacted the other words in the search query weren’t perceived to be important in the old algorithm, which returned results for U.S. citizens that are looking for information about traveling to Brazil.
The BERT model takes the word “to” into consideration and understands the context of the search query. This change returned search results for Brazilian citizens that are traveling to the U.S. and need information about obtaining a visa.
Impact on Content Strategy
Google says that the BERT update could change search results for one out of 10 queries. It is important for content creators to remember that not all search queries will be impacted by this update, and time will tell how this algorithm will influence conversions. This update targets the longer and more conversational phrases and keywords that people use while talking to each other. For users, the BERT update could be a great asset when searching on Google and could result in spending less time scrolling through pages of information that doesn’t meet the initial query, especially for those using a mobile device.
Does this mean that businesses should start optimizing for BERT? Experts in the SEO community are saying, no. BERT’s goal is to return better results based on the unique phrases used in search queries. The best approach continues to be creating great content using natural language, written to be understood by human beings instead of a search algorithm.