Google launches BERT algorithm to better understand intent

Allyson Griffiths

Head of Earned Media

Google this morning announced the rollout of a new algorithm, BERT, in what is the biggest change to the company's search platform since the introduction of Rankbrain in 2015. The update began rolling out on Monday this week and is expected to impact 10% of search queries.

This is a serious show of tech muscle from Google, with new super computers built to run it reportedly breaking AI records.

What is BERT?

BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, which unless you have a very technical PHD, probably means nothing. Put simply, instead of processing each word in a query in isolation, the machine learning used looks at the words surrounding it to understand the context and provide more accurate results. 

What's the benefit of BERT? 

Users will be able to write (or speak) in language that suits them, without the need to adapt their queries multiple times to generate the required results.

Google provided us with some examples of this in practice here.

What queries will BERT affect?

Both traditional organic results and featured snippets will be impacted. As Google better understands the intent behind a consumer's search, the update may also affect when featured snippets are shown and the type of featured snippet used.

How can I see if I've been affected?

As this algorithm update deals mostly with long-tail, complicated search queries that will often be unique, it will be hard to track the impact through traditional means. Most tools that report on third-party visibility will only do so using known queries, so website owners will need to rely on their analytics and search console data to identify fluctuation in total impressions and clicks. We recommend checking your data early next week for any major changes to traffic, ensuring you take into account any seasonality of search relevant to your industry.

If you think your site has been affected or would like more information on our organic search services, please get in contact with our team of SEO experts at results@icrossing.co.uk

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