Google has announced a new algorithm update rolling out, which they are calling the most important update during the last five years.

Codenamed ‘BERT’ this major update will have a direct impact on complicated search queries and will put more emphasis on the context of the query itself.

Google: “These improvements are oriented around improving language understanding, particularly for more natural language/conversational queries, as BERT is able to help Search better understand the nuance and context of words in Searches and better match those queries with helpful results. Particularly for longer, more conversational queries, or searches where prepositions like “for” and “to” matter a lot to the meaning, Search will be able to understand the context of the words in your query. You can search in a way that feels natural for you.”

The BERT algorithm is a deep learning algorithm related to natural language processing. It not only helps a machine to understand what the words in a sentence mean but will do so with all the nuances of context. Think of it like Schema markup on steroids. The more context the search engine understands, the better the results. Rather than searching for a product or service and entering keywords you think will deliver you better results, Google’s BERT update plans to take care of that for you by understanding the context better than before.

Structure has always been important, and so has well-written content. The focus on these will become even greater moving forward as BERT improves on its search query understanding.

It’s been a few years since we’ve seen search queries on mobile surpass 50%, and with many of these being carried out by voice, we’re entering the era of natural language search. It’s estimated that by 2020 more than 50% of queries will be voice searches. This is due not only by mobile phones but the influx of smart devices that most people now have within their homes and offices.

What it means for SEO’s will be revealed over time. On one hand, if you’re already delivering great content, you have nothing to worry about. If your content is poor, and your site doesn’t have great structure then you may see a decline in traffic but this is no different to any other update that rolls out. Great content results in increases, and poor content… you get the idea.

However, where the opportunities will open up will partly depend on how BERT evolves and that’s something only time will tell.

With BERT analysing search queries and not pages, it really is going to be a deep learning AI that means users are going to find the answer they were looking for, quicker. This is the theory anyway.

With context around keywords, web owners are going to find it more important than ever to feature well-written content with structured markup where possible. Not doing so could have a negative impact as the update starts to affect search results. It might not be today, but it will be soon.

Though this isn’t a scare tactic post. If anything, it’s the opposite. BERT’s ability to understand the context better will open up new opportunities for webmasters to bring in even more traffic – assuming their content is well written and organised.

BERT started rolling out last week and should be fully live shortly. For now, it’s rolling out for English language queries, though will expand to other languages in the future. BERT is here to stay, and this is just the beginning for this artificial intelligence deep learning search bot.

Speak to an SEO strategist

Growing a business online is hard, but it doesn’t have to be. Speak to our SEO strategist today and find out how we can help you drive organic growth. We'll also provide you with a free comprehensive website audit with actionable recommendations. Give us a call on 01432 483163 or send us an email.