But What About BERT? Your Guide to Google’s Latest Algorithm Update

Google announced its latest algorithm update on October 24, 2019, a few days after its initial rollout had already started. The update will affect up to 10% of queries on the search engine, making BERT one of the largest updates from Google in the past five years.



BERT is an acronym representing “Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers” (We’ll get to this in a second, in plain English) and is a “neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP) pre-training.” Whew! That’s a mouthful.


BERT Explained

BERT’s focused on figuring out the intent of your Google searches better. Instead of looking at each search query word by word, BERT lets Google look at the entirety of the search query in order to get a more accurate idea of what the desired result is. In the past, simple words, minor modifications or discrepancies in search queries and Google Ads Keywords could substantially change the search query result from what the user wanted pulled up. BERT allows the search engine interpret the desired result from the whole query, and not get distracted by the wrong details.


Look at like this, when someone asks you what a seahorse looks like, do you start out by drawing each individual part separately and gluing them all together? Or do you start with the overall shape first and then fill in the details as you get to each section of the seahorse?



In the first example provided, Google illustrates how a small mistake like using the wrong preposition would affect the algorithm’s interpretation of traveling to the US vs from the US.

In the second example provided, Google used to autocorrect “stand a lot” to “stand-alone” missing the overall intent of the search query, which wanted Google to focus on the physical demands of the job. Now, BERT helps Google interpret the query along the user’s line of thinking: the physical demands of working as an esthetician.

How BERT Will Affect Your SEO

Make sure you watch your traffic for any changes over the next several weeks. This algorithm is not going to punish anyone, thankfully. This update is only meant to better interpret desired search query results from the query itself.


The best way to come out on top of the BERT update? Know the questions and reasoning behind your target audience’s search queries. Then, create your content based on the goal of answering as many of these questions as possible.


Good content in this case comes in the form of well-written, long-form guides and blogs that sufficiently answer the questions your audience has, and even questions they haven’t thought up yet!


If you’re traffic is decreasing because of the BERT rollout, here are a few pointers to get your traffic trending back in the right direction.


  1. Pinpoint the search queries or keywords that make your traffic drop. There are several programs like Search Console that let you run a comparison report of your queries.
  2. Find out what’s ranking now. Is it a different form of content than what you’re publishing? Does it approach a topic from a new angle or perspective? Does slightly different wording create a whole new question?
  3. Slightly change your content. You don’t want to ditch your whole brand identity, but tweaking your content just so to reflect popular trends can open up new possibilities to match popular queries.
  4. Ask Google what it wants! Google is constantly letting creators know what content performs best.


So there you have it! Google’s BERT update is its latest, and one of the largest of the past five years. It’s purpose is to better understand search intent, not to penalize anyone from doing anything a certain way, so there’s no need to rush and upend your content plans and strategies. All you have to do is pay attention to your traffic over the next few weeks and adapt to what you’re seeing. We’re excited to see how our SEO improves!


Contact us to find out how we can help with your business’s digital presence. For a free consultation to formulate a strategic and affordable plan, call us today at 251-583-2605 or visit We are a Google Trusted Agency and will be happy to answer your questions.