What are Google Algorithm updates?
Google, the worlds largest search engine, regularly pushes out updates to it's algorithm. In fact, updates occur more often than you think - minor monthly updates are common.
But major algorithm updates, ones that can have a big effect on how websites rank, occur less frequently. The recent Google BERT update is one such update.
But why does Google update it's algorithm?
Google have become #1 for a reason. They simply give you the very best search result matches for what you're looking for. It's what's kept them ahead of the game and the market leader.
So when a major algorithm comes along, it's because Google has found a way to better deliver the results of a search to you.
This may seem like an odd comment, but Google are constantly monitoring the searches that people are making. And, like anything, things change over time and experience.
Using this data that they gather, they can see changes and react accordingly, giving you, the consumer, a much better experience. And ultimately, if something is working we like, we're less likely to change (i.e. move to another search engine).
What is BERT?
BERT, which stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, is a neural network-based technique for natural language processing pre-training. In plain English, it can be used to help Google better discern the context of words in search queries.
So what's different about BERT?
Some are calling BERT the biggest update for 5 years. Google have said it will affect 10% of all of the global searches - a massive impact when it deals with 63,000 per second.
To put it simply, BERT is about trying to make more sense of what people search for. For example, the word BANK has many different meanings - a bank (as in a place that has your money) and a bank (next to a river for example).
How does this affect me?
Well, take Google's official response from Danny Sullivan with a pinch of salt:
"There's nothing to optimize for with BERT, nor anything for anyone to be rethinking. The fundamentals of us seeking to reward great content remain unchanged."
However, his follow up comment said a lot more:
"My answer was that BERT doesn't change the fundamentals of what we've long said: write content for users."
Google have long ago weeded out the majority of people who create content purely to spam keywords. Keyword stuffing is pretty much dead. What Google are looking for is for you to write content which engages with the user - not to engage with a search engine.
Here is what you need to do in a nutshell:
Don't try to overthink what you're writing, thinking to yourself "what would Google want me to write". Think about what the end user wants to read - will they get what they need from the content? Are you giving them all of the information they need to make an informed decision? What would I as a user expect to learn when I read this?
For years, website owners, SEO agencies and marketers have been trying to build content purely with the search engines in mind. But Google have been banging this drum for years. So if they are telling you to do something, why argue with them?