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Google’s BERT— Just The Facts

October 28, 2019 Sarah Cavill

Google has been rolling out a number of search updates over the last several months and, according to Search Engine Land, the latest update, BERT, is the biggest change in search at Google since RankBrain, and “will impact 1 in 10 queries in terms of changing the results that rank for those queries.”

What Is BERT?

Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, or BERT, is Google’s “neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP) pre-training” that the search engine open-sourced last year and is now actively deploying, first in English, with other languages to follow in the coming weeks. In laymen’s terms, BERT allows computers to understand language more like humans do. According to the Google Blog, “BERT is the first deeply bidirectional, unsupervised language representation, pre-trained using only a plain text corpus (in this case, Wikipedia).”

Why Is BERT Important To Search?

BERT enhances search because it better understands the intention of the searcher with a deeper grasp of context for more accurate search matches. In the example below, BERT’s more refined understanding of human speech allows Google to see the importance of the word “to.” Google explains, “With BERT, search is able to grasp this nuance and know that the very common word ‘to’ actually matters a lot here, and we can provide a much more relevant result for this query.”

Image from search engine land 2019 brazil travel to usa need a visa before and after BERT

Featured snippets, which are answer summaries to searcher questions, are also benefitting from BERT, which is currently being used globally on snippets in all languages.

Can Marketers Optimize For BERT?

Just as it wasn’t possible to optimize for RankBrain – which, by the way, is still very much alive and being used alongside BERT – there is no way to optimize for BERT. However, Google is calling the deployment of BERT one of the biggest leaps forward in the history of search. So, the best course of action for marketers is to continue implementing the most relevant, targeted content they always have, and enjoy the “more relevant results” Google is promising.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Senior Marketing Communications Writer, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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