Google’s BERT Update Explained: How it will impact content marketing

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Google's BERT update sumodash

Google has recently announced plans to roll out a brand new update called BERT. Now, you may be wondering why this update rally matters and why you should spend your precious time learning about it. 

BERT has been stated to impact 1 in 10 search queries. 

In order to give you a clearer picture of how huge a deal this update is, it’s the largest update In quite a long while. Meaning, this update has a great chance that this influence your site.

Before we go into details about how this update will affect an SEO and preparing to adjust, let’s first try to understand what this update means for everyone. 

What is Google’s BERT?

The term BERT is known as Bidirectional Encoder Representation from Transformers. What do these words mean exactly? Well, Google has recently altered the algorithm to further discern natural language processing. 

Consider it in this manner: a person could type the flight number into the Google search engine and it will typically reveal the flight status. Similar to how a calculator spits out the answer to a math equation you typed in. Or if the person were to type in a stock symbol, the system will know to bring up the stock charts to them. 

A much simpler example would be if you can start inputting keywords into Google and its autocompleting feature can deduce what you are looking for before you even finish typing the words to completion. 

The new changes being introduced in this algorithm update make it much more relevant for users and cause a better experience for everyone who uses Google on a daily basis. 

However, how does this affect SEOs and content marketing?

SEO changes

One of the biggest impacts is the changes made in how Google ranks content. This is an important factor for content marketing. At the moment there are three kinds of queries people tend to normally make when searching:

  • Transactional
  • Navigational
  • Informational

An informational query such as these can be someone who is looking up ways to eat healthier. They aren’t completely certain how thus they decide to start searching for “how to eat better.” 

Once they’ve searched for a topic, they may discover a solution such as various diet methods. From there they can search for a proper solution, utilizing a navigational inquiry corresponding to the “Paleo diet”. Once a person has managed to fully understand the precise answer,  they can make a transactional search inquiry, such as “Paleo diet recipe book”. 

From what we’ve managed to understand from all of this is that BERT is primarily influencing upper funnel keywords, which are informational relevant keywords.

For those of you who wish to not only keep their current rankings but ascend through the ranks of any competitors,  the ideal solution for this is to get specific about the content of your release.

Usually, when you build content, being one of the most seamless ways to list for informational associated keywords, SEOs will inform you to develop extremely long content. Yes, you’ve seen the results of longer-form content ranking better on Google, though the algorithm doesn’t concentrate on word count, it concentrates on quality. 

Danny Sullivan, a Google search liaison, stated in a tweet that he requests content creators and SEOs to concentrate on developing content that is fundamentally amazing, helpful, unique, and engrossing. So if you decide to utilize software tools such as Moz Keyword Explorer or Ubersuggest to discover new issues to discuss, you must ensure the content is incredibly specific

For instance, if you have a business based on fitness and your article regarding “how to properly lose weight without supplements”, your content shouldn’t concentrate on taking diet pills or diet powder drinks or anything similar to that effect. Rather, consider discussing alternative methods of losing weight. 

While you may be thinking, diet powder drinks and pills may not be supplements and they aren’t the same keywords but expect BERT to become more sophisticated in the coming next year which will better understand what people are truly searching for. Furthermore, you should stop concentrating on the density of keywords. 

Indeed, tons of SEOs have decided to stop focusing on such things, though there are still a handful of people who aren’t aware of keyword density. Keyword density is already decreasing in value as Google continues to gain a better grasp of the context for the content you are publishing. 

The opportunity

As previously mentioned, it’s all related to developing a very particular piece of content based on a certain topic. It not about necessarily developing a super long page that discusses 50 various subjects that are 5,000 words long. It’s all about properly answering a person inquiry rapidly while producing great value compared to your competitors

Similar to how you would search for “ What it’s like to participate in the Olympics”, you’ll gain some exciting results. 

While the first result comes with the title of “What it’s like to go to the Olympics”, the article doesn’t go into detail about what it’s like to go as an attendee, but instead describes what it’s like to participate as an athlete.

Similar to how a search would be expected based on the question. BERT was capable of working this out regardless if the headline went in either direction. And that particular article isn’t very long, with only having up to 300ish words

To perform better at ranking on information keywords, aim for very specific and answer the question greater than your competitors. Use whatever you can use to create a vastly superior experience, from audio to images and even videos. 

Let’s clear some things up a bit, all of this doesn’t make long-form content obsolete. It just means that every SEO is already concentrating on publishing long-form content. They are going after generic keywords that can be interpreted in so many various ways and that’s why the content may be vast and thorough. 


Related Read: These are the top search engine ranking factors for content in 2019

Small effects?

As stated before, the Google BERT update introduces new algorithms designed to better understand what’s important in natural language queries. Even so, many SEOs and many of the tracking software did not notice any huge changes in the Google Search results while this algorithm was integrated into Google Search. Many people are wondering why that is?

Tracking tools such as Mozcast and others, mainly keep track of shorter queries. Meaning that BERT’s impact is less likely to be visible in these set of tools. As for site owners, when they look at their rankings, they are most likely not tracking a ton of long-tail queries. You track queries that send greater volumes of traffic to your website and those are normally short-tail queries. 

Marketing Scientist for Moz, Pete Meyers, stated that MozCast tool tracks shorter heads terms and not the types of phrases that are likely in need of natural language processing (NLP) of BERT. 

If you are searching for a tracking tool for the BERT update, virtually all of them have shown minimal amounts of fluctuation in the days BERT was rolled out compared to what they have shown in past Google algorithm update such as core search algorithm updates. 

Furthermore, The New York Times has commented that they’ve managed to witness a “huge” effect from Google BERT update and by affecting they mean a decline in search traffic from Google’s search engine. The Associate Masthead Editor for Audience at The New York Times, Hannah Pferl, recently commented on this issue on her Twitter profile

She explained in a tweet on why the BERT update may have felt minimal for so many publishers and tracking software. The NYT recently also manage to switch over to Google’s mobile-first indexing. Normally a change to mobile-first indexing would not negatively affect the sites ranking on Google, at least massively and negatively. It’s unclear if this is due to the results of Google’s BERT update or mobile-first indexing changes for that matter.

Why should you care?

A lot of people are scrambling around asking about how they can improve their site no that BERT has been launched. That’s not the way to think about BERT. Google has already commented that there is no way to optimize for this. Its function is to help Google improve its understanding of a searcher’s intent when they search in natural language. The upside for content creators is that they can be less concerned about having to write for machines. 


Even if your search traffic manages to drop because of the latest update, don’t become disheartened, instead consider it a positive thing. While it may sound like crazy talk, take the time to consider it this way. If someone is searching for “how to lose weight without supplements” and they landed on your article about how supplements are fantastic, they are simply going to click on the back button and head back to Google Search. In other words, it’s highly unlikely that the traffic converted into a conversation. 

While you may lose some traffic because of this recent update, the traffic was initially ruining your user metrics and increasing the bounce rate of your website. Moreover, this is your opportunity to develop content that is specifically targeted at certain topics. If you do lose traffic, search through the pages that have declined, the search queries that you aren’t ranking anymore, and simply adjust your content or create brand new content that answers the questions people are searching 

If you are unsure of how to pull this off, simply log into Search Console, click on “search results”, and hit the date button. Once that’s done, click on compare and pick dates where your traffic declined and compare it to the previous timeline. Then click on “Queries” and sort by the largest difference. 

For this part, you’ll have to dive for the long-term search queries as those are the most simple to repair. And if you are still unsure of what needs to be fixed, just search for terms on Google that have plunged and look at the highest-ranking competitors. Compare their page alongside yours as it will provide some amount of insight. 

At this point in time, you should simply continue with your strategy to write the best possible content your readers can ask for. Don’t do anything special when it comes to BERT, but instead, be amazing for your viewers. If you are writing for an audience, you are already succeeding at optimizing for Google’s BERT algorithm. 

Are you looking for a custom content marketing solution to grow your organic traffic and brand awareness? Reach out to us and we’ll take good care of you!

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