How Does BERT Affect SEO & How Can You Optimize For It?

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Have you heard of Google’s new update? Well, you might have heard about it if you are an old SEO enthusiast. The hype over BERT in the SEO sector is justified since BERT is making search revolve around the meaning or semantics behind the words instead of the words themselves.


In simple terms, the search intent is more considerable than ever. Google’s recent updates of BERT concerning the SEO sector tend to impact 1 in every ten search queries. Meanwhile, Google projects that this will only increase over more locales and languages over time. Due to the imminent impacts, BERT will leave on searches, achieving quality content is more essential than ever. This is to make your content perform at its best regarding BERT and other search intent. Here, in this article, we will sync up on how BERT operates with searches and how one can utilize it to redirect more traffic to your website. But, before anything else, let’s understand what BERT is.

What is BERT?

BERT or Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers is a term loaded with very technical machine learning algorithms!

What does it actually mean?

  • Bidirectional: It encodes sentences in directions simultaneously.
  • Encoder representations: It translates every sentence into representations of words, implying that it can understand.
  • Transformers: This allows BERT to encode all the words in a sentence with relative positions since the context depends on a specific word order (which is a more effective process than remembering exactly how every sentence was entered into the framework).


If you had to reword this, you might say that BERT utilizes transformers to code representations of specific words on either side of target words. When it comes to its base, the name implies that BERT is an updated, state-of-the-art, never-been-accomplished-before natural language processing (NLP) framework. This kind of structure also adds layers of machine learning to Google’s AI developed to acknowledge human language better.



In simple words, with this brand-new update, Google’s AI algorithms can alter and read queries and sentences with higher levels of common sense and human contextual understanding than ever before. While it does not understand specific languages at similar levels as humans do, it is still one of the massive steps forward for NLP into linguistic machine understanding.

What BERT is not?


Google BERT does not transform how web pages are concluded like previous algorithmic changes like Penguin or Panda. In addition, it does not rate pages as negative or positive. Instead, it can improve the search results in conversational queries, making the results match better with their intent.

What’s BERT’s history?


BERT has been around longer than other significant updates that rolled out some months ago. It’s also been discussed in the NLP and ML community since October 2018, when the research paper BERT: Training of Deep Bidirectional Transformers was published. Not long after, Google released an open-sourced, ground-breaking NLP framework based on the papers that the NLP community could utilize to research NLP and integrate it into their processes.


Since then, users have experienced several new NLP frameworks, including Toyota’s and Google’s combined ALBERT, Microsoft’s MT-DNN, Facebook’s RoBERTa, and IBM’s BERT-mtl.

How does BERT work?

Google BERT is quite a complex framework where understanding it would mean years and research papers of NLP theory and its processes. The SEO world does not need to go that deep. However, understanding what it is doing and why is helpful for understanding search results.

Google BERT explained


Here is how Google BERT administers the context of a sentence or search query:

  • BERT administers a query
  • It breaks it into word-by-word
  • Looks at every possible relationship between the words
  • Develops bidirectional maps outlining the combination between words in all the directions
  • Analyzes the contextual definitions behind words when they are paired.


Remember, every line represents how “panda” changes the definition of other words when it comes to a sentence and vice versa. The relationships also go both ways. Indeed, this is a straightforward example of how it looks in context. Such an example examines the relationships between the target word, “panda,” and the various other meaningful sentence segments. But, BERT analyzes every contextual relationship of words found in the sentence.

What does BERT impact?

What does it imply when we talk about search? This means that all the algorithms designed to work are considered. And, even the slightest meaningful ones involving words like prepositions could change the intent drastically.

Panda bamboo


Did you notice how the results pages are similar to one another? More than half of the organic results are identical, and the PAA sections have some questions and queries that might look the same. However, the search intent is relatively different, though.


“Panda bamboo” is an inclusive term; that’s why the intent is challenging to pin down. This search page hits this point pretty well. Meanwhile, “what does a panda eat other than bamboo” is one of the specific ones in the search intent that some of the results on the search pages miss out on entirely.


The only result that came close to the intent was possibly two of these PAA questions:

  • What type of meat does a panda eat?
  • How can a panda survive on bamboo-only meals?


It’s all about slim pickings. Prior to the BERT update, Google’s algorithms will regularly ignore filler words, such as “other than,” when coming back with the information. This led to search pages that failed to contest the search intent. Since BERT impacts 10% of your search questions, it is not surprising that the left page has not been affected by the BERT update at the time of this. Having said that, here are some straightforward approaches to assist you with recent BERT updates.

Simpler and Succinct Content

You might have encountered specific experts talking about the importance of word count. But, in reality, that is not the case, and it isn’t essential as you might believe it is. Google has reminded webmasters that you should write for every user – not the search engines. Of course, some webmasters still put the “technicality” of the content as the most vital aspect. Suppose you are one of the webmasters that still emphasize keyword placement, keyword density, etc., inside your content while not providing importance to the “naturalness” and quality of the content. In that case, you might lose out on Google’s most recent algorithm updates.

Here are a few pointers to consider when you tend to write your content piece:

  • Avoid highfalutin, flowery, and unnecessary words.
  • Be as straightforward as possible.
  • The content must contain valuable information helpful to the readers.

Topic Clusters

Here is the rationale for emphasizing topic clusters: being visible for specific topics is far better than ranking for a particular keyword. Using topic clusters, one can develop signals to search engines, quoting that you’re influential and authoritative for some topics that encompass an array of long-tail keywords. This is where it will eventually outweigh most traffic you are receiving for a handful of high-difficulty keywords.

Be Specific with the Queries or Keywords You Target

One primary challenge for search engine optimizations for BERT is that such an update is not about how the search engine understands website content but is about understanding exactly what users are looking for.