Google’s BERT Update Explained and Recovery Strategies

Contrary to what you might first think, Google’s BERT update has nothing to do with a beloved Sesame Street character. BERT: Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. It’s a mouthful, and for a good reason. BERT is Google’s Fall 2019 update, providing the search engine with the most advanced query interpretation on the market. BERT allows web crawlers to provide users with the most accurate and relevant results because the update understands the queries in context with nuance and pinpoint accuracy. BERT’s name is overwhelming, but understanding the update itself doesn’t have to be. We’ve broken it all down so you can understand what it is, what it does, and how to structure your SEO so that BERT works in your favor.

Launch Date: October 21, 2019

A reasonably new update to Google’s algorithm, BERT began rolling out in late October for English-language queries.

What Google’s BERT Update Impacted

Google claims that Bert only affects one in ten searches on the engine. But, as a principle, you want to make every search count. BERT’s good thing is that it’s not one of Google’s updates that penalizes sites or pages. However, there are a couple of reasons why you might rank lower than your competitors:

Wrong Keywords

As with all SEO practices, keywords are crucial. However, if you have a narrow list of keywords or keyword phrases that you’re ranking for, the BERT update will probably bypass you in favor of sites with the keyword focuses that Google’s users are searching for.

Unnatural Content

BERT is one of the most advanced and progressive updates to Google’s algorithm. As a result, it can discern context and user intent better than ever. That means users can enter a query precisely as they’d ask, and BERT enables the web crawlers to understand the question and find content that will satisfy the user. If your content is written unnaturally, cumbersome, or full of jargon, chances are, you will not like your page ranking.

How The BERT Update Works

BERT is a true revolution in how Google processes language and queries. The update is a neural network-based technique for natural language processing. In layperson’s terms, it gives Google the more remarkable ability to determine the context of its user’s queries and provides better interpretation and results.

In the past, Google would interpret a user’s query word by word. With the advent of the BERT update, the search engine can parse the entire query phrase to provide more accurate search results. BERT reads query text the same way a human would: as a whole thought, not as individual words. With BERT, context is king, which works out nicely for users because this update understands user intent better than any other update that has come before it.

How to Adjust Your SEO Strategy and Recover

As we said, you will not be penalized with the BERT update. The focus is less on finding “bad” sites and downranking them and more on understanding user intent more clearly and nuanced than ever. Still, there are minor tweaks you can implement on your site and to your content to give yourself the best chance of ranking high with BERT.

Write Long-form Content

The goal of your SEO for content creation is to answer your audience’s questions and provide the very best solution for their problems. One way to guarantee that you’ll be their best resource is to have enough quality long-form content on your page. In other words, have enough words so that your keywords and phrasing match users’ questions and queries.

Determine What is Causing Your Rank to Drop

If you’re taking care of your SEO yourself, you can use Google’s Search Console to see precisely where you’re landing as far as rankings are concerned. In addition, using this tool, you can compare your orders over time to see what specific keywords or queries affect your status.

While this is a helpful tool and practice, it may not necessarily be due to BERT that your rankings have changed. Google has multiple daily updates to its core algorithm because it’s constantly trying to give users the best experience possible. Your fluctuations in order might be part of the natural ebb and flow of the massive—and ever-evolving—search engine that is Google.

Tweak Your Content

If you’re noticing that your rankings aren’t as high as you’d like them to be, try changing up your content. For example, answer a different question or answer the same question differently using additional terms. Try addressing queries from a different perspective. Or try utilizing another content type altogether—images, video, etc.


In short, BERT has made Google smarter and more human-like. As our desire for and access to information grows, and the information available to us constantly expands, having the BERT update to interpret our queries will give us the most satisfying results.

Additional Google Update Resources