What Is Google’s “Bert” Algorithm Update?

Google announced a new algorithm update! Check out our blog to find out what this update entails and how it will affect search results for businesses.


Google recently announced an algorithm update that could affect ten percent of all search results. Yes, you read that correctly. Ten percent of all search results.

Although ten percent doesn’t seem like a huge number when you look at the big picture, it will seem like a lot if traffic to your website decreases as well as your online sales.

However, this algorithm change was put in place for a good reason, and in the long term, it will help businesses be found in the right results.

Let’s talk about the “Bert” update and what it means for search results.

Breaking Down Google’s “Bert” Update

Google is basing its latest algorithm update on a technique/tool created last year called “Bert.”

“Bert” stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers — yes, that’s a mouthful, so we’re going to keep calling it by the acronym.

Without completely boring you with digital marketing jargon, “Bert” uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to understand your search queries by focusing on the natural language and not just choosing main keywords.

So, what does this really mean? Let me break it down further.

Before this update was introduced, Google would look at a search as a string of words. It would choose which words of that search were important and ignore connecting words, such as is, a, for, to, etc.

But sometimes these connecting words are crucial to the search and because Google would ignore them, the results weren’t exactly what the searcher was looking for.

Here’s an example that comes directly from Google’s blog covering this update:

“Here’s a search for “2019 brazil traveler to usa need a visa.” The word “to” and its relationship to the other words in the query are particularly important to understanding the meaning. It’s about a Brazilian traveling to the U.S., and not the other way around. Previously, our algorithms wouldn't understand the importance of this connection, and we returned results about U.S. citizens traveling to Brazil.”

With this update in place, businesses that were appearing for certain searches may not show up now that Google recognizes connecting words as part of the search.

Final Thoughts

This isn't the first time Google has done a major algorithm update (we saw the "Fred" and "Possum" updates a while back, so we were due for an algorithm change) and it most certainly won't be the last.

As a business owner, it’s scary knowing it’s possible that your business may appear less or differently in search results because of algorithm changes. Updates like “Bert” make it important for you to have a marketing strategy in place, including a locally-optimized website, keyword-rich content and consistent business listings.

With the rapid change that the digital world brings, our team at RevLocal is ready to help you stay a step ahead of the competition. Request a demo today to learn what we can do to put your businesses in front of the right customers at the right time.

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