Introducing BERT: Here’s what he means for your website.

Think BERT, and you’re probably imagining that lovable muppet, best pal of Ernie, who was a helpful partner and great friend.

Unfortunately, the BERT I’m going to tell you about isn’t quite as cuddly, but he could well be your friend and can certainly help your website to generate the leads, enquiries and sales you need to help your business grow.

Positives and Negatives of BERT

What is BERT?

BERT is the most major algorithm update Google has introduced in 5 years.

The headline: BERT will* reward unique, well-written content, quality images, user-friendly layouts, readability and well-ordered code.

*according to Google!

In summary: If your website is well-managed, regularly updated, contains quality, well-structured and unique content that is written for humans and isn’t stuffed with keywords, is laid out well and can be used easily by a visitor, you’re in luck.

Stop right there. What’s an algorithm?

Algorithms are the rules Google uses to read a search query and to find the answers a searcher is looking for amongst the vast wealth of online content.

They’re important to us because when we’re writing, designing, building and optimising websites we need to understand how Google is going to read the site and what it’s looking for in order to give it the search engine ranking our client wants.

Put simply, Google reads a user’s search query as a question, and then finds relevant content to answer that question.

‘BERT’ stands for ‘Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers’. Nope, it doesn’t mean a lot to me either but at least you can wow your friends at the pub quiz!

Transformers process all the words in a sentence together in relation to each other, rather than picking up individual words one-by-one. They read and interpret language like we do.

So what does BERT do?

BERT analyses the language of a search term with much greater intelligence than before. Whereas previously Google would pick out key words and phrases within a search term, BERT now helps Google to understand the smaller language details, presenting much more accurate results.

An example:

  • The search term ‘Leigh web designer for business’ might have presented results about web designer businesses based in Leigh.

BERT will look at the use of the word ‘for’ and present more accurate results about web designers based in Leigh who do work for businesses.

BERT-powered Google will read a search term in context, including those more conversational elements of language that can change the meaning of a whole phrase.

Google really believes that this is one of the biggest steps forward search has ever taken. You can find their easy-to-read summary here.

Who’s affected?

Google reckons at least 10% of all US search queries will be impacted by BERT. That’s a sizeable figure, and could well be replicated globally. It’s made everyone sit up and pay attention.

BERT will negatively impact out-of-date websites, small sites with very little content and those looking for quick wins with ‘cheap’ SEO techniques. There’s no substitute for hard work, and BERT is a major advocate of continued, sustained effort.

Is Google just trying to make life harder for us?

No – Google wants to make life easier for the user, which in turn should bring better results for good websites. A user should be able to search Google using everyday language and be presented with information which answers their question.

It should mean that as a user you don’t need to think so hard about the key phrases needed to bring up the results you’re looking for; in theory, you should be able to type a question in the language you’d normally use and be presented with results that match your query.

As a website owner, your quality website should be rewarded with better search rankings and attract visitors who are looking for the products or services you deliver, reducing bounce rates and improving returns.

What do we need to do to our website to keep BERT happy?

If your website is well-designed, easy to navigate, benefits from the regular addition of good quality, fresh and unique content written by a human for a human, contains plenty of visuals, responds well to tablet and mobile and offers a good user experience, you’re already there.

If you’re not currently maintaining your website regularly, adding new, unique and well-structured content or the site’s out of date, you may notice a drop in its search engine performance over the coming months. Google rewards effort, so now may be the time to think about switching up your digital strategy.

As BERT is rolled out globally, we will be monitoring search engine results closely. If you’re an MM360 client, your Marketing Manager will discuss BERT in more detail with you, but as our strategies are already geared around unique content creation and the development and maintenance of quality websites, we do not believe Marketing Manager clients will be adversely impacted.

How will CRE8 work with BERT?

We believe that the way we develop and maintain websites, producing unique and professionally-written content, regularly refreshed images, frequent addition of new content in news articles, new product or service pages and scheduled design changes will play into BERT’s hands.

I’ve always maintained as a copywriter that I write for humans and not search engines because I want people to be interested in, and to read and share, the content that we add to your website.

That has never been more important than it is now; BERT is reading search queries and website content as if it were a human, using incredibly advanced artificial intelligence technology. The more ‘human’ our writing style, the closer we’ll be to answering the questions that Google believes its users are asking. 

Across the whole website, the professional attention our team gives your website on both a technical and creative level should reap rewards as the world of search evolves.

What’s next?

You don’t need to do anything. We’ll carry on with our planned website maintenance and development strategies as always, but if you’re on a low maintenance budget at the moment you might want to consider an increase to ensure your website works as you need it to.

Small websites and those which are rarely maintained are most likely to see a negative impact, so factor BERT into your business planning discussions and think about how you can use him to help you.

Got questions?

Give me a call on 01942 262625 and I’ll be happy to chat more.


Marketing Manager ACIM.