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The modern internet browsing culture revolves around the usage of search engines such as Google. It seems that without it, we might not be able to find anything online without having to memorize the URLs of hundreds of sites. While some users opt for using other search engines such as Bing or DuckDuckGo, it is undeniable that Google is the most globally used one. Today, we will tell you about the latest update to the Google algorithm, known as the BERT update. However, before we dive into it, let us first briefly discuss search engines and their algorithms.
What is a Search Engine?
A search engine is a software that answers user’s queries by scouring all the corners of the internet and showing the web pages that it believes to be the most relevant to the users’ input parameters. Once you enter something into the search bar and press Search, the search engine will display the results in SERPs (i.e., Search Engine Result Pages).
How do Search Engines Work?
Google and its competitors find all this information through a process called Crawling. It is the discovery process in which the search engine releases a team of robots, called crawlers, to scour every website and webpage out there to find new and updated content. Now, it is worth mentioning that these robots are not ‘robots’ in a traditional sense, meaning they are not actual physical entities but software scripts.
Once the crawlers find new content on a webpage or an entirely new webpage, they commence the process referred to as Indexing. This is simply storing the newly found information into the search engine’s index, a gigantic database of all the content they have ever discovered. It is important to note that only the content that the search engines deem worthy of being put into SERPs is indexed.
The last step that occurs before a webpage or piece of content is added to a SERP is called Ranking. During this process, the search engine ranks the found pages based on a whole variety of factors. Every search engine has its own algorithm and finds some factors more important. Ranking is done so that the search engine is able to provide the most relevant result to the user’s query.
Today, we will not delve deep into the factors based on which web pages are ranked, as it is a whole different topic based on which there is an entire field of IT called Search Engine Optimization (SEO for short). If you, however, want to learn more about it, check out our detailed articles about on-page SEO and off-page SEO.
Improving Search Results with Google BERT
Now that you have a better understanding of what search engines are and how they work, let us get back to the main topic of this blog: the Google BERT update.
According to Google, this update will mainly impact complex searches that depend on context. BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers and is a deep learning algorithm related to natural language processing. Put simply, it helps the search engine better understand what words in a sentence mean, but with relevant context.
Transformers are one of the more recent developments in machine learning. They work exceptionally well for data where the sequence of elements is essential, which obviously makes them a valuable tool for working with natural language and, thus, search queries.
There are plenty of words in the English language that are spelled letter-for-letter but have absolutely different meanings when the context is taken into account. Bert is designed to help solve ambiguous sentences and phrases that are made up of many words with multiple meanings.
Here’s an example of how Google is able to understand a query more like a human and thus show a more relevant result.
Please note: this example is for demonstrative purposes and might not reflect actual search results when the said query is entered.
Ideally, this update means that the popular search engine will now be able to better understand what exactly you are looking for and provide you with more relevant search results.
Myths About the BERT Update
There are plenty of myths, confusion, and link baiting surrounding the BERT algorithm. Here are a few to watch out for:
Myth 1: BERT impacts your page’s SEO.
Since the BERT algorithm helps Google analyze users’ search queries, not web pages, it should have little to no effect on websites’ SEO. This doesn’t mean, however, that you should forget about SEO in general.
Myth 2: BERT is the biggest update of all time.
Although it is definitely a great leap forward for Google, as per their press release statement:
“With the latest advancements from our research team in the science of language understanding–made possible by machine learning–we’re making a significant improvement to how we understand queries, representing the biggest leap forward in the past five years, and one of the biggest leaps forward in the history of Search.”
Some other candidates for this position include the Hummingbird update and the Caffeine update.
Myth 3: BERT has a small effect on search results.
Despite Google’s statement, there are certain individuals promoting that this algorithm is not particularly significant. However, affecting 1 in 10 of all searches in the English language makes for a quite important update in our eyes.
We hope that this blog post helped you understand how search engines work, as well as taught you a little about the BERT update and its significance to both users and search engine optimization. While we did not go into detail about how the Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers algorithm works, we definitely can if you wish us to. Simply leave a comment down below, requesting it.