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Changes to BERT and Google Search Results: How you can prepare

Oct 21, 2020   |   Google Update, Industry News
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Changes to BERT and Google Search Results: How you can prepare

Towards the end of 2018, Google first introduced its development of BERT, an improved artificial intelligence that would help the search engine better understand and interpret queries made by users. The update then rolled out live towards the end of 2019. Google has explained that BERT is bidirectional and many examples of its functionality focus on its ability to better understand prepositions. This ability enhances the search engine’s grasp of the relationship between words. The AI impacts approximately 1 in 10 English-language queries in the United States.

Recently, Google has announced some updates with how BERT is used and the overall changes they have made to query interpretation and fact-checking. Here is what you should understand as a marketer.

How is Google’s use of BERT expanding and changing?

Breaking news and fact checking

One of the first updates users and marketers alike will notice will be the improvement in breaking news. While it used to take an average of 40 minutes for the algorithm to find and update results with breaking-news queries, it can now update the results within a few minutes of the releases.

The algorithm has also continued to improve its ability to fact check articles. To cut down on the amount of false information spread about the web, the AI will now do a better job of matching these articles with other fact check databases. This will allow it to provide users with a better idea of the accuracy of the piece they read.

The fact-check capabilities will also help Google understand if the fact check relates to the main topic or message or a particular story, so they can understand the significance of any inaccuracies when determining the authority and authenticity of a specific article. The search engine reports that in 2020 already, the fact check label has been shown 4 billion times.

When users want to read about a particular breaking news event, Google will also provide them with the capability of clicking on a Full Coverage option. Clicking here brings up different perspectives and different sources of news and articles related to the story at hand.

Autocomplete options

Google has also recently said that they want to become more conservative when it comes to their autocomplete policies, in particular in relation to the upcoming election. To avoid appearing to endorse any candidate or idea, the search engine will carefully evaluate the autocomplete options offered. Likely, most users will see only a few options when making searches related to these contentious issues.

Protecting rich snippets

The search engine leader also has begun to take steps to protect its rich snippets, especially concerning Wikipedia. Searchers often find that rich snippets and answers derive from the Wikipedia entries, and thus vandalism to these entries can hurt Google’s efforts to remain factual in their search results.

In response, Google has paired with Wikipedia to put more protections in place to catch incorrect information faster and filter it out to prevent it from appearing in the search engine results.

Improving search engine evaluator guidelines

Finally, Google has also announced that they have updated their guidelines for their search engine evaluators. By offering these contractors, who help Google test and evaluate their search engine results pages, more guidance in sensitive areas, particularly as they relate to YMYL (your money your life) queries, the search engine also helps to ensure that the appropriate results are returned and that the algorithm works as expected.

How will this new system work?

To provide these improved results, Google has paired with different organizations that help them with their fact-checking goals. For example, for queries related to the novel coronavirus pandemic, they work with reputable health organizations. Queries related to unemployment are fact-checked through government organizations. Finally, non-partisan civic organizations help to sort through results related to voting.

Using these fact-checking resources, Google helps to make correct information more prominent. The improvements to the search engine’s algorithm help the AI better understand when the fact check relates to core content in a particular article and the fact checks are displayed more prominently for end users.

To improve the results and responses gathered through the autocomplete system, the algorithm updates will also enhance the ability of the search engine to understand if a particular query has a high likelihood of returning inaccurate information. In these situations, Google will decline to display the autocomplete option to avoid appearing to endorse any side of a debate.

What does this mean for marketers?

Marketers who want to stand out and build their online presence as Google continues to improve BERT functionality will need to place heavy emphasis on abiding by E.A.T. best practices. Google wants to promote the sites that have ‘expertise,’ ‘authoritativeness,’ and are ‘trustworthy.’ As they continue to improve their AI capabilities and update the algorithm to seek out these types of sites to display, demonstrating to the search engine that you provide reliable answers for users and contain information that stands up to scrutiny will be critical.

Therefore, brands should focus on building sites well-regarded by Google through:

● Displaying credentials of writers and brand leaders when possible and applicable on websites
● If research is relevant in the industry and conducted by the business, prominently incorporating these academic aspects into the site map
● Using links from authoritative sources, such as government resources or health organizations, when applicable to the content published
● Encouraging backlinks from other relevant and respected resources
● Designing a website that promotes security, including HTTPS, protections for secure information customers enter, reviews that suggest the confidence of past customers, and any certifications or credentials the brand can boast.

Google’s updates with BERT have also made the algorithm more adept at understanding natural speech. No longer do searchers necessarily type on queries based on keywords and unnatural speech. Instead, especially through the rise of voice search, queries are increasingly made through natural speech. Google wants to encourage this, and BERT has improved the ability to understand how words relate to each other to interpret these types of queries.

Therefore, websites should continue to focus on using keywords in a natural language system, working to understand how customers speak when asking questions so they can incorporate these natural language ideas into their content.

Google continues to update its algorithm to provide customers with quality results. Brands that want to create a reputable digital presence need to abide by their guidelines. Understanding these latest updates and changes the search engine has made to provide quality search results for users can help marketers better optimize their sites and find new ways to build their rankings online.

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