The most recent Google algorithm update is BERT. It stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. A deep learning algorithm which can essentially understand Google queries as a human language processor.
According to this post , BERT started rolling out in the week of Oct 21, 2019. This is a neural network based technique for natural language processing pre-training. For Google, it will improve it’s search algorithm. Due to this change, visitors can see query focused answers and information.
You may not have noticed the BERT change, because your traffic might not have been affected. . In some SEO communities it was observed that BERT causes serious ranking changes. This will alter the amount of organic traffic a blog or website receives.
Only by improving your content and reaching out web masters for link building, you can recover from this algo change. Optimize your content for humans.
But if you are a blogger or website owner, how do you know whether you are affected by BERT or not?
This question can be answered by several tools. But today, we are going to see how to use Google search console to identify whether you have been prone to BERT attack. There is no short-cut way to come out of this algorithm change. The main purpose of BERT is relevance and user-intent.
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Identify Google BERT Algorithm Affect on Rankings
The best way is to use in-house tool of Google itself. Search Console is provided free. Just by looking at the graphs you can understand whether you have been affected or not.
Site 1 :
Blog with Traffic of 33k clicks and 70k impressions per month is affected in November 2019 by BERT algorithm change.
From the above graph, we can observe that there is a drop in traffic after 4th Nov. As mentioned earlier, the BERT algo change was introduced in the last week of Oct. So if you see any decrease in google organic traffic between Oct 20th and Nov 10th, it is more likely the impact of BERT effect.
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This blog also has been affected by BERT algo change. The site receives around 500 clicks and 110k impressions per month.
The above site is also an indication that it has been affected by the BERT algorithm update. Compared to the earlier site, this is affected little earlier. As you can see above, there is a traffic drop around 24th Oct 2019. This is immediately around the release date of BERT.
This is a small site compared to the above two sites. The site receives around 11 clicks and 2k impressions per month.
As you can observe the traffic has increased after BERT algo change. It indicates that the content on the blog is more focused on the user query and relevant to the search results. The traffic is up from around 5th Nov, 2019 to indicate that BERT had a positive influence on the site.
This is another small site compared to the first two sites. It has a traffic of 130 clicks and 7k impressions per month.
The affect of BERT on this site is negligible. As you can see that the traffic between Oct 20th and Nov 10th, fluctuates a little but is almost still. It indicates that BERT algorithm had no affect on this site.
Another interesting fact is that some of the sites have seen increase in traffic after the initial release date of BERT update. This can be due to many factors. There might have been increase in the number of backlinks or author may have updated the content for user relevance.
Analyze BERT Algorithm Update using Comparison Report of Search Console
As we have seen above, you can find out whether you have positive or negative or neutral affect on your organic traffic using search console basic reports. If you would like to dwell further, you can use the comparison report of the same.
- You can make use of Performance report to understand the affect BERT algorithm seo.
- Click the Date button or label. You can see a pencil icon to indicate you can edit it.
- A pop-up window opens. If its large, you can zoom your browser window to fit your screen.
- Click the Compare tab.
- Select the Custom option.
- You can select the date range to compare.
- I have chosen the date range of Sept 16th to Oct 15th vs Oct 16th to Nov 15th of the year 2019.
(Note: Since BERT algorithm update was announced on Oct 21st, 2019, I have chosen the above date range. You can modify it little better based upon your main performance reports)
You should see the following kind of screen.
Total Number of Clicks Decreased
If you observe the above image, you can see that total clicks and total impressions have decreased in the second date range compared to the first. In a period before the BERT algo change, you can see that there were 44K clicks in one month. This has decreased to 40K clicks in the next month, where BERT change happened.
This is almost a 10% decrease of traffic in a 1 month period.
Total Impressions Decreased
The number of impressions in the prior to the BERT update were around 1.06 million in a period of 1 month. In the next month period of BERT algorithm change, you can see a decrease of 120k impressions. This also indicates that you have been affected by BERT.
An interesting fact to be observed is that, average CTR and average position remains almost unchanged, even though your organic traffic has decreased from Google. This indicates that visitors are still liking your site and not much change occurred in audience preference.
So if you want to know which pages have been affected by BERT algorithm change, you need to still analyze deeply.
Find Pages affected by BERT algorithm update
On the Performance report in new Search Console tool, you can see different tabs below the chart.
- Click on the Pages tab and select the Date button at the top.
- Leave the date range for the last 3 months.
- If you see any increase or decrease in the clicks and impressions between the period of Oct 15th to Nov 15th of year 2019, it means you have been affected by BERT algorithm mostly.
Note: The above conclusion can only be drawn, if you have not made any significant seo and content efforts in this period. Otherwise, the BERT factor can be in combination with other factors like content update, increase in links, query relevance etc.
You can also select the Compare tab by clicking the date label and select the date range mentioned as mentioned earlier. Then you can see the difference in traffic for that particular page or url in that pre-BERT period vs post-BERT period.
Find Queries Affected by BERT Algorithm Change
You can also see the difference of traffic for queries for the same page or url. In continuation with the above report, you can just click on Queries tab. One can see all the queries that the above page ranks. Select the Date button and click the Compare tab in the pop-up window.
For each query you can see the clicks and impressions difference. If there is lot of change, then that query is definitely affected by BERT change. You can either refine your content or improve seo.
Another important observation is that, there may be increase in number of clicks and decrease in the number of impressions. This can indicate there is change in ranking, though your page is showing in google search results for that query.
The above analysis of Google BERT algorithm change using search console report is very useful and less time taking. The main advantage is that you can easily identify the pages and queries that are affected by this algorithm change by just looking at the chart.
If you want to do detailed analysis, then you can download the reports.
There are other tracking tools like SEMrush, which will also indicate the fluctuation in rankings. These kind of tools are helpful to know if your competitor keywords have been affected by the BERT change or not.
In most cases, a drastic decrease in organic traffic around the date of Nov 5th, 2019 indicates that your site is affected by BERT. You can only follow white-hat techniques for now to recover from this update. Since BERT is a natural language processing update, you have to fine tune your content to the audience and Google.