Google says that recent core algorithm updates are a more likely cause of website traffic declines rather than the new BERT technology that rolled out ten days ago with the aim of understanding search queries better.
During a Webmaster Hangout last week, Google’s John Mueller responded to a question from a publisher that stated that two of its websites had seen a 40% drop off in traffic after the arrival of the BERT update in early November.
Mueller said that the rankings fall cannot be attributed to BERT, as it is currently limited in scope and designed primarily to understand text better and is unlikely to result in content becoming less relevant immediately.
Google’s webmaster trends analyst added that several core algorithm changes are the more likely cause as these focused on relevance and serving search users with higher-quality content.
The publisher noted that its content was ranking in the top three of Google SERPs and traffic was increasing day by day until a sudden change resulted in a ranking fall despite the fact that user experience metrics were still holding up well.
Moving forward, Mueller urged webmasters to figure out why certain pages are more relevant than others rather than looking to BERT for all the answers.
He concluded: “So my recommendation here would be to not focus on BERT, not focus on purely technical aspects.
“So you mentioned user experience, you mentioned speed… it’s something where I would really focus on the site overall and kind of improving things overall.”
Our thoughts: It’s clear that the key to keeping up with Google algorithm updates is to regularly update your content to ensure relevancy, and this should ensure that your website does not take a hit when the next update comes around.