Last week has been turbulent for most SEOs. It turned out that Google has pushed the biggest search update in the last five years, according to their on statistics.
BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. It’s a pre-trained model that uses a machine learning methodology earlier open-sourced by Google. It makes it easier to understand natural language and what the searcher is really looking for.
Using their open-sourced model, anyone can create question-answer type apps with ease, with the power of BERT.
Since they have applied this model on their search, they have published a couple before-after images. As you can see, it’s really fine-tuning the returned results. It looks to me like some results are a lot better.
In my own experience, this doesn’t only affect the organic ranking of websites, but also has an impact on the featured snippets. Since Google can make more sense of your question, it can better find the exact answer to your query, hence you see the featured snippets. I did not see stats on that yet, but I am pretty sure there are a lot more featured snippets now than before the update.
As usual with Google updates, things can be shaky for a couple days, even for a couple weeks with an update of this magnitude.
If your site has been negatively affected by this update, there is no real path to recovery. It just means that Google is understanding queries better and decided that there are better answers on other websites than on yours.
If you insist on a recovery, take a look at the quality of your content. Try to answer common questions that users would type in the search form. Also make sure your content is grammatically correct and generally high quality. Stay tuned for a longer article on how to recover from BERT.