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Google's MUM: Search Updates And SEO Implications

Rickie Ballard

January 27, 2022

The latest announcement from Google is one of the most impactful Search updates yet, promising to gradually reshape the current algorithm with an expansive array of never-before-seen elements.

This article will guide you through the upcoming features and changes introduced by the newest Google Search update and its implications on daily search and digital marketing.

What Is MUM?

Google’s Multitask Unified Model (MUM) is an AI-powered algorithm that will make content search significantly more convenient. Labeled as a new Google AI technology milestone for digital information processing, MUM can understand any kind of content and piece together connected chunks of information to present an accurate answer to a complex search query.

The update will be rolled out throughout 2022 and beyond, adding increasingly impactful features every step of the way. The aim is to develop a more comprehensive understanding of information and world knowledge than previous models.

When dealing with a more complex issue, it’s typical to conduct numerous queries to finally acquire a suitable answer. On average, a user performs searches eight queries deep to solve a compound problem. MUM promises to significantly reduce this number.

What is the cornerstone behind MUM? Google Search is moving towards a thoughtful, well-supported answer that branches out into various relevant sub-answers, taking into consideration the nuances of a task at hand while guiding you through various side matters to consider. 

What Changes Does MUM Bring?

According to Google, MUM is 1,000 times more powerful than a previous major Search update from 2019, BERT. The new update is shaping the future of Google Search in three major ways:

  1. Transferring knowledge across languages
  2. Complementing current text-based search with all types of content (images, sounds, and videos)
  3. Understanding complex questions and delivering in-depth answers

Knowledge transfer across languages

Language can be a significant obstacle in search engines, preventing access to cross-vocabulary knowledge. The most relevant information available isn’t always within the same language as a search query. To deal with the issue, MUM has an understanding of 75+ different languages, allowing it to seamlessly remove language barriers.

The algorithm can learn from sources that aren’t written in the same language as a query to drastically widen its search scope. A query in English might include translated results from other languages, accessing localized content and enriching it with regional or national topics.

Universal content readability

MUM is multimodal – it can understand information across text and images with the potential to ultimately comprehend video and audio as a pinnacle of the iterative process. 

Take a photo and ask what’s in it. The algorithm will identify items in images (products, distinct patterns, people, etc.), greatly expanding the current Google Lens image recognition technology.

Comprehension of complex inquiries

Search engines can’t give you a sophisticated answer the way a professional in their field of expertise would. MUM is the first step in closing the gap between a compound question and a complex answer. In the future, a single search with an attached image of an object might be enough to know a precise answer to the question “How often should I water this plant?”.

Instead of conducting multiple subsequent searches to piece together a conclusive answer, you’ll be able to ask a single question and follow up the query with additional relevancies later on. The algorithm will understand what you’re asking for and how it relates to various subtopics, much like a person would. MUM is the outset for creating a conversation between a search engine and its users that does not necessarily involve visiting websites.

Naturally, such major changes bring a lot of uncertainties to various digital marketing professionals and businesses alike. What will be the implications for SEO? Will there be drastic changes to the ranking practices? Let’s take a closer look.

Will Google's MUM Suffocate SEO?

With every new major update to its search engine, Google readjusts the set of rules that need to be considered when improving search engine optimization (SEO). The introduction of Google’s MUM makes a lot of digital marketing experts concerned about the exact extent of the upcoming changes.

MUM will bring big differences to the way content marketing works, but the fundamental concept of publishing engaging, informative, and consistent material that meets user intent will remain. However, these are the possibilities that could be expected moving forward in a post-MUM era:

  • Reduced importance of SERP rankings
  • More competition and opportunities
  • Decreased reliance on keywords

Reduced importance of SERP rankings

The traditional ten blue links will remain present in SERPs. However, they are no longer the main course in an increasing number of search scenarios. With the introduction of MUM, the importance of the conventional search results will diminish even further.

With an abundance of special features occupying the top part of a SERP, it becomes irrelevant if you rank first after a multitude of featured snippets, knowledge cards, image packs, and related questions. The importance of ranking in a certain SERP position will surely undergo revision.

Considering today’s SERP features and having in mind the upcoming changes, it seems that Google is moving towards abandoning the leaderboard type of SERP and fully committing to the wiki type of SERP. If so, the only thing that could matter is just being featured on a SERP altogether.

More competition and opportunities

MUM will read texts, videos, images, and audio and won’t have any language or regional barriers, multiplying the ways you could be exposed to your target audiences and setting up your content for the competition against the entire world.

The benefit for SEO is the opportunity to broaden the range of content for media types that weren’t considered in the past – images, videos, and sounds. Also, a webmaster could expect to appear for search results in languages other than the website language. Google will detect, translate, and display the website’s content in different languages for reference.

Decreased reliance on keywords

Google is likely to pre-select websites based on authority, relevance, and quality and then use MUM to extract specific parts of the content. Just like before, it’s paramount to establish authority with backlinks, quality with user experience signals, and subject relevance with entities.

Once the basics are done, you should focus on creating more non-text-based types of media content for particular queries. The process itself is not a novelty in terms of SEO. The only difference is that before these practices were advisable. In the post-MUM era, they will be mandatory.

The final result will be less dependent on keywords and more reliant on general relevancy as MUM will use information from a wider range of mediums.

The bottom line

As of today, MUM doesn’t have a transformative impact on SEO strategies. For now, the best way to move forward is to continue creating quality content.

However, careful oversight of MUM’s development should be prioritized in 2022 as the technology matures, introducing subtle changes in the background. It’s highly unlikely that Google will provide any clarification about the impact of each iteration. Digital marketing specialists will have to discover the changes and readjust their strategies on the go.

Our Google Search API can help you track SERPs in real-time to identify various changes caused by MUM’s rollout. Regarding the functionality of our range of APIs, in the meantime, you can use these tools without any modifications. The SERPMaster team will carefully monitor the upcoming transformation to accommodate any new additions to the way our tools work if deemed necessary.

Wrapping Up 

Keeping an eye on MUM and its potential impact in 2022 and beyond is a key to understanding the potential transformation of Google from a search to an answer engine. The main SEO implication of MUM is the focus on an organic digital journey, shifting the SERP structure from a hierarchy of relevance to a wiki-style all-in-one multi-format slice.

For the time being, MUM will not bring abrupt changes for those who deliver high-quality content and a satisfying customer experience. Nonetheless, a better understanding of changing search results across various types of media and languages will gradually increase target audiences and competition.

We’re still in the early stages of exploring MUM. Yet it is an important milestone in a journey towards a future where Google understands many different ways of natural communication and interpretation of information.

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