When you type ‘MUM’ into your browser, certainly the first thing that pops up in your search engine is not the description of a mysterious AI technology introduced by Google only last year. However, the MUM update has more in common with all mums out there than you may think, as according to Kartik Wali from Analytics India Magazine, with its innovative advancements and creative implementations, MUM is quickly becoming associated with being the mother of all search algorithms.
MUM, or Multitask Unified Model, is a new search update that aims to overcome language barriers and understand search queries to such a degree that it can give you an expert-like answer (or a MUM-like answer because mums know everything, correct? Pun intended).
When you search for a particular topic, MUM can provide you with in-depth insights and suggest related subtopics based on its vast knowledge acquired across different languages. So, for instance, if you are looking for some specific information about a place in Japan you are planning to visit, MUM will be able to translate local content written in Japanese and equip you with necessary information directly from the source. And there is even more to it.
MUM will also be able to understand information and connection between different formats, from images to text. All at the same time. There is a perfect example of that on Google’s official blog with the product update.
According to Google, eventually, MUM will be able to understand your photo (in this case, hiking boots), connect it to your query (If your boots are suitable for hiking Mt. Fuji) and seek relevant information across written, visual and later on, even audio content to give you the best answer possible.
The introduction of this revolutionary AI technology also indicates enormous potential for addressing complex search queries, because MUM is able to understand and work simultaneously on multiple languages. This new way of acquiring and translating information enables the algorithm to develop a profound understanding of the intent. That way it knows that, for instance, if you are looking for professional gear for your expedition, you may also want to consider necessary training beforehand as MUM is able to comprehend what you mean by ‘preparing’ for hiking.
Overall, the main idea for MUM is to shorten the duration of seeking information, and simplify the process of finding the most satisfying answer by broadening its understanding of the user intent, and what is hidden between the lines. Right now, browsing through the internet often requires a certain amount of patience and typing a few phrases before finally arriving at the right informational destination. MUM wants to change that by acquiring knowledge of how people communicate in various ways and anticipating what additional information they might need at that very moment.
Officially announced in May 2021, MUM is a multimodal, multitasking and multilingual system working across multiple data formats. Benchmarking it with BERT, the technology presently used, MUM outperforms it as many as 1000 times by further contextualising the search and making it more semantic.
The introduction of BERT served as a gradual deflection from purely keyword-based to more complex search queries, but only with MUM did Google’s algorithm’s understanding of such complexity take a major step forward.
For instance, in June 2021, Google published an article on how MUM improved Google Searches for vaccine information, explaining that the new update helped identify names of different types of vaccines in more than 50 languages, and enabled users to access this information from trusted health authorities in a matter of seconds.
In this case, MUM’s knowledge transfer and NLP (Natural Language Processing) skills foreshadow a completely new way of searching and understanding information. The algorithm not only achieves the same, or even better results as BERT, but is able to do it in an incredibly fast manner, helping overcome disinformation in critical times.
Despite the fact that MUM still remains in the testing phase and only some of the features have been already rolled out, there are many assumptions about whether it will become a search ranking factor.
According to the article ‘How AI powers great search results’ published by Google in February 2022, the new MUM update will soon affect Google Lens and encourage more intuitive searches but “these are very specialised applications — so MUM is not currently used to help rank and improve the quality of search results like RankBrain, neural matching and BERT systems do.”
Taking a turn towards a more nuanced approach to language and intent does however indicate that high-quality content circulating on the Internet should not only be designed to reach the target audience, but most importantly, should also be sensitive to what value it provides. MUM and other future developments aim to experience your content through the lens of the users.
Introducing BERT in 2018 was already a prominent move for SEO. MUM takes these changes much further. For instance, from the technical standpoint, the most important elements of SEO remain in place, although thanks to MUM, structured data will slowly lose its leverage.
In terms of on-page optimisation, user-centric focus in combination with the growing importance of understanding and anticipating search intent is gaining even more relevance than ever before. SEO specialists need to acknowledge the fact that only creating content for steady, organic growth soon won’t suffice. Google encourages content marketers to go the extra mile and accompany users throughout the entire customer journey, meeting their needs at every research stage.
Instead of concentrating the entire SEO strategy mainly on keywords, factors like different levels of understanding and perceiving the same topic, E-A-T indicators and entities are to be taken into account to a great extent as well.
Most importantly, although optimisation for MUM is yet to be discovered, the common thread of the upcoming update and SEO lies in the collective effort to provide a seamless user experience, and humanise the search with all its linguo-cultural influences and easily overlooked nuances.
MUM’s new features are expected to appear in the following weeks, months and even years as the algorithm is constantly being perfected. Similarly to any prominent shift within the marketing industry, adapting to the changing circumstances is a must in order to stay up to date.
From the SEO perspective, the first thing that appears to come to the forefront is optimising other media formats like video, images or audio which search engines are already getting more skilled at interpreting. For example, with the help of MUM, Google will be able to rank podcasts in a similar way as it evaluates written content right now.
Observing current trends, Google also seems to display more and more information directly on SERP, oftentimes without users clicking on any of the positioned websites. This may suggest further changes in terms of the importance of different ranking factors, but it may also indicate that high-quality and user-friendly content is still in the game.
On top of that, MUM encourages SEO specialists to take a closer look at SERP itself and begin analysing it to a greater degree to learn how to pinpoint search intent and anticipate trends. Prioritising users has never been more important.
These changes also affect online shopping platforms and commercial searches. According to Search Engine Land, Google has a propensity to lose users in the preference stage of the customer journey on account of such big names such as Amazon and other similar competitors. With the introduction of MUM, Google aims to strengthen its power in the pre-awareness, awareness and consideration phases of the funnel which can become a valuable factor to keep in mind while creating an effective marketing strategy.
The introduction of MUM certainly reflects Google’s ambitious goals to become an entirely semantic search engine. Up until now, browsing seemed to favour mainly English-speaking users, providing some disadvantages for accessing information in other languages. MUM aims to change that by making search more international and ready to tackle any linguistic complexities.
The algorithm is also the next technological step toward a more unified system as MUM is to perform several tasks using not multiple but one model. This will surely benefit search performance and make user experience more efficient and human-centric.
Lastly, MUM means to apply advanced AI to search to fight misinformation and bias by noticing certain patterns and filtering large amounts of data available in multiple languages and formats, which will hopefully bring more security and transparency to the open web.
For some, MUM will provide a multitude of opportunities that will facilitate finding the right information at the right time, and enable access to the necessary knowledge without having to go through multiple search queries. Others remain hesitant, considering how the update and its following features will impact the future of SEO in the long run.
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