At I/O 2021, Google debuted the MUM algorithm or the Multitask Unified Model, which simplifies complex searches by potentially showing all the answers on a single SERP. Some features have already been implemented, while the rest will roll out within 2022.
MUM represents Google’s next step in using AI for natural language processing. MUM uses the same T5 text-to-text framework that its AI-powered predecessor, BERT, used, however Google claims that MUM is 1,000 times more powerful than BERT.
MUM can now understand and generate 75 languages and its multimodal medium means it now has the capability to understand text, images, podcasts, and videos—a massive jump from how search functioned a decade ago.
Benefits to the user
- Fewer searches needed — Different pieces of information will be connected in a single result, giving users more comprehensive answers with just one query.
- Removing language barriers — Results only available in a particular language (provided that it’s one of the 75 languages that MUM recognises) will be instantly accessible even to those who do not understand that language.
- Like asking an expert — Complex answers will be provided in a conversational way, as a personal assistant would.
Consider this real-life example.
Someone from Japan wants to visit the UK. They aren’t fluent in English. MUM will not only translate English pages to Japanese, but it will also provide a natural-language comparison across factors like visa applications, destinations, weather, and vaccination rules.
How Does MUM Affect SEO?
Whenever a new algorithm rolls out, conversations and speculations inevitably lead to how it will change the rules of search optimisation.
1. Beyond the 10 blue links
Results will no longer be confined to the classic SERPs showing 10 blue links. Users will also see:
- Things to know — MUM anticipates branches of follow-up questions users may have based on their search. For the term “acrylic paint,” for instance, MUM will also present step-by-step instructions on how to use it, styles of acrylic paint, and how to clean it—all on the SERP with links to their source pages.
- Topic zoom — With the acrylic painting example from above, users will be able to explore more general (e.g. styles of painting) or specific topics (e.g. acrylic painting techniques) related to their search term.
- Visually browsable results — MUM will enable users to see designs and photographs on the SERP for searches like Halloween decorating ideas or indoor vertical garden ideas. This feature is now available on Google Search.
2. Increase in competition
MUM will break down language barriers, so you won’t just be competing with content in English. It’s a massive help for the end-user, but it also means a massive increase in competition for SEOs. As long as content is in one of the 75 languages that MUM can understand and generate, it will show up in the contexts you’re targeting.
3. Potential end of keywords
Before Google started using natural language processing, marketers used the specific language where keywords are the lingua franca.
But in reality, no human talks like that. MUM will eliminate the reliance on a series of keywords or keyword phrases in content and emphasise how people actually communicate. For SEO, this means focus could shift from keyword usage to user intent.
What Can You Do to Adapt to the New Algorithm?
New algorithms tend to spook a lot of people in the digital marketing space, as it usually means a change in internal processes whether big or small. But if you’ve been publishing high-quality content that your audience actually reads, then you’re in a much better position than websites that publish thin content for the sake of having them.
Here are a few things to keep in mind to adapt to the new algorithm:
1. Improve your content’s quality
Low-quality content will have no room under MUM’s watchful eye. Improve what content you already have and/or work on creating high-quality ones like:
- Content that your audience wants to see — Focus on adding value. What does your audience want or need? MUM will prioritise high-quality, engaging content that answers questions your audience is looking for.
- Content that will establish your authority — Authority will pull a loyal audience. Strengthen your brand by publishing more authoritative content. They’ll know to come to your site regardless of how MUM facilitates their access to other sites.
2. Optimise structured data
Hyper focusing on keywords won’t help this time, which means dumping high-traffic keywords on title tags will not move the needle. Instead, use title tags for what they were meant for: properly describing the web pages.
Apart from title tags, Google has also laid out guidelines on how to use structured data. Proper optimisation ensures that Google shows this information on the SERPs.
3. Diversify your content
MUM is multimodal, so it won’t source text alone.
Keep in mind that audio has increased in penetration despite the pandemic-driven decrease in demand. In 2022, people in the UK listened to 82 minutes of online audio per day, up from 66 minutes in 2018. Meanwhile, the rise of video is stratospheric. In 2022, people watched 150 minutes of online video per day, up from 90 minutes in 2018.
While text remains on top, you can’t rely on it alone as audio and video are here to stay.
4. Consider regional relevance
If your business also caters to audiences that prefer content in their own language, not just English, discuss with company leaders the benefits of hiring a multilingual expert. Because MUM will break down language barriers, content that specifically targets relevant regions will be more important than ever.
5. Optimise for voice search
Google’s latest available data indicate that 27% of people worldwide searching on mobile use voice search. How people type is different from how they speak. Given MUM’s natural language processing, you need to incorporate conversational search terms into your strategy.
By doing so, you’ll reap several benefits, including increased brand authority, reduced negative site signals, and recommendations by digital assistants.
Will MUM End SEO As We Know It?
People have speculated that MUM marks the end of SEO. But as John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, said: “I don’t really see how this would reduce the need for SEO. Things always evolve. Remember the SEO joke about changing the lightbulb? None of that’s been necessary for a while now, which is due to developments like these, and yet, people still have enough to do as SEO.”
SEO will continue to be valuable, but MUM will change how it’s done. Instead of overly relying on keywords in your content, ask yourself: will my audience actually want to read this?
SEO is rapidly changing amidst Google’s push toward natural language. We’ll make sure you stay one step ahead of all new algorithm updates with our tried-and-tested approach to SEO. Book in a free strategy call today to find out more.