How Google MUM is slowly revolutionizing search engine optimization (again)

June 8, 2022
A mountain with different indicated paths

Google just can’t keep their fingers from tinkering with their product. Which is probably a big part of how it’s become so powerful and popular in the last two decades. This time however things are different. Because Google is about to bring their MUM into the game.

OK, let’s not make this weird: MUM stands for Multitask Unified Model and it’s going to replace BERT as the underlying model for Google’s search engine. It’s Google’s next step in making its search even more user-focused, better understanding of semantics and context as well as pushing the raw performance of the search in general (Google says 1000x more powerful than BERT).

Why we need MUM: Google’s ongoing quest to break down borders

One of the tangible key changes: MUM can not only interpret text, but also images. In the future, Google wants to supplement its diet with audio and video as well. Yum! Achieving this latter part will quite likely be a cornerstone of Google’s goal to better address even complex and situational user needs.

The example Google uses to illustrate the advantage of MUM is this: You’ve already hiked mountain A, now you want do hike mountain B, but you want to know what the differences will be and how to adjust your preparation and equipment. Google says for complex queries like these users perform about 8 searches in total. By grasping more quickly and more closely what it is exactly that you want, they intend to lower this amount significantly.

The key to achieving this is, again, context. If Google knows that you are looking for equipment to hike mountain X for example in spring, then it can consider the usual conditions for this mountain (i. e. mountain height, residual snow, heavy rain) and thus adjust the product it will show to you. And it is also valuable to think this example through from the other side: A hiking shoe company could use this fact by placing a product video which concisely presents how a certain shoe is ideal even for such conditions on the respective product page.

And coming back to borders: Because it’s naturally trained in 75 languages, MUM will be able to bring results from foreign sources to you. We are already seeing their translation feature in action if one variable is English, but Google is going to expand on this feature a lot with MUM. When you are for example planning a trip to Machu Picchu, a lot of the most interesting resources are going to be in Spanish and Google wants everyone – not just Spanish speakers – to have access to them. Regarding the implementation process of MUM: It seems as if Google is planning to iteratively add more and more MUM-powered features to their products.

How is Google’s MUM going to affect everyday SEO practice?

You now have a rough overview about MUM. Now what, you ask yourself? Sensible question! You might just want to go on with your day and honestly – there is probably nothing wrong with that. Google’s product changes used to sow a lot of chaos in the community with everyone thinking everything must be made anew. Luckily, we as a community have matured a little and our methods have become a little more … refined.

Instead of telling you to hurry and do something, we want to invite you to take a deep breath and think about a few things. If you really take them into consideration, you should be able to adjust to the real changes just fine as they slowly roll in.

    1. SEO isn’t just text anymore. And not just text and alt text. All content will be relevant for SEO – more directly than ever. Include media like audio and video early on in your strategy.
    2. Google is thinking intensely about understanding its users. So should you. Being able to accurately follow and emphasize with their needs and thus their user journey will allow you to connect to them in exactly the step that matters for your product or service. Semantics, user-centeredness and design thinking will (continue to) be very relevant disciplines.
    3. Take control of your content (or at least make sure it’s in able hands). Things are slowly becoming more complex, and you want to make sure you have all the strings in your hand. Alternatively, there are agencies that help you lead your brand to success all the while empowering you to make smarter decisions every day. (Yes, this is a plug, we are talking about ourselves. Write us and let’s create amazing and successful experiences together!)

Small steps are enough, if you start your journey early

MUM is a complex topic. There is no need to understand all about it immediately (but if you want to, this Google blog post is a good start). Keep the most fundamental changes in mind when making plans for future projects and set up a small roadmap so the topic doesn’t fall out of sight. Of course we are also always available as a sparring partner.

Looking for more online marketing advice? Read our article on how to successfully switch from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4.