Google constantly updates their algorithm and pushes boundaries in new technology and innovation to better serve their users. In an announcement in May at Google I/O, their annual developer conference, they unveiled their newest development: ‘MUM’, or Multitask Unified Model. MUM is expected to be a bigger push forward in the world of AI advancement and this technology is said to have the potential to be “1000x more powerful” than the BERT update. While we don’t have a lot of information about what to expect with this new technology, SEO professionals are making their own predictions with the information we do have on how this will affect the future of search.
What is Google’s MUM Update?
The BERT update’s impact centered around user intent and natural language processing. The MUM update is expected to help users with complex tasks that don’t have a straightforward and direct answer.
Google says on average, it can take people eight searches to complete complex tasks. MUM aims to require fewer searches, and in turn, help meet the needs of the users faster. It’s trained using data crawled from the open web, with low quality content removed. MUM both understands and generates language which allows it to develop a more comprehensive understanding of information and knowledge than the models before it. The user might get a narrative resembling something a human would say, ie natural language processing.
Google’s algorithms have advanced exponentially in language processing capabilities. We saw this with the BERT update that helped to bridge the gap between writing for SEO and writing for humans in a natural manner. Now MUM will take it even further and aim to provide users with answers to complex questions faster.
So, how will this update work as users search? Google offers the following example:
“You’ve hiked Mt. Adams. Now you want to hike Mt. Fuji next fall, and you want to know what to do differently to prepare. Today, Google could help you with this, but it would take many thoughtfully considered searches — you’d have to search for the elevation of each mountain, the average temperature in the fall, difficulty of the hiking trails, the right gear to use, and more. After a number of searches, you’d eventually be able to get the answer you need.
But if you were talking to a hiking expert; you could ask one question — “what should I do differently to prepare?” You’d get a thoughtful answer that takes into account the nuances of your task at hand and guides you through the many things to consider.
Today’s search engines aren’t quite sophisticated enough to answer the way an expert would. But with a new technology called Multitask Unified Model, or MUM, we’re getting closer to helping you with these types of complex needs. So in the future, you’ll need fewer searches to get things done.”
Google is building the technology so your search queries can be answered quickly and more efficiently. This new tech raises a lot of questions. And one of the most important question asks how it will change the future of search?
— Google (@Google) May 18, 2021
Is Google’s ‘MUM’ Update Changing Traditional SEO or Voice Search (or Both)?
The MUM update will definitely change the way traditional SEO operates. Especially the content that SEOs and webmasters create. But with better natural language processing, it may also directly influence the way we do voice search as well and the results that come up in SERPs.
If this update is going to better understand and match results that people intend to find when asking questions in a natural, human manner rather than exact match or single query searches, the separation between traditional SEO and voice search SEO may become even smaller.
How Does Google’s ‘MUM’ Relate to E-A-T?
Google said that human raters will carefully oversee the search results that MUM ranks to check for biases, discrepancies, inconsistencies, and more. And with the prominence of E-A-T (expertise, authority, and trustworthiness), it appears that content creators will need to demonstrate subject matter expertise now more than ever with the release of MUM.
Results are heavily weighted based on who truly holds the expertise on the topic, industry, specialty, product, or whatever you may be selling or promoting on your website. Let’s look at the ‘Can I hike Mt. Fuji in these shoes?’ example that’s been used by Google. MUM should be displaying results from people or websites that have had first-hand experience with that subject.
Therefore, a retailer of hiking boots and shoes may not stand a chance. Or at least will have a more difficult time ranking for this compared to a retailer with specific reviews from people who have climbed Mt. Fuji in said boot or shoe. Or a blog article that dives in-depth on the person’s experience climbing the mountain, what kinds of shoes they wore, what to expect, etc.
Remember to Optimize for Voice Search
With that in mind, now is the time to make sure your content is optimized for voice search. A great start to optimizing is to update your brand’s presence online. Does your website have all the correct information? Audit your content and correct any typos you may come across on your website. Update your products and services and remove outdated information. Add fresh, new content to your site with focus keywords. And update old content to remain relevant.
Optimize content based on conversational queries
People speak out loud differently than how they may type something into the search engine. As natural speech becomes more a part of the search experience, your content needs to reflect conversational language for a better opportunity for search engines to find it. For example, someone may type “Weather in Lehi, Utah”. When using voice search, they would say “What is the weather today in Lehi?”. Try to brainstorm different types of phrases and queries a person may be using for voice search and implement those into your strategy. Remember to write the way you would talk.
Provide answers ASAP
Ideally, you want to do this right after the question header or the conversational query header. You don’t want people to dig around for information. Because they simply don’t do that (instant gratification society). However this can help your content rank in featured snippets like People Also Ask.
Optimize your local search presence
If you own a business, you should regularly build your local presence with online directories and listings. Affordable local SEO services can also assist you with your local search presence. When you search for your business, is your key information correct? This includes your company name, address, phone number, hours of operation, and any additional contact details about your business. Confirm all of your online directories and listings have your company’s correct information and make consistent updates as needed. Additionally, integrate local keywords into your site to target local search queries.
Create an optimal user experience
We must repeat this constantly, especially with Google’s Page Experience Update from June 2021. User experience bleeds into SEO as something that can influence website rankings. Improve your site speeds, structure information where it’s easy to find, make content easy to read, and use images and other visuals to enhance the experience.
Start Optimizing Your Website for Voice Search and Google’s MUM Update
Even though we don’t have a date for the release of the MUM update, you should start today to take the steps to prepare. BERT made a major impact on the search community, and MUM will likely do the same. So its important to prepare now so your website isn’t affected later. And it’s always smart to keep up to date with the current SEO trends so your website stays relevant (Remember, E-A-T).
Affordable small business SEO services make SEO and getting in front of the right customer attainable. It’s not just a thing for large, enterprise businesses with unlimited resources. And having an SEO Partner can help your business and clients prepare for this major shift in the SEO industry without accruing exorbitant costs and risk.