MUM’s the word—and now the next algorithm Google has in store. MUM, or Multitask Unified Model, is Google’s successor to BERT, which stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. When BERT was unveiled, it offered cutting-edge search, identifying the full context of a phrase or searched word by checking the words that came before and after. BERT offered a new foray into predictive search for Google in the hopes of “knowing” search intent, being more useful, and engaging users for longer.
As successor, MUM does more than just build on BERT: It’s billed as being 1,000 times more powerful than BERT-backed search. Here’s the scoop on Google’s latest algorithm update and what it means for you.
What Is MUM?
For search geeks and gurus out there, MUM is next-gen AI tech aimed at streamlining search. But what exactly is MUM poised to do? Expand the capabilities of search, yes. Additionally, it’s touted to more successfully, and fully, answer complicated or advanced queries. But it’s also a way to keep searchers on Google or Google-affiliated sites. Think of it as the next tool in increasing Google’s prominence as the one-stop shop for users.
What does this look like in practice? Say you search for women’s stilettos. MUM will offer search results that include links to outside sellers, available YouTube blogs and reviews, and on-page price comparison and shopping recommendations. This means that there’s less and less chance for outside sites (those not directly associated with Google) to get visitors. And that’s exactly what Google wants: It helps cut down costs for them and makes everything searchable (even images) so no one has to leave the page they’re on.
You might be saying this right about now—wait a second, MUM can search based on an image? On Google’s app, yes, images will be instantly searchable. You can take a screenshot of a shoe and get instant access to retail recommendations from Google. You’ll also be able to post a photo of something, like a flat tire, and get step-by-step instructions on how to fix it right there on the search page. This will be housed in Google’s “Things to Know” section.
What Else Do I Need to Know About MUM?
As of right now, the actual scope of search for MUM is unknown. We don’t know exactly how much search will be affected or influenced by it. Even Google itself doesn’t have fixed numbers on MUM’s exact breadth of impact.
What we do know is that MUM is not just about ranking. Per Google, MUM will be utilized for tasks besides run-of-the-mill SERP ranking, and has a role to play in other facets of search. MUM offers an understanding of intent at a near-precise level of detail. We also know that Google is happy with it.
How Will MUM Impact My SEO?
For the most part, the jury is still out regarding full SEO impact. Not even Google knows, or won’t fully disclose, how much MUM will touch search. What we can assume from Google’s description of MUM is that it will likely cause a drop in direct website traffic due to the algorithm’s on-page capabilities—and that image search (as well as image accessibility and SEO) will have increased weight and use. This may mean that on-page images on your site will need to be fully accessible to both audiences and Google—as well as optimized for search.
All of this a little out of your wheelhouse? At Uptick, our SEO team lives by, and for, these kinds of algorithm updates on the daily. Reach out to us for help in search, and for help keeping your online presence in Google’s good graces and in front of your intended audience.