November 23, 2021

Everything You Need to Know About Google MUM: A Comprehensive Guide

As Google’s answer to long search queries, chances are you’ve heard of MUM by now. Set to roll out in early 2022, it stands to radically change the appearance of search results and the way we use search. In this article, we’ll cover what MUM is, why this update is significant, and what Google’s implementation could mean for your SEO strategy moving forward.

What is Google MUM?

Short for Multitask Uniform Model, Google MUM is an AI designed to analyze and generate content the way a human would. As an evolution of Google’s BERT algorithm, it’s also 1,000 times more powerful, working to address many of the complex search queries users make daily.

Many different search queries can often take multiple searches to solve, with eight being the average for the most complex. As such, Google’s goal is to predict what those searches might be and address as many of them as possible within a single SERP. This, however, is not MUM’s only intended use. In fact, Google is actively sharing this AI across multiple departments, hopeful that MUM will help solve other search challenges in the process.

With no current predictions as to what those challenges might be, businesses and SEO professionals should expect to see MUM pop up throughout a host of future Google updates.

How Will Google MUM Change Search?

Essentially, the overall goal of MUM is to address complex search queries, helping to fit more of a buyer’s journey into a single SERP. With this goal in mind, most of MUM’s announced features seem to point towards an advanced recommendation system. Here are a few of the features/perks announced thus far:

New Search Options for Google Lens: Launched in October 2017, Google Lens has quickly become a favorite feature for millions of Google Pixel and Android users. It combines the power of Google Assistant and a user’s camera to scan objects, request more information about those objects, and receive suggestions on similar items. For example, a person buying flowers for a loved one can obtain information about the flower in their photo and details of nearby florists. Likewise, Google Lens helps connect people to new restaurants, bars, clubs, and cafés by presenting users with reviews, address details, and service hours.

Google Lens is an impressive feature, and MUM will make it much more interesting. In fact, Google Lens users will soon be able to snap a photo and ask a question about what’s in it. Find a cool new shirt with a design you’d love to see on a pair of socks? Just snap a photo of the shirt, highlight the pattern, modify your search, and Google Lens will get to work. Need to replace a broken part on your bike? Snap a photo of the bike part, ask Google how to fix it or where to buy a replacement, and let Google Lens do the rest.

Language Barrier Removal: As everyone knows, language can often be a significant barrier to accessing information. Google MUM has the potential to break down those barriers by translating knowledge across multiple languages. For instance, let’s say there’s beneficial information about Mt. Fuji, but it’s written in Japanese. Additionally, this information is typically only available to those who search for that information in Japanese. Thanks to MUM, a native English speaker will have the same access to that information, as the algorithm will automatically transfer that information across the two languages. This could include a whole host of interesting nuggets, including the areas with the best views, as well as the most popular souvenir shops.

Larger Search Images: For those searching for ideas, inspiration, or apparel, Google MUM will also trigger image universal blocks in search results for certain types of queries. MUM will ultimately decide when to display visual SERPs and which images to pull from ranked pages.

Advanced Video Analysis: Thanks to MUM, Google can analyze and understand videos more deeply, identifying topics related to different parts of a given video. As a result, Google will use its recommendation system to offer better suggestions on what users should watch, read, or consume after watching a video.

More Recommendation Features: With MUM, Google is adding a new SERP feature dubbed Things to Know. As it’s essentially an advanced recommendation system, its function is similar to the People Always Ask feature. There is one key difference between the Things to Know, and the People Always Ask features, however. The People Always Ask feature typically only takes users one or two steps further in the search. Things to Know aims to improve upon this feature by taking users even further on their journey. While this is merely an evolution of an existing feature, the suggestions provided should be more confident and directly related to the searcher’s query and intent.

Additionally, Google is planning to add Broaden/Refine This Search. Similar to another existing feature called Related Searches, the enhanced suggestions should be even more relevant, offering more directions for further queries.

10 Blue Links Reduction: This is a significant update set to change how we view traditional rankings. Google MUM will likely change the conventional format of presenting search results and reduce the visual relevance of the 10 blue link entries. As it stands, rich features are already prominent in search engine results pages, which can draw attention away from regular snippets. In fact, it might take multiple scrolls before reaching the first “organic” search result for some searches.

Though 10 blue links are still present in search engine results pages, they are no longer the primary attraction. Instead, the introduction of MUM diminishes the importance of conventional search results even further, wherein the upper part of SERPs will become much more engaging, with fewer clicks trickling down to regular snippets.

Changes in Ranking and SERP Position Concepts: The concept of ranking for a particular SERP position will change significantly. For starters, MUM will likely emphasize the context of a given query more. This means that while two people might search for the same thing, there’s a chance they’ll see two different sets of search results, with Google basing the difference on factors like search history, location, stage of the buyer journey, and content preferences. While this concept isn’t new, Google MUM will make it much more pronounced.

At the same time, Google is already moving away from showing 10 similar pages in a given SERP, shifting towards a multimodal SERP instead. This means Google will throw a bit of everything together in SERPs. In essence, this also means that you’ll no longer be competing with others for the same position in SERPs as your content will be “different” from theirs. Instead of making it to the first, second, or third position, the SERP will either feature your site or not. It’s that simple.

What Does MUM Mean for Future Search Optimization Strategies?

Though MUM will undoubtedly emphasize newer SEO elements like entities and advanced content markup, the good news is it won’t radically affect your overall SEO strategy. You’ll still want to establish relevance, quality, and authority with your content, backlinks, and user experience signals. Additionally, many classic SEO strategies will continue to pair well with MUM’s new features.

However, MUM does provide the opportunity to improve upon those strategies. Here are a few ways you can leverage these new features efficiently:

1. Choose Entities Over Keywords

In the past, Google evaluated page relevancy based on how often a particular keyword appeared on a page. This ultimately led to “keyword stuffing,” a practice that is generally frowned upon today. Now, however, page relevance is determined by how well it fits into the larger context of a given subject.

For instance, a digital marketing agency promoting its expertise in fashion digital marketing would publish relevant content beyond simple keywords. While they’d certainly use keywords for organic ranking purposes, they’d use them efficiently (in moderation), complementing them with quality link-building and markups to highlight entities in a more Google-friendly way.

2. Emphasize Customer Journeys

When creating content for a product, covering every part of the customer journey should always be the end goal. To give an example, let’s pretend a video game retailer is selling bundles for the newest gaming console. Furthermore, let’s pretend that console is hitting shelves during the holiday shopping season, a time when the search audience will include friends, spouses, and relatives of gamers.

Naturally, many of these shoppers will have additional questions beyond how the console works or the types of games featured. This means that the retailer will need to establish questions and information and create relevant content to help convert those shoppers into customers.

These questions could include:

  • How much does the gaming console bundle cost?
  • What kind of games will come in the bundle?
  • Are these games designed for children or adults?
  • What console accessories come in the bundle?
  • Do the console accessories require extra batteries?
  • Will they need to purchase additional accessories for multiplayer games?

Adding to this, MUM will enable shoppers to source these types of questions directly via the Things to Know and Broaden/Refine This Search features. Even so, it’s never too late to start exploring existing recommendation features while adding more helpful information to your content.

3. Leverage Google Merchant Center

As a means to manage how your product inventory appears on Google, Google Merchant Center is a powerful tool capable of helping you reach hundreds of millions of potential customers each day. Taking advantage of this program is a no-brainer, especially as Google has started to turn in a more commercial direction. Likewise, multimodal SERPs automatically shorten the buyer journey, giving Google a reason to show product suggestions for virtually any kind of search. This means that Google’s millions of users have an even greater chance to see your products, even if their search intent wasn’t immediately transactional.

As a bonus, those using Shopify or WooCommerce have even more reasons to celebrate, as these platforms are already in partnership with Google Merchant Center. With the ability to have your products verified in only a few clicks, having a proper WooCommerce or Shopify SEO strategy in place has never been more critical.

4. Use All Available Markups

Google is increasingly using small pieces of content to answer search queries. This all began with featured snippets, with Google quoting the most relevant paragraph from a given page. It has since spread to videos, as Google now highlights the most relevant segment to any given search query. To go along with this, the People Also Ask feature might include helpful information for a given search, as would additional SERP features using images, videos, products, or other small pieces of text.

All in all, meaningful participation in this kind of SERP requires you to play ball with Google on its terms, doing your part to help it find the most relevant information from your pages. It’s recommended you use the following available markups:

  • YouTube Metadata: This will help Google analyze your videos and split them into smaller pieces. You can also add closed captioning to provide Google a transcript of your video, as well as timestamps where appropriate.
  • Schema Markup: This helps you get rich snippets in SERPs while highlighting important content on your pages. You can use it to enhance product pages, FAQ sections, reviews, business deals, or even blog articles.
  • HTML Tags: Use these to highlight important pieces of text on your page and for describing images. Titles, meta descriptions, headings, and rich alt text are essential parts of a well-rounded, profitable SEO strategy.

5. Create Multimodal Content

In the past, Google would prefer to answer most search queries using a mixture of text results and video results. Nowadays, it prefers to answer virtually every search query with both. To capitalize on this shift, create your content with a multimodal approach, using text, images, and videos to improve your chances within Google’s algorithm.

Likewise, splitting your content into “snippable” pieces will go a long way in providing the quality user experience Google rewards. Here are a few basic principles to follow for a clean content structure:

  • Split your content into chapters and subchapters
  • Chapter names should read and sound like search queries
  • Highlight your chapters with proper markup
  • Begin those chapters with concise paragraphs that provide a complete answer
  • Ensure your content (whether written or video format) is straightforward when answering search queries. Avoid spreading out the answer(s) across multiple paragraphs.

Let the Digital Marketing Experts at VELOX Media Help You Maximize the Power of Google MUM

Like the BERT algorithm before it, Google MUM has the potential to change search engine optimization significantly. From its improvements upon existing features to its multimodal approach, businesses and enterprises that adapt to these changes stand to see significant improvements in their overall search rankings, especially if they combine classic SEO strategies with newer, more pronounced SEO elements.

As a Google Premier Partner ranked among the top 3% of digital marketing agencies in the world, VELOX Media is on the front lines of every major Google update, from the smallest to the most impactful. Contact our digital marketing experts today to learn how we can help your business navigate and leverage all the SEO changes to come with Google MUM.

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