SEO | READING TIME: 6 MINUTES | 31 JANUARY

Prepare for the next big update to search: MUM

Google has already started rolling out its next major update to Search. Announced in spring 2021, with basic features of the update rolling out the same year, MUM (Multimodal Unified Model) is a huge leap in the search engine’s ability to interpret and contextualize search queries.

Adapting Your Digital Marketing to MUM

MUM is the latest update in Google’s developments of their search engine. It represents another leap in identifying presenting the most relevant and trustworthy web results for each search query.

As search engines become increasingly proficient at identifying the best web pages to show their users, businesses must keep their SEO strategies updated to ensure a great user experience on their digital marketing channels and use data to optimize their communications. This is part of a long trend of smarter search engines and the importance of Pull Marketing. In appealing to end-users and search engines alike, relevance and user experience are the most important SEO factors.

The next iteration of Google Search means that companies must consider their target audience in all parts of their website, and ensure that all content is optimized instead of focusing on some “core” elements.

The technology runs on the latest findings in AI language processing and is reportedly 1,000 times more powerful than BERT, the previous installment. In short, researchers used combinations of learning methods to find the optimal way to train a language processing framework, then training it on a colossal dataset. If you’re interested in the nitty-gritty technical details, a Google blog goes into the details and showcases some of the things the AI can do.

A Deeper Understanding of Context and Topics

Being armed with an unprecedented understanding of language, MUM will be able to take Google’s interpretation of user intent and the context of results further than before. The first step of MUM’s rollout has been to “zoom” in and out from a topic. This is seen in the suggestions to refine or broaden a search, where the search engine shows results based on the topic, rather than any keywords.

This contextual understanding also allows the search engine to process more complex queries. Whereas some complex questions can take eight “manual” searches, MUM could mean that users get all the relevant information from a single query. This means that your content that covers one aspect of a query could still be presented among the results even if not directly related to any of the words used in the search.

How should businesses adapt?

This is not a completely new phenomenon, but rather a continuation of a previous trend. The previous big update, BERT, gave the search engine a basic understanding of intent, rather than being bound to the specific words used in search queries.

The improved understanding of topics and context means that businesses should focus even more on covering a wide range of topics in their content marketing strategy. This means that a content strategy should answer both broad, top-level queries as well as many different specific questions.

As specific keywords become less relevant, other factors of SEO play a larger role. Softer qualities, such as content usefulness and user experience, are becoming more important as Google Search finds new ways to measure these. Search engine optimized web development has never been more important as UX factors have more ”weight” in ranking.

The deeper understanding of topics also allows Google to use data from sources in different languages to serve relevant information to searchers. Decision-makers looking for suppliers in their native language could now be shown information from a global actor with an English site, and find the website that way. This would mean that a high E-A-T score means increased visibility and relevance for a completely new set of users. Multilingual web pages could see improved synergies between the different versions of pages.

Adapting to Multimodal Search Queries

Perhaps the biggest update in MUM is the multimodal capacities. While not part of the 2021 set of functionalities, MUM will allow users to use a combination of interfaces to get answers. For instance, multimodal search enables combined searches using image and text. Google’s example is to point the camera at a broken bike component and search “how to fix”, from which MUM would understand the context between the two inputs. In identifying the intent (repair) and the context (camera shows a bicycle’s derailleur) Google would know what results to show results from the combination.

How should businesses adapt?

Content marketing is about more than text, even more so after the multimodal search rolls out. Using relevant images and applying proper alt tags will help Google understand your content, and increase the likelihood of your products being shown in multimodal searches.

Conclusion

Whenever updates to the algorithm are announced (or predicted, for that matter) it is a good idea to think of them in the context of Google’s stated mission for Search: to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. As such, a constant SEO factor will always be to present the most relevant and useful information for queries relevant to one’s business. CXO and content remain essential to any B2B digital marketing strategy.