Any business utilizing Search Engine Optimization Needs to Know About Google’s Upcoming MUM Update
We discuss what is Google’s MUM update, how it will change search and how businesses using Search Engine Optimization can prepare for it
As a company that optimizes dozens of small businesses for Search, it is important that we are aware of upcoming updates and algorithm changes from Google to stay with and even ahead of the competition. It’s why we spend countless hours researching and digging for information released from Google about what they have in store for the future of search online. It’s true that Google never tells us exactly what changes in a new algorithm roll out, but with their releases we can glean valuable information on what Google is prioritizing and make educated guesses on what we need to do to keep our clients ahead of the wave.
While it’s natural for many SEO businesses to experience a drop when a drastic algorithm change is implemented, being able to adapt and ensure that Google’s new rules and signals are followed can mitigate any short term damage and in many cases a lot of businesses can on the other side with a stronger presence than they had.
What is MUM?
MUM stands for Multitask Unified Model, it is a new AI technology Google is planning to use to help it understand complex search queries as a human user would. The ulimate goal is to allow Google to better understand searches users type in and how to better recommend results for those search queries.
MUM is based on a current technology used by Google called BERT, this tool is a neural network designed for language processing. In lay terms, it is a tool that allows Google to better understand human languages, search queries and grants the ability to apply that to search for better results and recommending better information. MUM is expected to be the next evolutionary step in machine learning, AI and search technology from Google, but much more powerful than BERT currently is.
Interestinly, at MountainWave Solutions we use several custom built tools for many of our on-page SEO that relies on BERT. This technology was built by us and helps us craft a lot of titles, meta descriptions and even come on-page content leveraging Google’s own AI tools to help get a jump on organic search.
This is a very cool technology that many SEO’s don’t have or leverage, look for an article coming soon on how we built this tool and how we use it!
Some Changes We Expect to Organic Search with the MUM Update
Advanced Image Searching
Google lens is an app that allows users to snap a picture and will recommend search results based on what that picture is. For example, if you see a jacket worn by someone passing by on the street, you theoretically could snap a picture of it and Google would show you search results on where to buy it, best deals etc… This is one example of many, but you get the point. This feature suggests that images and image recognition could become a much larger part of search. It will be important to make sure that your site has good pictures of your products and services with valid descriptions for all. Traditionally, alt text or image text hasn’t been that important, we have a feeling it will be soon.
This goes hand in hand with what we were talking about above, but images in generally look to become more important. The SERPs will showcase larger images and more prominently in search results pages meaning (again) that images are going to become a more important aspect of SEO. Ultimately it will be up to MUM to decide which images will show on the SERPs for a search query but also which images it will pull from your page.
New Recommendations on SERP
According to Google a new SERP feature called Things to Know will be part of the update. It is similar to the already useful People Also Ask feature. The main difference is that the new Things to Know SERP feature aims to take the user to more detailed and in depth information for their search query.
Top 10 Organic Results (Page 1 of Search)
(My results when searching for Mountain Bikes on mobile, nothing but snippets as far as the eye can see)
The top 10- blue links shown in organic search have been moving well down the page for awhile now. While searching for mountain bikes, it took me several scrolls to even see the organic web page search results on my phone. I imagine that additional SERP features at the top of the page will continue to push these links further down the page. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t still important, it just means they are not the “main attraction” anymore. On phones, this may coincide with Google’s plan to combine all of its search results into one continuous scrolling page on mobile.
The effect here is that as an SEO you will have to shift focus on what you are optimizing, but it also may mean rankings become less important in a traditional sense. More on that below…
Rankings and SERP Positions
How keyword “rankings” will be affected in the traditional sense will remain to be seen. One major concern with many SEO’s is that the coveted “blue links” will continue to push further down the first page into irrelevancy or may be removed altogether. While that’s certainly a possibility, we don’t see it happening anytime soon. What will matter however is how you optimize your page. More focus will need to be on imagery, descriptions, content and even structured data and schema. You will need to be better able to recommend to Google what it should be showing users beyond traditional title tags.
We will chat a bit more on how this should and should not change your SEO strategy in 2022 below…
How to Prepare your Site for MUM and How It Will Affect Your SEO Strategy
Traditionally when Google introduces large shifts or updates in its landscape, a lot of SEO’s cry gloom and doom. While this will be a very large shift our guess is that a lot of the most impactful features of MUM will be rolled out slowly over a period of time. The good news is, that gives us plenty of time to prepare for it and enough time to be able to adapt to any changes coming down the pipeline. While we don’t know exactly how search will react when MUM goes live, we can make some educated guesses on how to best deal with and optimize for some of these changes. The rest will be left up to how we can adapt when we see things shift in the long term.
Here’s our recommendations:
- Traditional SEO is still important!
The traditional ranking factors will still be important. This means good content, relevant title tags and good site speed and structure will continue to influence which pages are selected for MUM to analyze. MUM will then be responsible for what content to pull from that page to recommend or show to users in search results. In this sense, traditional SEO will not be dead with this update.
- Optimize for the Big Picture
The same things that matter right now will matter after the update. This means making sure your pages are showing to Google as a subject matter expert in your field. Additionally, backlinking will still be very important along with really good content. MUM will still evaluate a lot of these factors and try to pick out the best images/content/snippets to show in search.
- Focus on Customer Journey
This may be a bit more difficult for a lot of SEO’s that don’t have a marketing background. MUM’s focus will be to guide the searcher through the entire customer journy. This means you will need to think about all phases of the searcher’s journey and have content/images and relative content to speak to each step. This means an SEO will need to work with business owners or marketing teams to speak to each phage of that journey and design their SEO and online marketing strategy around it.
- Join Merchant Center
If you are selling products online, this one will be a must. Join Google’s Merchanct Enter and be sure you have excellent product images, product descriptions and any other information that will reach out to searchers
- Markup/Schema/Strucutred Data
Traditionally, none of these were considered rankiing signals but they will become much more important with MUM. Each page with relevant information will have to have markup to make sure Google and MUM understand what the page is about, but also what the more important and relevant content is on that page. This will allow you to “help” Google determine what information or snippets should be shown for searchers.
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As always, we will make adjustments to our existing client’s pages and strategy to best stay ahead of any major Google Algorithm update.