SEO NEWS: How Google’s ‘MUM’ algorithm could transform the way we search


The big search news this month from Google was around MUM, Multitask Unified Model. This is different than BERT but similar in that it helps Google better understand language & makes it easier to get helpful responses to complex search needs. However, it won’t go live for months to years and when it does, Google will let us know.

Google said in its announcement about MUM that it will “bring MUM-powered features and improvements to our products in the coming months and years.”

Google CEO Sundar Pichai stands on a circular outdoor stage ringed by attendees sitting in lawn chairs.

What is MUM: Multitask United Model?

MUM is a language model built on the same transformer system as BERT, which made waves back in 2019. BERT is a powerful language model that proved a breakthrough on release. MUM, however, is upping the ante: according to Google, it’s supposed to be 1000x more powerful than BERT.

A great deal of that power comes from the fact that it can multitask. It doesn’t have to do one task after another, but it can handle multiple tasks simultaneously. This means that it can read text, understand the meaning, form deep knowledge about the topic, use video and audio to reinforce and enrich that, get insights from over 75 languages and translate those findings into multi-layered content that answers complex questions. All at once!

An idea of the power of Google MUM

At I/O 2021, Google’s Prabhakar Raghavan gave an insight into how that would work. He used the complex query “I’ve hiked Mt. Adams and now want to hike Mt. Fuji next fall, what should I do differently to prepare?” to demonstrate what MUM could do. In a regular search session, you’d have to search for all the different aspects yourself. Once you have everything, you need to combine it to have all the answers to the questions.

Now, MUM would combine insights from many different sources on many different aspects of the search, from measuring the mountains to suggesting a raincoat because it’s the rainy season on Mt. Fuji to extracting information from Japanese sources. After all, there’s a lot more written about this specific topic in that language.

In complex queries like this, it all comes down to combining entities, sentiments, and intent to figure out what something means. Machines have difficulty understanding human language, and language models like BERT and MUM get real close to doing just that.

MUM takes it a step farther by processing language and adding video and images because it is multi-modal. That makes it possible to generate a rich result that answers the query by presenting a whole new piece of content. MUM will even be incorporated into Google Lens, so you can point your camera to your hiking boots and ask if these are suited to take that hike up to Mt. Fuji!

Of course, the end goal of all of this is to help you get more information with fewer search queries — most likely within the boundaries of Google itself. We’ve seen a steady increase in rich results and quick answers, which also get more visual and more prominent by the day. Many other developments, both inside and outside of search, paints the picture of a Google looking to provide most of the answers to your questions themselves.

AI & Google 

Increasingly, Google is opening up the idea of search to include input from loads of other sources — microphones, cameras, TVs, wearables, and smart speakers. To serve all these different targets in a way that makes sense on those machines, search and search presentation have to change. A microphone on your fitness tracker has to hear and understand your query, while the assistant has to do something with it and reply with something useful.

Language understanding is key. The development of super-powerful, efficient, and flexible language models that can generate content to provide those answers succinctly and naturally will become essential.

Last Few Words

SEO is designed to make sure that when someone searches for your company or business, they find you and choose you.  It’s critical in 2021 that your business appears on Google when someone searches for something relevant to your field and specialist industry.  Luckily, we believe in dominance and not just competing.  Therefore we strive to achieve the most dominant positions on Google for all of our SEO clients.

If you would like to optimise your website in time for the big changes from Google, contact our SEO experts.

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