Will Google’s Multitask Unified Model (MUM) End SEO?


Search engine optimization (SEO) strategies can vary, but they have one unified goal: get into the first page of the search results, preferably the first rank, for their chosen keywords.

This position is powerful enough that businesses of all kinds would have to often count on search engine optimizer services—in other words, get professionals to help. It can take six months to see the desired results, so one needs to get it right the first time.

In return, grabbing the first spot can mean getting most of the traffic. This will then increase the chances of having a high conversion rate.

But when it comes to SEO, nothing is static. A webpage can rank first for its targeted keyword today and disappear the following day. Google may also introduce new algorithm updates and sometimes systems that may make one question whether SEO will still make sense in the future.

One of these is MUM.

What Is MUM?

MUM stands for multitask unified model. Although the term sounds technical, the concept is easy to break down. Let’s begin with its goal.

Google seems to always stress that the reason behind changes in algorithms and the introduction of new processes and techniques is to benefit the user. Consider this search engine as a store. Consumers’ needs change, and so it just wants to make sure that it is ready to accommodate these new needs.

Over the years, people have modified the way they search for information. For instance, more users are searching for information or even buying through their mobile devices. Because of this, Google launched mobile-first indexing.

Second, Internet users want more valuable information before they decide to purchase a product or a service. Moreover, when searching a keyword, they want to make sure they’re getting the results they need, even if the queries are vague. Think of apple the fruit and Apple the tech brand.

Third, users want more succinct answers that, unfortunately, not a single page can provide as various pieces of information are among the thousands of indexed pages. In fact, according to Google, it usually takes at least eight queries before they can receive answers to basic questions like “How do I prepare for a climb in Mount Fuji in the fall after reaching the peak of Mount Adams?” (Google’s example here).

The mega search engine wants to streamline the process to make searching information more satisfactory and convenient by introducing MUM, which is partly based on the concepts of machine learning and neural network.

MUM is capable of digging deeper into the context of the query. Using the example above, it won’t just give general tips on hiking on Mount Fiji.

It may also provide data on the differences in elevation and temperature, the fitness training the person needs, the weather around the period, and probably even the shoes they need to wear. MUM, however, can present all these data in a more comprehensive manner to lessen the clicks and queries.

Moreover, in the hopes of providing accurate and timely information, MUM can also understand various languages. For example, if it sees data about Mount Fuji in Japanese, it may translate it into a universal language. This way, users can now have access to a wealth of helpful local pages.

It may also understand queries that combine text and images. One may upload a picture of a pair of boots, while the query can be “Can I wear this on Mount Fuji?” MUM can deliver the same quality results. In the future, Google hopes to make its model understand accompanying sound and videos.


Will It Kill SEO, Though?

How MUM makes SEO specialists apprehensive may stem from the fact that this also concerns search. From the sound of it, the model is powerful.

In reality, experts are divided on their answers. Some believe that, although keywords will matter, in the end, it will make SEO obsolete. Google’s search advocate John Muller, however, is more optimistic.

As SEO has proven over the years, it too can adapt to the times. After all, SEO marketers have stopped thinking about keyword density and keyword stuffing and instead focusing on semantics to create a copy that’s more relevant to the chosen keywords.

Further, MUM is still in its development stages. It may take many months or even years before the company will launch it. Smart SEO remains the best option for marketers until then.

Probably the bottom line is for marketers to think the way Google does: always provide a more seamless way for users to get what they want when they look for something. This way, it’s easier to align their SEO techniques to the preferences of the search engine.


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