Google keeps telling us to look after users, not search engines. But many of us do not follow this advice. We try to outwit Google’s algorithms to get the best rankings, despite the hard work it requires, and often we use dangerous Black Hat SEO techniques to achieve that goal. 

This happens because many of our customers are impatient and want instant results for less money. We have two options to give to these customers: give them what they want, or do nothing. So, we cheat to make websites look more user-friendly because ranking websites otherwise would be time-consuming and expensive. 

I know most SEO agencies relate to the above, and many of you had to use not entirely ethical SEO tactics at least once in your career. Albeit we should all agree that, over time, it has become impossible to achieve good rankings with black hat techniques. Now, with this update, Google has become even more sophisticated and has rendered those tricky tactics useless.

Ten years ago, you could fill your pages with a series of keywords and still rank them. Back then, you bought hundreds of cheap backlinks to increase your authority and rank on your websites. The search giant addressed these issues with its Penguin and Panda. Buying backlinks became ineffective and can even lead to penalties. Those updates intervened to punish spam websites with bad content.  

If you’re still thinking about ways to outwit Google’s algorithm, you might change your mind after reading this article. Google keeps fighting back Black Hat SEO techniques, leaving those who do not play fair in a cold.  

In the following sections, we will discuss Google’s brand new technology, MUM. We believe that it has the potential to change SEO, and this blog post proves that point. 

What Exactly is MUM?

MUM is an acronym for Multitask Unified Model. It’s Google’s new technology designed to provide answers to complex questions. This model is currently in beta, and its features and enhancements will be available in the coming months and years.

To understand how this technology works, we need to look at how search engines work today. According to Google, it can take up to eight different searches to get complete information on a complicated topic. It takes a lot of friction and time to find what interests you. Nowadays, search engines search for relevant keywords, but not for the entire topic or keywords linked together.    

The search giant has introduced MUM (which by the way has nothing to do with mother) to simplify people’s lives and improve their experience. MUM will be finally capable to respond in a natural, conversational way meeting the expectations of Google’s long-desired conversation search experience it expressed in the Hummingbird update launch eight years ago in 2013. Multitasking, unified model is a machine learning model that understands not only written text better, but also any other kinds of content. 

With this new technology, Google will be able to provide multiple insights into a topic in one search result. Thus, users will have much less trouble obtaining comprehensive information in the future.    

When MUM comes out, you can look up something as simple as “how to groom a dog” and find the answer to all the related questions you have in mind. MUM collects information on relevant topics (not just “groom dog” keywords) and allows you to acquire a complete knowledge of the topic before starting a new search session. 

According to Google, the unified multi-task model is “a thousand times more powerful” than its predecessor BERT.  While with Hummingbird update every next query made by the user could complement the previous one, with MUM dialogues between the user and the search engine become more like a real conversation with Google even asking questions back to the user. 

The multimodal approach means that MUM can unlock information in various formats and make connections between different types of information, allowing Google to provide better answers to complex queries. 

Analyzing digital media files (photo, video, and audio) will introduce even more new perspectives never seen before. For example, if you take a photo of a trimmer, send it to Google and ask how to use it to groom a dog, Google will be able to provide the answer. Thus Google will directly give you comprehensive information, but it will also specify the website on which it has collected the data. 

Moreover, the engine can be trained in up to 75 languages and can not only understand languages but also generate languages. For example, it can find articles on your subject from French sources and translate them so you can acquire expert knowledge.  

Why does it feel like the calm before the storm?

MUM offers helpful subtopics for in-depth exploration and references to helpful articles, videos, and pictures from the entire web. Your website will most certainly still appear in the MUM results, which will bring you traffic, but the fact that nobody knows how those results will be organized keeps the SEO community in suspense and some even in suspension. 

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” H.P. Lovecraft.

In our case, the unknown is Google MUM. No one really knows what MUM-based search results will look like and that uncertainty scares SEO experts more than any horror movie. As it has happened many times before, many are afraid of the potential adverse effects that the update could cause.  

Google rolls out MUM snippets to the top of the results page and rearranges its SERP results so it has MUM as the basis. As a result, the power of MUM will most certainly affect conventional organic snippets. But we don’t know what exactly form MUM will take, and therefore have no hints on how to optimize for the update.    

To add even more fuel to the fire, we won’t even be able to monitor website positions in the way we monitor them now. Let us be honest, we have all become quite comfortable with things as they are today. I mean, before this update, we have been tracking simple tables and following pretty straightforward processes. We have been optimizing our websites, tracking rankings, making changes, monitoring rankings, and repeating the process again. Checking keyword positions gave us a perfect sense of what SEO strategies we could use to add value, which will not necessarily be the case after MUM.  

In addition, we will see significant changes in traffic once the technology is operational. Once MUM changes the SERP for most information requests, ranking (or at least what it is today) will become obsolete for many of us.  

So what should we expect?

The first thing that comes to mind is that there will be more competition. We have competing websites that produce content in the same language as we do. As we learned just a few indents ago, MUM understands information in over 75 languages and makes it available to users no matter what language they enter the query in.  

One can assume that once Mum’s features are introduced and the language barrier is removed, we will find ourselves in fierce international competition. It’s not going to be enough to analyze which competitors are creating content in the same language as you. You will also need to take a look at your multinational rivals to make sure your content is better than theirs. 

Moreover, MUM snippets will link to websites in different languages, which will inevitably cause more and more website owners to localize their content. With the language barrier becoming irrelevant for searching, you too will have to translate your content to multiple languages for multilingual website visitors.  

For example, suppose you sell dog trimmers and ship them internationally. You have a blog post about the new trimmer used to groom dogs.   

If Google decides that your article is more valuable because it offers more expertise, it can easily appear in Italian searches. As a result, your Google Analytics account will see a flood of traffic from Italy. In this case, you could only improve the user experience by localizing your site for Italian users, otherwise, you will lose potential customers. That’s not what you want to do. Localization only helps with conversion.    

MUM is the first step to create a conversation between the search engine and the user. It transforms Google Search from a search and response engine into an understanding of the content that goes beyond written words, images, videos, and podcasts. Those kinds of dialogs appear to leave not too much room for conventional optimization tricks.

From the user’s perspective, MUM is an incredible technology that helps us find relevant information with less friction. However, for many SEOs, this upcoming update seems to be a total disaster. They do not know how Google will present the MUM results in such a way that they are ready for future updates. If they do not prepare their pages, they feel that things are spiraling out of control, which makes them insecure.  

At this point, it is clear that many optimization strategies still widely used today, including unethical ones, will not work if Google MUM rolls around. It is also clear that we should not try to outwit the algorithm but work to produce high-quality content, improve our sites and provide the best user experience. Only then, when MUM is in full power, will we survive.

Nonetheless, webmasters and SEO experts shouldn’t really expect miraculous changes to appear at once. Google has talked about a long-term rollout, and a few years ago, it has already given us a taste of the dialogue between users and Google in search, and its Hummingbird update of 2013 has at least shown us how this could theoretically work. For now, though, while Google keeps organizing the world’s information to make it even more accessible, most efficient and valuable practices remain unchanged.