Google has announced a redesign of its search engine that introduces a new way to explore topics using an artificial intelligence (AI) feature called MUM.
The search engine plans to guide users through topics that interest them in a more visual way.
It claims to be 1,000 times more powerful than its predecessor, BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers), first introduced in 2019.
But how can Google users expect to benefit from the changes?
What is MUM and what does it stand for?
MUM, short for Multitask Unified Model, is an algorithm created to search the internet across different languages and via images in order to find the answers to elaborate questions.
What do the changes mean for you?
Google users currently rely on the world’s biggest search engine for answers that are found in text or recommended links.
The addition of MUM promises a huge shift in what using the search engine can provide us. Users have previously been faced with difficulties regarding language barriers (eg searching in English tends to only lead you to English resources) and needing multiple searches to achieve a complete answer to their queries.
A key example would be the following: instead of producing two individual searches for "What is the weather like in Finland?" and "What is the weather like in Spain?" Google will present these results to you side by side. It will be able to cross-reference your query across 75 different languages.
Google is mostly focused on MUM’s ability to complete searches using images.
MUM has been created with the goal of bringing solutions based not just on text, but on multimedia such as images, videos, and podcasts. This could invite users to become more specific with their queries instead of relying on vague, SEO-friendly language.
How will these features affect users?
Google MUM’s three primary features include:
Being able to jump in and out of topics related to your search seamlessly.
'Things to know'
Presenting pathways for the user through related topics to make follow-up searches more efficient. Searching a person, event, or object would lead to Google recommending a series of extended pathway searches that help you learn more about the topic you searched.
For example, searching "guitar" would present you with a number of pathways: "how to play," "where to buy," "tips," and so on.
Visually browsable search results
This feature is already present in the search engine and targets users looking to find inspiration in fields where a visual aid would be useful.
Searches about hobbies like decorating, cooking, and fashion will provide options for the usually to visually explore the topic.
You could search for garden decorating ideas and be presented with a host of options from a number of sources that come in the form of browsable images.
How will this affect the search engine?
Google has faced criticism from publishers and website owners for encouraging users to stick to the first ten links presented to them on Page One of its results.
This move could provide a shift in that strategy by encouraging users to delve into smaller, independent resources through the encouragement of pathways and pictures.
MUM could also come as good news for critics of SEO by allowing website owners to publish in accordance with what the service/information provided is actually about, but this is yet to be seen.