Google’s BERT introduced neural network-based natural language processing to Google’s search engine, enabling it to better understand the context and intent of search queries. At their recent I/O event, Google gave us a sneak peek at BERT’s successor, MUM.
What is MUM?
Like BERT, MUM is an acronym and stands for Multitask Unified Model. It’s also built on a transformer architecture. However, it’s far more powerful than BERT; potentially 1,000 times more powerful if Google’s data is correct. It’s also capable of utilising multitasking to connect disparate data sources and information together in ways we haven’t seen before. MUM is still in the internal pilot phase, and Google has yet to announce a public rollout date.
Why multitasking matters to marketers
The purported massive increase in power is a result of the introduction of multitasking to MUM. The ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously means MUM is trained on multiple languages and tasks at the same time and can gain a deep understanding of all the available information at a much faster rate than BERT ever could.
Search engines are integral to the digital marketing landscape. Any significant advances or changes to the way Google searches work will have a knock-on effect on businesses’ online marketing. When MUM is fully integrated into Google searches, users will be able to submit much more complex queries. The example given in the I/O presentation was, “I’ve hiked Mt. Adams and now want to hike Mt. Fuji next fall; what should I do differently to prepare?”. MUM will have no problem parsing the information given and returning results that reflect the user’s additional information and conditions in their query.
The impact on users
Currently, large businesses tend to compete for the most valuable SEO keywords, while smaller businesses have to settle for less common queries. But as search engines learn to interpret complex queries more accurately, users’ searches for information will change accordingly. Google is already suggesting that users will soon be able to search for information across different mediums. The ability to search text, images, and videos for information could be transformative for small business marketing.
Right now, it’s hard to say exactly how MUM will impact users’ search behaviour, if at all. But if Google’s high hopes for the tech are realised, the gap between Google’s search engine and its competitors will widen even further, cementing their dominance for the foreseeable future.