BERT & His MUM Walk Into A Bar…

TL;DR: Google Announced Its Multitask Unified Model aka (MUM)

    Google Announced It’s Multitask Unified Model aka (MUM)

    MUM is Changing Search in Three Important Ways: Google will incorporate 3 new features for search results:

    • THINGS TO KNOW: To make it easier to explore new yet relevant topics, this feature will take a search query and identify the most popular “paths” users take when exploring the topic. As such, it will be able to surface content that relates to that path – content that would have otherwise taken much longer for users to find. 
    • TOPIC ZOOM: For the topic zoom update, Google will introduce features to “refine or broaden searches.” How will this look? A user will now easily be able to jump in and out of related topics, either broadening the topic, or zooming in on a sub-topic for a more granular approach.
    • VISUAL EXPLORATION: The third feature may be something you’ve already come across in search results, but it’s not available for all searches. This change sees a newly designed and highly visual results page that is image-heavy and designed for searches looking for inspiration, for example, “kids’ birthday party ideas.”

In trying to think of a way to bring up a topic that will very soon be lighting up the internet I thought I’d go with a joke format to get ya to open up the email; however, since jokes about SEO aren’t actually funny, I’ll give you a quick trip down memory lane!

Growing up, I relished the nights when my Dad would let me stay up late to watch Johnny Carson with him. He would just laugh and laugh at Carnac The Magnificent. So, in honor of my Pops and those grand moments of my childhood, here’s a Carnac gem with a Lawyer theme:

Ok, onto business…

One thing I like to do is keep you informed about things upcoming – topics you’ll hear about at conferences and from prospectors who’ll frame them as “sky is falling” news you must know.

I’m talking here in particular about an announced change to Google’s Algorithm they’ve named MUM. According to Google back in May it’s “1000 X more powerful than BERT”.

If you have no idea what that meant at the time it’s ok, you’re not alone. BERT was an algorithm update, and the technical understanding isn’t as important as the changes we will see & experience over the next 6-12 months.


For the last few years, Google has been shifting search results towards showing what are called “Zero Click” properties. Artifacts like People Also Ask and Featured Snippets are examples of Zero-Click Properties.

Instead of encouraging the user to click on your site for the answer, they are getting the answer from you (and everyone else) and serving it up directly to the searcher on the search result page.

Remember, Google’s mission statement:

So here’s my take on what’s about to shift…

I think that search will likely become more interactive on the search results page. I think if you carefully read the descriptions above they sound an awful lot like they are describing breadcrumbs, designed to lead people to the answers to their questions faster and more efficiently.

What does this change about SEO? I don’t think it fundamentally changes SEO, I think it emphasizes what we already know about building Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (EAT) and makes it imperative to think of our websites differently.

We have to start considering the Users’ needs FAR more than ours as webmasters. This includes how we want our websites designed, and what information we want them to contain. Google is basically saying SEO is going to be a Democracy, and Users will ultimately decide who wins.

In a short-and-to-the-point answer: it’s time to totally rethink how we approach the look, feel, and utility of our websites. This means first and foremost, getting curious about how people actually use our website, collecting data and making rational decisions about design and content based on this data.

I made a prediction a couple of years ago that I think PPC, SEO, and Web Design would merge into one discipline. Or perhaps what I mean is that it won’t make as much sense in the future to say “are you doing SEO?”, without it meaning by default that you’re getting traffic, and making changes to your site based on user data. And this means traffic from ALL channels, Paid, Earned & Owned. They’ll become all part of “Doing” Web Marketing successfully.

I really believe MUM is a major step in that direction.