MUM SEO ASAP, WTF?
Andrew, Head of Media Technology, provides an insight into how Google has changed search forever, but how nothing has changed.
Google just completed their second-ever ‘Search On’ and told the world how they are changing search forever.
The technology at the heart of these changes is an AI system that understands information. It's called Multitask Unified Model, but the search engine optimises that to just MUM.
It means, and allow me to be a cynical SEO here, that we'll get a wave of articles preaching the importance of MUM SEO—overnight experts. Everyone will need new agencies. Strategies questioned. Notice me.
I'm falling foul of this myself. I'm writing this piece, and I'm writing it about MUM SEO.
I'm writing it to say that while the searcher's experience of Google may be changing, becoming guided, nudged along by AI considerations, that your SEO strategy probably shouldn't change.
Of course, that assumes you have got a good SEO strategy in the first place. That means you built your site and your content plan with SEO in mind (it is, after all, a big reason why you have your platform rather than just rent one).
Google calls this ‘How AI is making information more useful’. When people search for stuff, which they can do with pictures and words, Google will respond with pictures and words (and that still leaves us voice, a perma-growing section).
More importantly, it means Google's systems have topics associated with people's searches and uses them to suggest other searches, follow up questions, user journey considerations to make.
Great news. It means brands will need to make sure they understand the language that people use (jeans, not denim, website build, not hypertext service delivery, and countless others), and it means that brands will have to consider and answer common customer/potential customer questions, concerns and uncertainties. Brands have to do this because Google's systems do and now actively guide searchers in that direction.
In the past, Google and the "SEO best practice" created in the search engine's wake has faced accusations of forcing sites into the middle of the bell curve. You don't see successful sites that break the mould by too much because if Google can't figure it out, it's not successful. Hopefully, maybe, the guided search might open up the longtail of searches a little more, broadening the width of that bell of design and innovation.
QR codes nearly died in the West. The idea of pointing your smartphone at a glyph to receive and act on instructions didn't take off.
COVID-19 changed that. Now people get it. QR codes have a second chance. Affluent members of the non-media-technology public are now more used to pointing their phones at something to make something happen. It remains to be seen whether that mass learning and behaviour change will stick, however, and the future is more likely to be general lens search rather than specifically QR.
Google hopes it is in a strong place if people begin their experiences with brands with the eye of their smartphones. The company has a good chance of controlling the phone in use and the following chunks of the digital pipeline, including the ads and interruptions on the way.
For brands, this means more silo-busting. Your menus need designs with this digital behaviour in mind. Adverts on the side of busses, window displays, brochures, charity cash tins and hoardings or anything that might attract the eye becomes a potential first step into the digital universe (note my willpower in not forking off to talk about the metaverse at this point).
Do you believe what you've read online?
That's a problem. Google agrees. Historically, the company that was once about organising the world's information hasn't been great about sharing valuable information to its systems (link details, keyword details, etc). After yesterday's announcements, though, we're getting a little more back.
The ’helpful search tools for evaluating information online’ announcements from Google helps big brands at the expense of small. The overall intent is good, but the difference in credibility and the online evidence required to prove it does a disfavour to smaller players. If they ask with a click, Google will now tell searchers what trust information they have about a domain.
As Google is quick to remind us, they want sites to be expert, authoritative and trusted. As it happens, a good SEO strategy helps with this. Good SEO encourages trusted sites to talk about yours, building that credibility.
So, MUM SEO?
It's a significant change, with no change. Over time, searchers will get a very different experience, but for now, brands should concentrate on content that impresses them.
The key, the straightforward thing that seems to defeat so many companies is to consider digital marketing as the unifying force that intertwines coms, actions and web design.