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Google says it is going to be radically updating its search engine by integrating its new “MUM” algorithm into its systems. 

This will allow Google’s search engines to better understand topics, find better answers and sources, and provide more intuitive ways to explore ideas.

Accompanying these new search systems, Google is going to be redesigning its search pages with new features that provide new ways to discover information and conduct searches that are more visual.

What is the MUM Algorithm?

Introduced earlier this year, the Multitask Unified Model algorithm, or MUM, allowed Google to better find information using images and across multiple languages. 

The main purpose of the algorithm is to improve Google’s ability to search with images and other types of visual content, rather than just text.

Three Ways MUM Is Changing Search

While it is hard to know exactly how transformative the introduction of the MUM algorithm will be before it arrives, Google did highlight three key features which will be coming with the change.

  1. “Things to know”
  2. Topic Zoom
  3. Visual Topic Exploration

Google’s “Things to Know”

Using predictive models, Google’s search engine will soon intuit the most likely steps you will take after an initial search and deliver websites that will facilitate those actions.

To help illustrate this process, the announcement uses the example of a user searching for “acrylic painting”.

According to the search engine’s data, there are more than 350 topics associated with that specific keyword phrase.

Using this knowledge, the “things to know” feature will then identify the most relevant or popular “paths” users are likely to take to further explore that topic and find content relating to that.

Topic Exploration

The next feature piggybacks on the last by making it easy to dive into related topics or find more in-depth information.

Using the feature, users can quickly broaden the topic they are looking at to find more general information, or zoom in to more detailed resources.

Visual Exploration

The last update enabled by MUM is actually already live on the search engine, providing a new way to visually explore topics.

Specifically, the visual search results page will appear for searches where a user is “looking for inspiration.”

As Google explains it:

“This new visual results page is designed for searches that are looking for inspiration, like ‘Halloween decorating ideas’ or ‘indoor vertical garden ideas,’ and you can try it today.”


It is likely that these new features are just the start of Google’s introduction of the MUM algorithm to revamp how it does search. Since its start, the search engine has struggled to understand visual content, but MUM finally provides a path to not only understand but deliver visual content across the entire Google platform.

In just 2020, Google has changed its search engine more than 4,500 times, according to the newly updated “How Search Works” site. 

Or, as Google puts it, “There have been 4,500 such improvements in 2020 alone.”

Whether you agree with Google’s description of their changes as “improvements”, the disclosure is interesting because it shows that the search engine continued to ramp up how frequently it updates parts of its system – even during the initial outbreak of the COVID pandemic. 

In comparison, Google made 3,200 changes to its search engine in 2019, the year before. At the same time, the company said this was nearly a 10x increase from a decade before. In 2009, the search engine reported just 350-400 changes.

What Do These Changes Include?

Google’s 2020 ‘improvements’ can include anything from updates to its user interface, changes to search results, and adjustments to how specific carousels or sub-sections like “news” function. 

As such, it isn’t all that surprising that Google is making significantly more updates to its systems than it was a decade ago. The search engine is considerably more complex and multifaceted these days compared to its 2009 counterpart. 

Still, I think many expected to see a relative slowdown to these updates as many workers began working remotely and the country braced for the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

“How Search Works” Site Gets a Redesign

This info was revealed as part of a much larger redesign of the search engine’s ‘How Search Works’ website, which “explains the ins and outs of search.”

Since 2013, Google has used the portal to help educate users about the broad principles Google uses to rank sites and filter out spam or inappropriate content. 

With the latest update, the company has “updated the site with fresh information, made it easier to navigate and bookmark sections and added links to additional resources that share how Search works and answer common questions.” 

“The website gives you a window into what happens from the moment you start typing in the search bar to the moment you get your search results. It gives an overview of the technology and work that goes into organizing the world’s information, understanding what you’re looking for and then connecting you with the most relevant, helpful information,” Google added.

A representative from Google announced the search engine began rolling out a broad core update (appropriately titled the June 2021 Core Update) this week. Surprisingly, the announcement also revealed a second update is expected to roll out next month. 

Note that this is not the Page Experience Update which Google is planning to launch in mid-June.

Typically, Google rolls out a broad core update every few months. For example, the last update before this came nearly six months ago, in December 2020. The gap between updates before that was even longer, with the previous update arriving in May 2020. 

Obviously, this raises some questions about why the company felt the need to start releasing a two-part algorithm now, rather than waiting to roll it all out at once next month. 

Google being Google, details about what the broad core updates will change are relatively scant. Still, here’s what we do know:

Why Two Core Updates?

Based on statements from Google liaison Danny Sullivan and others, it seems the search engine simply didn’t want to sit on some of the completed updates while it waited for the rest to be finalized. 

Sullivan did note that some effects from the first part of the update may be temporary, however, as the second part rolls out. 

“Of course, any core update can produce drops or gains for some content. Because of the two-part nature of this release, it’s possible a very small slice of content might see changes in June that reverse in July.”

What You Should Expect

As with most broad core updates, Google is giving somewhat mixed signals about how big the impact will be. 

On one hand, the company says most sites won’t notice any changes to their presence in search results. At the same time, Google says the update will produce “some widely noticeable effects.”

From past experience, we can predict that sites producing quality content and keeping up with overall Google guidelines will be largely unaffected. Those within more controversial or less reputable industries (online gambling, some medical niches, law, etc.), may be more likely to see some fallout even if they have been doing everything “right”. 

Those using tactics which can be seen as more “spammy” such as republishing content, using user-generated content in overbearing or spammy ways, or using questionable guest-blogging practices may also be likely to see some negative results as the update rolls out.

Ultimately, we will all have to wait and see as the update finishes, which Google says should take about two weeks. 

What To Do If You Are Affected

Perhaps one of the most frustrating things about broad core updates is that you can be impacted even if you aren’t doing anything ostensibly “wrong”. Some pages may see negative ranking shifts despite following all of Google’s guidance. 

This makes recovering a tricky proposition, but Google has provided some advice for brands negatively impacted. 

Specifically, the company suggests asking yourself the following questions about your brand:

Content and Quality Questions

  • Does the content provide original information, reporting, research or analysis?
  • Does the content provide a substantial, complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
  • Does the headline and/or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?
  • Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?

Expertise Questions

  • Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page?
  • If you researched the site producing the content, would you come away with an impression that it is well-trusted or widely-recognized as an authority on its topic?
  • Is this content written by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?
  • Is the content free from easily-verified factual errors?
  • Would you feel comfortable trusting this content for issues relating to your money or your life?

Presentation and Production Questions

  • Is the content free from spelling or stylistic issues?
  • Was the content produced well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Does the content have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Does content display well for mobile devices when viewed on them?

Comparative Questions

  • Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • Does the content seem to be serving the genuine interests of visitors to the site or does it seem to exist solely by someone attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?

While not hard and fast guidance, these questions can help you evaluate your site and find areas to improve upon before the next broad core update. 

Thankfully, in this case we know the next update is coming quite soon – July 2021 – so there is a chance any negative effects from the ongoing update will be short-lived. 

Have you gotten your brand’s website ready for the upcoming Google Page Experience ranking signal update? 

If not, Google Developer Martin Splitt says there’s no need to panic. 

In an interview on the Search Engine Journal Show on YouTube, host Loren Baker asks Splitt what advice he would give to anyone worried their site isn’t prepared for the update set to launch in mid-June. 

Giving a rare peek at the expected impact of the impending update, Splitt reveals the Page Experience signal update isn’t going to be a massive gamechanger. Instead, it is more of a “tiebreaker.”

As a “lightweight ranking signal”, just optimizing your site’s Page Experience metrics isn’t going to launch you from the back of the pack to the front. If you are competing with a site with exactly the same performance in every other area, however, this will give you the leg up to receive the better position in the search results. 

Don’t Ignore The Update

While the Page Experience update isn’t set to radically change up the search results, Splitt says brands and site owners should still work to optimize their site with the new signals in mind. 

Ultimately, making your page faster, more accessible on a variety of devices, and easier to use is always a worthwhile effort – even if it’s not a major ranking signal. 

As Splitt says:

“First things first, don’t panic. Don’t completely freak out, because as I said it’s a tiebreaker. For some it will be quite substantial, for some it will not be very substantial, so you don’t know which bucket you’ll be in because that depends a lot on context and industry and niche. So I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

I think generally making your website faster for users should be an important goal, and it should not just be like completely ignored. Which is the situation in many companies today that they’re just like ‘yeah, whatever.’”

As for how he thinks brands should approach the update, Splitt recommended focusing on new projects and content rather than prioritizing revamping your entire site upfront. 

… For new projects, definitely advise them to look into Core Web Vitals from the get-go. For projects that are already in maintenance mode, or are already actively being deployed, I would look into making some sort of plan for the mid-term future — like the next six months, eight months, twelve months — to actually work on the Core Web Vitals and to improve performance. Not just from an SEO perspective, but also literally for your users.”

Much of the discussion focuses on the perspective of SEO professionals, but it includes several bits of relevant information for anyone who owns or manages a website for their business. 

To hear the full conversation, check out the video below from Search Engine Journal:

Google confirmed this week that its most recent broad core update, which began rolling out on December 3, 2020, is now completely rolled out to all search users.

Google’s SearchLiason account announced “the December 2020 Core Update rollout is complete,” yesterday following almost two weeks of anxious waiting from webmasters and SEOs.

What We Know

Google is notoriously tight-lipped about its “secret recipe” used to rank websites around the world. Still, this update was big enough that the search engine felt it necessary to alert the public when the December core update started rolling out. 

This may simply be because the update rollout is global, affecting all users in all countries, across all languages, and across all website categories. 

However, early signs suggest the algorithm update was uncommonly big, with many reporting huge gains or losses in organic traffic from search engines. 

What Is a Broad Core Update?

Google’s “broad core updates” are essentially a tuneup of the search engine’s systems. Rather than adding a specific feature, targeting a singular widespread issue like linkspam, or prioritizing a ranking signal, a core update more subtly tweaks Google’s existing systems. This can be rebalancing the impact of some search signals, refining Google’s indexing tools, or any other combination of changes. 

What To Do If You Are Affected

The first thing any webmaster should do is thoroughly check their analytics to ensure they haven’t experienced a significant change in search traffic. 

If you have, you will be disappointed to hear that Google has not provided any specific guidance for how to recover from this update. In fact, the company suggests a negative impact from a core update may not even reflect any actual problems with your website.

What the search engine does offer is a series of questions to consider if you have been affected by a recent core update. Though not as useful as actual suggestions for fixing lost rankings, these questions can help you assess your site and identify areas for improvement before the next broad core update.

Google has announced it is rolling out a widespread update to its search engine algorithm which it is simply titled the ‘January 2020 Core Update’.

The update began rolling out late yesterday and will affect how the search engine ranks all web pages around the world. However, as it is a “broad core” update, there is no specific issue or ranking signal being prioritized like in past mobile or speed-related updates.

Rather, Google’s recommendations for optimizing for this update remain the same as past core updates, which can be found here.

In the past, Google has described its broad core updates using a metaphor:

“One way to think of how a core update operates is to imagine you made a list of the top 100 movies in 2015. A few years later in 2019, you refresh the list. It’s going to naturally change. Some new and wonderful movies that never existed before will now be candidates for inclusion. You might also reassess some films and realize they deserved a higher place on the list than they had before.”

While the update is unlikely to radically shift search engine rankings, Google’s announcement of the update is relatively uncommon. Typically, Google prefers to quietly roll out broad updates and only confirm core updates when they relate to specific issues or are widely recognized.

This may signal that Google expects relatively large impacts on some search results, though it will take some time for the full impact of the update to become apparent.

Google’s latest search algorithm update made some significant changes to how local search results are compiled and processed, according to a recent statement from the company.

Though the rollout of the update began in early November, Google only this week explained that it has begun integrating neural matching into its local search algorithm.

As for what neural matching actually is, Google referred people to a tweet from earlier this year which called the process “a super synonym system.”

In more detail, neural matching uses AI to better understand the meaning and intent behind search terms, allowing relevant results to be included even when they do not include a specific keyword in the original query.

“The use of neural matching means that Google can do a better job going beyond the exact words in business name or description to understand conceptually how it might be related to the words searchers use and their intents.”

To put it in plain English, this allows your site or local business listing to be included for relevant searches where you previously may not have been included.

As of yet it is hard to tell exactly what impact this will have on local search results. Despite rolling out globally last month, it may take some time for the true impact to become apparent.

Google has announced they will be rolling out a broad update to their core search algorithm starting later today. 

While the updates are a regular part of maintaining and improving the company’s search engine, Google has typically been reluctant to give advance notice before the update has rolled out. In some cases, they have even been unwilling to address algorithm updates in-depth after their implementation. 

This is only the second time the search engine has announced a broad core algorithm update ahead of time, suggesting they are being more proactive in communicating with webmasters. 

Google’s Danny Sullivan says the update should start very soon and will take up to a few days to complete. 

The company’s announcement didn’t add any new guidance or recommendations for managing your site during and after the rollout of this update, but Google did recommend reviewing the existing guidelines for core updates:

  • Widely notable effects are to be expected, which can include drops or gains in search rankings.
  • Core updates are “broad” in the sense that they don’t target anything specific. Rather, they’re designed to improve Google’s systems overall.
  • Pages that drop in rankings aren’t being penalized; they’re being reassessed against other web content that has been published since the last update.
  • Focusing on providing the best possible content is the top recommended way to deal with the impact of a core algorithm update.
  • Broad core updates happen every few months. Sites might not recover from one update until the next one rolls out.
  • Improvements do not guarantee recovery. However, choosing not to implement any improvements will virtually guarantee no recovery.

With Google’s constant updates, it is easy to miss some of the new features they roll out with less publicity than their biggest products receive. However, even the smaller revisions to Google Search make a huge affect on how we search and use the internet in general. Jessica Lee recently rounded up some of the less talked about changes Google has been making so you can be sure you haven’t missed anything lately.

1) Date Selector in Hotel Carousel Search Results

The Carousel results box at the top of localized searches for hotels and restaurants has only been around for a few months now, and Google is already making regular updates to the function. While most of the work has gone into normalizing what queries get carousel results.

But, they’ve also implemented some new, interesting features such as a date selector for hotel searches. Now, you can easily weed out hotels that aren’t available on the days you will need lodging.

hotels-in-new-york-date-selector-google-carousel

In a statement to Search Engine Land, Google said:

We’re always adding features to search to help people find what they need and get things done faster — you can now more easily research hotels when planning a trip and filter by user ratings and hotel class, as well as select specific dates.

2) Cards for Local Results

“Answer Cards” have slowly been spreading across Google’s platform for a while, but they were largely reserved for specific questions or brands. You needed a specific and targeted search to wind up with the convenient card at the top of the search results. But, lately the cards have begun to deliver more detailed answers such as the address of a nearby retailer. Mike Blumenthal highlighted the change with an example of searching for a brand name + location (Dress Barn locations Amherst):

dress-barn-amherst-answer-card

But, queries with multiple results still get the traditional pack results:

dress-barn-pack-results

3) Answers to Complex Questions

The answer cards have also gotten better at providing answers for trickier questions in general. The people running the Google Operating System spent a good amount of time trying to stump Google’s answer feature, but they’ve found the task has gotten much harder as the feature has been improved.

In their words:

Google used to only answer simple questions like “who’s the prime minister of Canada?” or “what’s the population of China?” Thanks to the Knowledge Graph project, Google can answer more complicated questions like “who played Batman?”, “what’s the latest album of Celine Dion?”, “what are the main attractions in Spain?”.

To test this out, one of the authors asked Google a question without a definitive answer: what is the “distance to Mars”.

google-direct-answer-distance-to-mars

Google can even tell you why the sky is blue.

google-direct-answer-why-is-sky-blue

4) Distance Results

Google is able to tell the distance from most locations other than planets. In fact, Google announced on Google+ that users can now get the distance from any two locations on earth, no matter how far apart they are. The example Google offered was the “distance between Siberia and Hawaii.”

google-how-far-is-it-from-hawaii-to-siberia

5) Streamlined Search Options

The Google Operating System blog explained how they have updated search options to be more responsive to your individual search query:

Google removed a few specialized search options that were usually displayed in the “more” drop-down: recipes, patents, discussions, blogs, places. The list of links to services like Maps, Images, News, Flights, Shopping is reordered based on your query. This isn’t a new idea, it was implemented a long time ago by Google, but now it’s used more often.

search-options-google

Google is always making changes and updates, but it seems like the past couple weeks have been especially crazy for the biggest search engine out there. There have been tons of changes both big and small, but best of all, they seem to all be part of one comprehensive plan with a long term strategy.

Eric Enge sums up all the changes when he says Google is pushing people away from a tactical SEO mindset to a more strategic and valuable approach. To try to understand exactly what that means going forward, it is best too review the biggest changes. By seeing what has been revamped, it is easier to make sense of what the future looks like for Google.

1. ‘(Not Provided)’

One of the hugest changes for both searchers and marketers is Google’s move to make all organic searches secure starting in late September. For users, this means more privacy when browsing, but for marketers and website owners it means we are no longer able to see keyword data from most users coming to sites from Google searches.

This means marketers and site-owners are having to deal with a lot less information, or they’re having to work much harder to get it. There are ways to find keyword data, but it’s no longer easily accessible from any Google tool.

This was one of the bigger hits for technical SEO, though there are many work arounds for those looking for them.

2. No PageRank Updates

PageRank has long been a popular tool for many optimizers, but it has also been commonly used by actual searchers to get a general idea of the quality of the sites they visit. However, Google’s Matt Cutts has openly said not to expect another update to the tool this year, and it seems it won’t be available much longer on any platform. The toolbar has never been available on Chrome, and with Internet Explorer revamping how toolbars work on the browser, it seems PageRank is going to be left without a home.

This is almost good news in many ways. PageRank has always been considered a crude measurement tool, so if the tool goes away, many will have to turn to more accurate measurements.

3. Hummingbird

Google’s Hummingbird algorithm seemed minor to most people using the search engine, but it was actually a major overhaul under the hood. Google vastly improved their abilities at understanding conversational search that entirely changes how people can search.

The most notable difference with Hummingbird is Google’s ability to contextualize searches. If you search for a popular sporting arena, Google will find you all the information you previously would have expected, but if you then search “who plays there”, you will get results that are contextualized based on your last search. Most won’t find themselves typing these kinds of searches, but for those using their phones and voice capabilities, the search engine just got a lot better.

For marketers, the consequences are a bit heavier. Hummingbird greatly changes the keyword game and has huge implications for the future. With the rise of conversational search, we will see that exact keyword matches become less relevant over time. We probably won’t feel the biggest effects for at least a year, but this is definitely the seed of something huge.

4. Authorship

Authorship isn’t exactly new, but it has become much more important over the past year. As Google is able to recognize the creators of content, they are able to begin measuring which authors are consistently getting strong responses such as likes, comments, and shares. This means Google will be more and more able to filter those who are creating the most valuable content and rank them highest, while those consistently pushing out worthless content will see their clout dropping the longer they fail to actually contribute.

5. In-Depth Articles

Most users are looking for quick answers to their questions and needs with their searches, but Google estimates that “up to 10% of users’ daily information needs involve learning about a broad topic.” To reflect that, they announced a change to search in early August, which would implement results for more comprehensive sources for searches which might require more in-depth information.

What do these all have in common?

These changes may all seem separate and unique, but there is an undeniably huge level of interplay between how all these updates function. Apart, they are all moderate to minor updates. Together, they are a huge change to search as we know it.

We’ve already seen how link building and over-attention to keywords can be negative to your optimization when improperly managed, but Google seems keen on devaluing these search factors even more moving forward. Instead, they are opting for signals which offer the most value to searchers. Their search has become more contextual so users can find their answers more easily, no matter how they search. But, the rankings are less about keywords the more conversational search becomes.

In the future, expect Google to place more and more emphasis on authorship and the value that these publishers are offering to real people. Optimizers will always focus on pleasing Google first and foremost, but Google is trying to synergize these efforts so that your optimization efforts are improving the experience of users as well.