The 2021 Google Updates: MUM & Passage Ranking

To ensure that the search algorithm is continuously improved, there are regular Google updates. That’s why in this blog, we discuss two important Artificial Intelligence (AI) updates of 2021: MUM and Passage Ranking.

It’s important to stay on top of the latest major Google updates to ensure your valuable website and content is actually found.

MUM 2021: More Artificial Intelligence

MUM stands for Multitask Unified Model and ensures that queries without a unified answer can be better answered. Where a question like “how high is the Dom tower?” can simply be answered with “112 meters”, this is not true for all types of questions.

Some questions have an implicit meaning which makes nuances very important. And then there are indirect or compound questions – questions in which several questions are (hidden). Thanks to MUM, these can also be answered quickly and efficiently.

Google Artificial Intelligence - Ecoteers
The MUM Google update uses even more Artificial Intelligence

BERT 2019

In late 2019, Google introduced BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers). This algorithm links the words in a search query in order to optimise the search results. Because the way people complete their questions and tasks are personal, Google applies AI to understand its users. Thanks to BERT, the search results correspond better to the search queries and the algorithm continues to improve.

How does MUM works

Like BERT, MUM is also built on a Transformer Architecture. This novel neural architecture is specifically designed to understand complex language, and is therefore ideally suited for MUM.

MUM therefore builds on all the knowledge gained by BERT and previous technologies. Besides Google itself, others call MUM 1000 times more effective than BERT.

Because MUM uses different languages and modalities, the algorithm multitasks. Searching will be a lot faster if a Dutch text-question is also searched within English webpages, images, videos and pictures!

In addition, it understands both the connection between words and their function. Because of this, Google understands that the search “ov route Utrecht to Amsterdam” is not the same as “ov route Amsterdam to Utrecht” because the order of words is important.

Google MUM - Ecoteers
Thanks to MUM, Google understands the function of words in your search

Implicit searches

Also broad questions like “fun activities Utrecht” gives better results. For example, Google will provide information about the activities themselves but also implicit factors such as the weather and fun cafes in the area. Although pedal boating is a lot of fun, it’s hard to do on a frozen canal. In that case, Google understands that you’d rather be doing something that matches the winter temperatures. Perhaps afterwards you can score a hot chocolate at the café that is less than a minute’s walk from your location!

This makes searching a lot easier because Google can respond to search intentions. Because the algorithm is constantly learning from itself, this will only get better as MUM is in use longer.

An example from Google itself

Google itself uses the following example to demonstrate how MUM works. Suppose you have climbed Mount Adams in the United States and want to go to Mount Fuji in Japan in the fall. That’s why you want to know what to do differently now in your preparations for Mount Fuji.

If you were using Google before, you would have to ask all sorts of different questions to get a picture of your preparations. Consider the elevation of Mount Fuji, the average temperature in fall, the difficulty of hiking trails, gear needed, and more.

To a travel guide, all you would have to do is ask what you should do differently from your trip to Mount Adams. Just one question for a multi-faceted answer. And that’s exactly what Google is aiming to do with MUM: get your questions answered as efficiently and quickly as possible.

Google MUM example - Ecoteers
Google illustrates what search will look like after the MUM update with an example about Mount Fuji

MUM vs. BERT: The differences

MUM is better than BERT because it is too:

  • Acquiring knowledge at a ‘deeper’ level
  • Language understands and generates
  • Trains in 75 languages
  • Understands information in multiple modalities: images, text and video

The consequences of MUM

While MUM is unlikely to have a negative impact – as other algorithm updates can – it is important to understand how search traffic works. If only to stay ahead of the competition!

Furthermore, this efficient way of fulfilling searches literally consumes less energy, which lowers the carbon footprint of Search . So sustainable!

You can read about the other benefits that MUM will bring starting in June and continuing into the future in the Google I/O 2021 summary.

Passage Ranking

Another important Google update is Passage Ranking. This update has been rolling out in the United States and on English-language websites since February. Although the rollout in the Netherlands has not yet been officially confirmed, various Dutch websites report that Google has already slowly started. That is why it is wise to read up on the subject well in advance!

How does Passage Ranking work?

Passage Ranking is very similar to Featured Snippets: they show passages from web pages that Google believes match your search query. This way you don’t have to search the entire webpage to find the answer to your question. This is especially useful for pages with long content. It is estimated that Passage Ranking influences and improves 7% of all searches.

Passage Ranking vs Featured Snippets: the differences

However, there are differences with Featured Snippets so that with Passage Ranking, Google is even better at highlighting the best snippets and giving you the right answer faster.

Google Featured Snippets vs Passage Ranking - Ecoteers
This is what the difference between Featured Snippets and Passage Ranking looks like

The differences

  • Featured Snippets and Passage Ranking work on a completely different system, so the operation is also different.
  • Featured Snippets show a contiguous snippet of a web page where the answer is given. This should be a piece of text that gives a short and concise statement – without the help of other paragraphs.
  • Passage Ranking offers an excerpt that can consist of multiple pieces of text from a web page, which together form the answer. This doesn’t have to be a continuous piece of text, as Google puts together a passage itself through its algorithm.
  • In short: where Featured Snippets simply show a continuous piece of text in which the answer has already been formulated, with Passage Ranking, Google compiles a fragment of text from a web page.

The consequences of Passage Ranking

Again, this update won’t have that many negative consequences for your content – according to Google’s Martin Splitt. However, consider the impact on your rankings if your competitors cleverly respond to the update and you do not … There goes your high position!

How to play on Passage Ranking

Apply the following tips to SEO copywriting to use this update to your advantage.

  • Always remember who you are writing for: think about who your target audience is so you can adapt your message, structure and writing style accordingly. Also, always keep writing for the reader themselves, not for Google.
  • Start with a summary paragraph: this is always useful for yourself but now even more so for Google.
  • Provide a clear structure: this ensures that Google understands your website easier and thus indexes it faster. This will also make you more quickly eligible for Passage Ranking.
  • Write from the question: more and more people are using questions in Google itself. Think about what your target audience might want to know and connect your webpage to this – if relevant of course.
SEO Copywriting - Ecoteers
Respond to Google updates by applying SEO copywriting tips

Why Google Updates are important

Because Google updates have major consequences for your online findability, it is very important that you stay informed and take the necessary measures. It would be a shame if your website and current online strategy no longer match the way you rank in Google. In practice, this can mean that your online strategy is not paying off, and in extreme cases, Google can even penalise certain behaviour.

Think back to keyword stuffing, which before the Google Panda algorithm update of 2011 was still a handy trick to attract more search traffic to your site. Many websites used their keyword as often as possible in a text and even hid it in the layout by using a transparent colour! Whereas these websites were able to rank higher thanks to this tactic before the Panda update, they subsequently received penalty points and therefore a lower position in Google.

That’s why in our earlier blog about the Google Core Web Vitals, we discussed what to expect from this User Experience update in June 2021. In addition, we shared tips for optimizing your WordPress.

How to apply Google updates

First of all, it is important to stay well informed about the algorithm updates that Google regularly announces. This way you know what is about to happen and you can make the necessary adjustments in time.

Need help with Google updates

Do you find it difficult to apply Google updates to your online strategy, or do you simply not have the time to keep working on it? As an online marketing company ourselves, we can’t get enough of all the developments. And of course we like to share this knowledge with you!
Because we are always up to date with the latest Google updates, we can boost your website through SEO copywriting and web development. Do you prefer to write your own content? Then we make sure with search engine optimization that your customers will also find it. Please contact us to discuss the possibilities without any obligation!

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