MUM’s the word, and it’s 1,000x more powerful than BERT; Wednesday’s daily brief

Plus, updated phrase match will roll out to all languages in July

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Good morning, Marketers, it’s good to be back.

If you didn’t catch last Wednesday’s newsletter, I was out all week hanging out with my mom, who flew across the country for her 70th birthday to see me for the first time since February 2020. In short, it was awesome, and happy birthday to my mom (again). I hadn’t really envisioned what post-vaccine life would be like, but after her visit and a few talks with industry professionals about how excited they are to return to in-person events, I’m becoming cautiously optimistic.

When conversations turn to in-person events, the most common thing search marketers tell me is that they can’t wait for all the post-session stuff, when speakers and attendees get a chance to converse 1:1, or at the afterparty. “That’s where the real conversations happen,” I’ve been told on more than one occasion. It makes sense, after all, digital conferences have been doing a great job helping us stay on top of our career development, but it’s incredibly difficult to recreate the in-person environment — not everyone is comfortable asking questions in a Hangout with 50 of their peers. 

Just like a video call with my mom is not the same as seeing her in-person, we just have to make do with what we have for now (which is actually a lot more than I anticipated having at the outset of this pandemic). When it’s safe to gather again for in-person conferences, I hope to be the first to welcome you back.

George Nguyen,

Google previews MUM, its new tech that’s 1,000x more powerful than BERT


One of the biggest announcements to come out of day one of Google’s I/O conference was a new technology called Multitask Unified Model (MUM). It’s built on a transformer architecture, like BERT, but is 1,000x more powerful and capable of multitasking to connect information for users in ways that present-day search engines can’t, according to Google SVP Prabhakar Raghavan, who unveiled it.

MUM is different from BERT in that it is trained on 75 languages and numerous tasks simultaneously. It can understand information in the form of images, text and video. Raghavan used the query “I’ve hiked Mt. Adams and now want to hike Mt. Fuji next fall, what should I do differently to prepare?” as an example of a complex query that Google, leveraging MUM, would be able to deliver relevant results for, including highlighting the differences and similarities between the two mountains and surfacing articles for the right equipment to hike Mt. Fuji.

If it works as advertised, this may enable users to conduct searches that they previously thought were too complex for machines to understand. And, when search behavior changes, business will have to adapt. Of course, all this remains to be seen and right now, MUM is still in internal pilots at Google with no public release date.

Read more here.

Updated phrase match to roll out to all languages in July

chart explaining the change from

In February, Google expanded phrase match to include broad match modifier traffic. As of this newsletter, the new behavior is only available in English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, and Russian. The new treatment will begin rolling out to all the remaining languages that Google Ads supports beginning next month and is expected to complete in July.

For those advertising on Microsoft’s platform, the company is also rolling out updated phrase match (exactly the same way Google has) in North American markets, with more markets planned in June.

Why we care. Soon, advertisers won’t have to consider how phrase match is being treated across different languages, since they’ll all be treated the same way. This can help minimize oversights, but during the initial transition, advertisers should ensure that the new phrase match still suits their campaigns.

The internet isn’t for everyone, but we can change that

On Monday, I got to chat with Microsoft’s Frédéric Dubut. “There’s the internet for people who know how the internet works, and then there’s the internet for everyone else,” I said, to which he replied, “That’s why we’re working on things like the [Bing URL Submissions] WordPress plugin.”

That got me thinking: There are entire industries built on taking advantage of people who aren’t tech-savvy — from link building schemes to phishing scams to ransomware. Not everyone has a guide to help them, or the drive to learn how to screen for illegitimate news articles and emails. This creates the potential for scammers and bad actors to take money from the pockets of unsuspecting individuals and put it into their own coffers.

So, how do we, in the digital marketing sector, create an internet that puts people on even footing? Lowering the barriers to entry, through the aforementioned URL Submissions plugin or any other tool that helps SMBs automate their SEO or paid search campaigns, is one small way to tackle the issue. For our users, we can ensure that our content is screen reader-friendly, and that we’re rooting out any potential biases in our datasets. I contend that no matter what job you have as a marketer, there’s something you can do to close the knowledge gap and make the internet more welcoming for all. Even the FCC is offering an Emergency Broadband Benefit for low-income households.

But, why go through all the trouble? Because the more people feel comfortable with using the internet, the wider our potential audiences grow and the better our leads become. We’ll be helping the people who want to discover our brands but may not even know it yet. This is one situation in which businesses and consumers can both come out better.

Agree or disagree, send me your thoughts: [email protected].


LaMDA wants to have a conversation with you. We covered MUM already, but LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications) was also unveiled at I/O yesterday. Google says this advancement enables AI to carry on an open-ended conversation without repeating information. A few of its potential applications were also shown off: In Maps, it can be used to provide results for queries like “Find me a route with beautiful mountain views,”; and in Assistant it can be used to jump to a specific part of a video. Check out the inspiring message LaMDA, personifying a paper airplane, had to deliver at I/O in the screenshot above (which is actually from I/O even though it sort of looks like someone mocked it up really quickly).

The I/O Photo Booth is open. Everyone’s got a webcam, and that’s reason enough; here’s the link, go wild. At first, I thought the bananas on Izzi’s shirt were also stickers (because Izzi).

What to consider when disavowing links. SMX speaker Marie Haynes (and her consultancy) has published a detailed walkthrough of manual actions as they pertain to links, including their experiences with disavowing links in 2020-2021.

The name is Video…Prime Video.

Earlier this year, Amazon inked a 10-year deal with the NFL to bolster its Prime Video offering — the deal includes the right to stream 15 games per season. On Monday, the e-commerce platform offered to buy MGM Studios for $9 billion, according to The Verge. If the deal goes through, it should enable Amazon to roll MGM’s library of 4,000 films (of which 25 are James Bond movies!) and 17,000 hours of TV into Prime Video as well.

The pandemic has shown us that e-commerce is just something that we can’t really live without nowadays. And, Bing and Google have taken notice too: last year, both companies opened up their shopping search engines to free product listings and made other improvements, such as displaying price history, aggregate and critical reviews and enabling price drop notifications.

Here’s my common-sense take: By acquiring more streaming content, Amazon hopes to create more of a foothold for itself against Disney+, Netflix and so on. But, the real play here is to add value for Prime members, giving them more and more reasons to stay within Amazon’s ecosystem and renew their subscriptions. If you’re already paying for Prime, using Alexa to automate your home, reading books on a Kindle and watching content on Prime Video, the inertia to even try out any other shopping search engine is quite high. Amazon seems quite unstoppable so long as it can stay out of all the regulatory scrutiny that the likes of Google and Facebook have been attracting. 

Contributing authors are invited to create content for Search Engine Land and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the search community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

George Nguyen
George Nguyen is the Director of SEO Editorial at Wix, where he manages the Wix SEO Learning Hub. His career is focused on disseminating best practices and reducing misinformation in search. George formerly served as an editor for Search Engine Land, covering organic and paid search.

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