What Google’s keynote tells us about SEO and AI

Last Updated: Apr 16, 2024

“Every answer leads to a new question,” was the theme of Google’s recent Search On ’21 presentation, in which the world’s most popular search engine showcased real-life applications of its AI-driven search algorithm.

And if you’ve been paying attention, you know that every Google announcement leads to an opportunity for SEOs to capitalize on the latest updates. Between the corny jokes, there were several updates that struck us as noteworthy. Here’s what we took away from the keynote, especially as it pertains to SEO and AI.

Key takeaways from Search On ’21

What is MUM? MUM stands for multitask unified model. It’s a new AI-based technology that helps Google understand and answer complex queries. As we understand it, MUM connects the query with synonymous keywords and, in addition to answering the query, enables Google to predict what questions are coming next. We’re especially interested to see how MUM is helping Google better understand visual content – photos and videos.

How does MUM apply to video and photo content?

Google engineers shared a few impressive examples of this. For example, Pandu Nayak was able to take a photo of a floral shirt and find socks with a similar pattern. Elizabeth Reed explained that a query for “macaroni penguin’s life story,” will return video results that don’t explicitly contain those words, written or spoken. Check out their segments in the video below:

Our take on MUM’s impact on videos and images

While SEO has traditionally been about written content, it’s so much more than that. Images and video had always been a nice complement to the written content. With MUM, they are far more important. Any piece of written content that would benefit from visuals should have photos and videos throughout, dissecting every angle of the topic.

  • Explore all angles of a subject as your content – written, photo or video – stands to rank for more queries than ever before.
  • Use headers and jump links to organize your written content.
  • A hero image is a bare minimum; add web-friendly photos throughout your content.
  • Even though MUM helps Google understand images, alt text is still crucial.
  • Even though MUM helps Google understand images, it’s arguably more important than ever to have rich descriptions with plenty of timestamps.

“Things to know” in search results

MUM is also building upon rich results. Similar to “People also ask” results, the new “things to know” pack answers questions that the searcher may be wondering before they even knew it. Soon, users can also refine or broaden their queries with suggestions from Google. “These new features are only possible thanks to Google’s advanced topic understanding,” Reid explained.

Our take on “Things to know”

We see “things to know” and the refine/broaden suggestions as another source of keyword research. Are we covering all of the angles either in this piece or in connected pieces of content? Google’s new features will help marketers round out the topics they are covering. We see this as confirmation that topic clusters are still incredibly valuable.

“About this result” search feature

We’re all about it! It helps users vet the information before they click. It has obvious security benefits, but it also helps users trust the source. For example, “other websites with your search terms link to this result,” tells me that it must be good! As SEOs, we analyze link profiles all the time. This new feature provides the average user with some of those insights.

Dan Ha seo expert

“About this Result shows that Google cares more about EAT than ever. Use these competitor references to identify ways you can build the EAT to compete for this and other related queries.”

Dan Ha, Senior Growth Advisor at Search Nurture

“In stock” search filter

When searching for a product, Google users can now apply a search filter to find a local business that has the product in stock. That’s pretty cool! It allows local businesses to be found online more easily.

Our take on the “In stock” search filter

If you didn’t already launch an e-commerce website during the pandemic, do it now. Retail e-commerce sales shot up 25.7% in 2020 and, according to one forecast, are expected to jump another 16.8% by the end of 2021. If you haven’t tried to take a slice of the near-$5 trillion industry, now is the time. This new feature is just another incentive. And don’t ignore Amazon advertising, Instacart advertising, and other retail advertising channels.

Invest in Your SEO Strategy

Google’s search algorithm is constantly changing. Stay on the winning side of the latest update by partnering with a premier SEO agency. So, send us a form. We can chat about AI and how it will impact your SEO strategy. We’re also excited to learn about your business goals and digital marketing challenges.


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