How Will Google MUM Affect Doctors?

A new algorithm Google is working on will answer questions based upon content from multiple languages and is made up of both images and text.

So a natural question is how does this work, and how will Google MUM affect doctors who conduct SEO-based marketing?

What Is Google MUM?

According to Google, MUM is “1,000 times more powerful than the BERT algorithm.”

“MUM” stands for: Multitask Unified Model. The purpose of MUM is to provide answers to Google searches from multiple languages. In theory, this is to provide answers to questions that aren’t currently being found on the first page of search results.

Some questions are searched for that cannot be fully answered by text in a featured snippet. So the best way to think about what MUM is trying to accomplish is to take the sum of knowledge about a topic and report that back to the searcher. That knowledge may be comprised of different languages and images. In Google’s mind, there may be content that is more authoritative in another language.

Given the nature of what Google is trying to accomplish here, I don’t feel this is going to have a significant impact on health-based question searches. Rather, this is going to impact more location-based searches, cooking, etc. At least initially.

The example Google provides is using native Japanese content for searches related to hiking Mt. Fuji. However, for specific questions, Google believes local sources may have the best answers.

Here’s a quote from Google:

“Eventually, you might be able to take a photo of your hiking boots and ask, “can I use these to hike Mt. Fuji?” MUM would understand the image and connect it with your question to let you know your boots would work just fine. It could then point you to a blog with a list of recommended gear.”

Why Couldn’t Google MUM Be Used for Health-Related Questions?

If MUM can take an image of hiking boots as mentioned above, it’s entirely plausible to think that a patient might be able to take a picture of a health condition and ask Google what it is. MUM could then search the web for similar images and provide an answer to the patient.

Here’s why I think that’s a long way off; if it will ever happen – Google won’t want the liability.

All it takes is one misdiagnosed Google result to open up the opportunity for lawsuits. Even if a disclaimer is associated with the search result, I think the legal risk will be more than they want to take on. Plus, there could be a substantial HIPAA risk as well.

All that being said, it is certainly something to keep an eye on.

Will Google MUM Kill SEO?

In a word, no. SEO will always be needed, and John Mueller from Google stated as much in a Reddit discussion.

This is good news for physicians who are actively marketing themselves online. Google is still going to display results from local physicians to common patient questions.

The opportunity for doctors to succeed with SEO is still great.

Google MUM Enhances the Need for Doctors to Answer Patient Questions on Their Website

With the introduction of MUM, it’s clear that Google is putting even more emphasis on providing answers to questions. For doctors, this means that one of the best SEO strategies you can incorporate is to answer common patient questions on your website.

While Google MUM is still a ways off, it’s good to be thinking about ways to make your content more valuable and relevant. For example, iterating on existing content is a great way to help improve your SEO results. It may also provide some future-proofing for your personal physician website.

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