How to Leverage the Knowledge Graph for SEO

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Knowledge is power, as the old saying goes. So what do marketers need to know about Google’s Knowledge Graph to power their SEO and search strategies?

There has been a lot of commentary around the semantic Web. The theory is that search results are becoming smarter by distinguishing between words with different meanings. Whether that is true or not largely depends on who you believe and how much stock you place in search engines’ ability to “learn” the wants and needs of their users.

The inception of Google’s Knowledge Graph, which began rolling out in May 2012, has been the driving force behind the rise of the semantic Web.

Understanding the Knowledge Graph

The Knowledge Graph is basically a knowledge base consisting of more than 570 million objects and 18 billion facts. Since its inception, search result pages have gone through noticeable changes. These include the ability to distinguish between words with different meanings and a new sidebar feature that provides a snippet of related facts.

Through semantic integration, or the process of matching related information from diverse sources, Google has been able to serve narrower, more refined search results based on what people are searching.

Before the Knowledge Graph, if someone searched for “Kansas,” the results would split between information about the state of Kansas and the band Kansas. The Knowledge Graph allows Google to better associate specific results to the most relevant “Kansas.”

Benefits of the Knowledge Graph

This specificity is great for users. They are able to find what they are looking for much more efficiently without the noise caused by results for words with different meanings.

There is also an inherent benefit to advertisers. No longer do they have to compete with irrelevant search results for valuable search engine real estate. With more refined results, there are fewer pages that can potentially outrank an advertiser’s brand.

The Knowledge Graph offers additional benefits to brands.

It can be manipulated to enhance a brand’s reputation by directing consumers to sources with the most appropriate brand messaging. Additional opportunities come with updating content strategies to take advantage of some of the benefits the Knowledge Graph provides.

Let’s take a look at how a brand can manipulate the Knowledge Graph to help ensure the right message is being displayed about the brand. In order to have a level of control as to what information about the brand is included in Knowledge Graph, it’s important to understand the sources it pulls information from.

Knowledge Graph Sources image001

The main sources that the Knowledge Graph pulls its information from are Wikipedia, Freebase, and the CIA World Factbook. Information from these sources is often displayed in the right sidebar of Google’s search results for certain queries. Submitting information to Knowledge Base sources opens the ability to manipulate the information that is displayed.

While it’s nearly impossible to submit to the CIA-run Factbook, other Knowledge Graph sources present SEO opportunities to brands.

For example, the Knowledge Graph information about Paramount Pictures comes from Wikipedia. A Wikipedia page offers brands the potential to have some level of control over the information the Knowledge Graph displays on Google. This helps build a positive online reputation for the brand. This can be particularly useful if there are any search engine results that speak negatively about the brand. Having a Knowledge Graph-informed sidebar summary can detract users from seeing those negative listings.

Brands can retain a level of control over the messaging display about it in search results by creating a Wikipedia page. Just remember to carefully follow Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines.

Once a brand achieves Knowledge Graph information in a search engine result page sidebar, it’s important to review the summary content to identify exactly where the information is coming from. This will be useful if you want to change the summary information about your brand. In the example of Paramount, the summary comes from the first paragraph of its Wikipedia page. If slightly different messaging is desired, that first paragraph can be edited within Wikipedia.

Content Strategy

The Knowledge Graph is beneficial to on-site content strategies, especially post-Google’s Panda update. Before Panda, it was typical for content strategies to include developing unique pages around all targeted keywords. In order to rank for two different phrases that have the same meaning two pages would be created, each optimized for one of the synonymous phrases.

The problem is that since the two content pieces are about the exact same topic, the content would be very similar and not have any added value to the user. The fact that the Panda update made this practice essentially obsolete by flagging the similar pages as “thin content” and devaluing them posed a great threat to SEO.

With the introduction of the Knowledge Graph, however, this post-Panda content issue has been somewhat resolved. Because the Knowledge Graph is able to make connections among semantically similar phrases, creating and optimizing a single page provides the potential to rank for all synonyms. This not only allows a site to rank for multiple keywords while staying in line with Panda, but also provides a better user experience because visitors won’t have to read through all the fluff to find the information they are looking for. Therefore, the added benefit could be gained of increased engagement on the website.

What changes have you seen in SEO strategies since Google’s Knowledge Graph was unveiled?

Marc Purtell

Marc Purtell

VP of Search Marketing at Direct Focus Online
Marc Purtell is VP of Search Marketing at Direct Focus Online, a full service digital marketing agency that employs hundreds of marketing experts worldwide. He... Read Full Bio
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