The evolution of Google’s search engine result pages (SERPs) over the past few years has lowered the emphasis on achieving top organic rankings and opened up tremendous opportunities.
One of the most significant updates, the Knowledge Graph, has made discoverability even easier. To put it simply, both producer and consumer can benefit from its existence.
In this post, we are going to take a closer look at exactly what the Knowledge Graph is, then move on to explain how you can best influence it to drive more visitors to your website.
Let’s start by setting the scene.
What the Knowledge Graph is and Why it Exists
Google has been rolling out updates over the past few years that intend to infer what people are trying to find when they search for something, rather than simply taking a literal view of the keywords they use.
This evolution of piecing together context and other semantic data has brought about entity-based search, which helps connecting different pieces of information together in one helpful section for searchers.
The Knowledge Graph has become an essential way for marketers to leverage search engines for increased visibility and click-through rates, due to the combination of hyper-relevant information, sheer size, diversity of media types, and primary location on SERPs.
Some publishers are concerned with the growing influence of immediate answers appearing, which potentially removes the need to visit their website for that information. However, Google recently included a publisher URL to the Knowledge Graph, which can help alleviate some of those concerns.
Now let’s explore what the Knowledge Graph looks like in the wild.
Common Knowledge Graph Types and Examples
Depending on the search performed, your brand stands a good chance of grabbing the extra detail contained within the Knowledge Graph to influence where and how a searcher interacts with the results they’re seeing.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular search query examples to see what changes and updates the Knowledge Graph provides, after which we’ll examine how companies, influential people, local businesses, movies, TV shows, and even healthcare can capitalize on these new developments in a variety of ways.
The Knowledge Graph provides large companies with the opportunity to immediately answer a basic questions for each user.
For example, when doing a “branded” search for Staples (above), you can see prominent sitelinks under the first organic position, helping people immediately dive deeper into product categories. This is extremely useful for consumers with a specific product in mind, while also benefiting Staples by removing friction (or extra steps) to finding and purchasing a product.
In addition, the Knowledge Graph results provide a few easy-to-use resources like their customer service number, stock price information, and social profiles. Having this aggregated data in one place provides a quick jumping off point for people to learn more and further engage with the company.
The Knowledge Graph also helps popularize influential people-as-brands. A simple “Gary Vaynerchuk” query reveals instant information like his best-selling books, the organization he’s affiliated with, and other pop-culture appearances.
The SERP now becomes one big advertisement for all things Vaynerchuk, providing you the ability to control (or at least influence) large sections of how you want someone to be perceived, and what they’re associated with.
Local businesses might benefit the most from the extra Knowledge Graph “real estate” by displaying exactly what people need in customer reviews, daily hours, and popular times.
You can also see Zagat’s influence extend into these local results, bringing Yelp-like features directly to a searcher’s fingertips with minimal effort (and negating the need to visit Yelp). That’s good news and bad news depending on where you’re investing time and money, because (as we’ll discuss later) Google+ integration is key to appearing in the Knowledge Graph.
Movies, TV Shows, and Books
Let’s say you’re considering seeing a new movie like The Martian. With the Knowledge Graph in action, there’s no need to leave the original SERP – you’re now getting local showtime listings, editorial reviews from credible third-party sources like Variety and Empire (this is currently only available for movies, but the functionality is expanding into TV shows and books later this year.
Publishers can also utilize this space to show off their artwork to visually influence SERP visibility and click-through-rates.
The Knowledge Graph also helps those with common health conditions (or those who like to play doctor) by including important health information.
Now searchers can get the ‘cliff notes’ version of a health issue with diagnosis, symptoms, and treatments from reputable sources like the Mayo Clinic in just a click.
How to Get to the Knowledge Graph
Unfortunately, you currently can’t add information into the Knowledge Graph directly, but you can influence what shows up by tapping into a few key sources that Google pulls from.
Let’s start by examining the most popular sources, then move on to discuss how you can begin to optimize them and increase your influence over important SERPs.
Knowledge Graph Sources
There are three primary sources of information that Google officially uses to populate the Knowledge Graph: Wikidata.org (Previously Freebase.com), Wikipedia, and the CIA World Factbook.
Beyond these sources, Tony Edward recently mentioned two more sources used: sites leveraging Schema Markup, and content from “high authority sources”.
Let’s take a look at the above-mentioned sources in more detail:
- Wikidata.org (Previously Freebase.com): This free database contains over 15,000,000 data points. At the end of last year, Google announced it was shutting down Freebase and transferring its information over to Wikidata. Data can be manually entered into Wikidata (Wikipedia’s sister site), or sent directly through an API.
- Wikipedia: Anyone can enter information into Wikipedia; the trick is doing so without it being flagged and removed almost immediately. Anything appearing overly commercial or spammy without “reliable published sources” is usually removed immediately. Therefore, only proceed if you can contribute an unbiased entry that won’t be flagged for removal.
- CIA World Factbook: A one-stop shop for “information on the history, people, government, economy, energy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 267 world entities”. There is no way to manually submit your information into the Factbook, but it remains a highly credible and influential source of information for the Knowledge Graph.
- Sites Leveraging Schema Markup: Implementing “schema markup” on your website helps search engines better understand what they’re looking at. Applying these tags across your site (just like any metadata) help enable “rich snippets”, which can improve SERP visibility and click-through-rates while also powering Knowledge Graph results. Details on the specific types of markup to use will be provided below.
- Content from High Authority Sources: Information from websites with high value or “authority” has been given more credibility by Google. The search giant measures authority through a variety of methods, including (but not limited to) the age of the domain, number of relevant and informative pages on the site, number of quality links, and diversity of those links. The goal for publishers is to develop their own authority on specific topics, or at the very least get press mentions and referrals from other high authority sources that are topically relevant.
How to Influence the Knowledge Graph (In 5 Steps)
Now that you know which sources Google pulls information from, let’s discuss what you can do to maximize the odds of getting information into the Knowledge Graph (and thus increase the visibility of your brand).
1. Leverage Structured Data through Schema.org Markup
There are a few ways you can leverage Schema.org markup, each of which depend on your objectives, website, and types of searches you’d like to show up on (two of the most popular being organization and person). Google provides a summary of crucial markup types for customizing one’s Knowledge Graph, including logos, company contact numbers and social profile links.
2. Get Listed at Wikidata.org and Wikipedia
These influential sources are open to anyone, but they have strict guidelines for what they’re looking for, and any unbiased listing will be removed immediately.
An old (but still relevant) article from the Content Marketing Institute provides a few great tips, including to double-check your verifiable third-party source data, and try to get a few different opinions or pass-throughs from various people to eliminate any unintentional bias or obvious slant.
3. Local Businesses: Optimize Google Maps and Your Google+ Business Page
If you have a local bricks-and-mortar location, your local presence on Google My Business is the first place to start.
It’s a combination of Google’s old Google Places for Business listing and Maps integration as well as your Google+ Business page. Make sure all the little details (like business hours) are completely filled out and accurate. Then make sure you’re actually using your page, with acquiring new reviews and local citations or backlinks as some of the most important ways to help show up on the new competitive “local three pack.”
4. Conduct Keyword Research
Google is introducing critic reviews as a way to provide additional third-party credibility into search results, bringing publishers a tremendous opportunity.
Trusted websites can get exposure in the Knowledge Graph in the review section, and the recently-shared The New York Times case study is a good example. Foundation of the strategy would be keyword research.
Specifically, publishers can research long-tail keywords with tools like Rank Tracker, then differentiate between evergreen topics they’d like to consistently “own” and trendy topics that they might be able to capitalize on due to low competition.
5. Utilize YouTube
There’s already evidence of Google pulling artist, musicians, and song-related information from YouTube into their Knowledge Graph.
This trend, in addition to their extremely large user base and tight integration with other Google products, makes YouTube a safe bet for publishers that excel with multimedia content.
The SERP layout changes over the past few years aren’t simple vanity, but a move to provide better answers or results through more comprehensive and contextually relevant data.
Instead of being stuck with basic text links and possibly a few sitelinks with little-to-no control over what showed up, now you have carousels, updated local packs, direct answers and other engaging Knowledge Graphs that immediately catch a searcher’s eye – ultimately influencing how and where they’re interacting.
The result of this is the diminishment of number one spot in the SERPs as the Holy Grail.
The broad trend of entity-based search provides companies, brands, and publishers with an integrated method to capitalize on their core strengths of branding, communications and creative.
All of this brings us to a clear conclusion: the Knowledge Graph isn’t a threat – it’s an opportunity.
Now it’s over to you. Have you seen benefits from the new SERP layouts, or is Google overstepping their boundaries? Please share your comments and feedback below!
Featured Image: Image by Aleh Barysevich
All screenshots by Aleh Barysevich. Taken November 2015.