People who use Google know they get a lot more than a simple list of search results. Google is now so much more than a search engine; they continue to add more features that present searchers with immediate (and rich) information in response to their search queries.
Take for instance Google answer boxes, a welcome addition that provides quick, easy-to-read responses to direct data-based questions.
The Power of the Knowledge Graph
But for companies, the most tantalizing development is Google’s Knowledge Graph. The Knowledge Graph offers instant information about a company, in a very visibly prominent container, on the upper right-hand side of the search results page. Often included in the Knowledge Graph are: the company logo, a link to the Wikipedia page if there is one, links to owned social media profiles, and basic data about the company.
While Google has never explicitly revealed the source from which it pulls the data for the Knowledge Graph, it is widely understood that Freebase is a highly regarded source of information for Google and its Knowledge Graph.
So Just What is Freebase?
Freebase is a massive database of information curated and organized online. It includes people, places, things, and concepts. Freebase helps search engines understand the nature of a given entity, and any associations it may have with another entity. As companies have begun to learn about the critical role that Freebase plays in shaping the Knowledge Graph, many are dedicating time and resources towards entering as much relevant data as possible into Freebase.
The Big News
However, back in December 2014, Freebase released a dramatic announcement on Google+, which, among other things, stated:
When we publicly launched Freebase back in 2007, we thought of it as a “Wikipedia for structured data.” So it shouldn’t be surprising that we’ve been closely watching the Wikimedia Foundation’s project Wikidata since it launched about two years ago. We believe strongly in a robust community-driven effort to collect and curate structured knowledge about the world, but we now think we can serve that goal best by supporting Wikidata – they’re growing fast, have an active community, and are better suited to lead an open knowledge base.
So we’ve decided to help transfer the data in Freebase to Wikidata, and in mid-2015 we’ll wind down the Freebase service as a standalone project. Freebase has also supported developer access to the data, so before we retire it, we’ll launch a new API for entity search powered by Google’s Knowledge Graph.
Wikidata to the Rescue
In a word, as of March 31, Freebase began to shut down, and will soon be migrating its data to Wikidata, an open-source project of the Wikimedia Foundation designed to collect structured data.
This transition obviously raises a number of critical questions.
- How, if at all, will this impact the Knowledge Graph?
- Will Google now draw from Wikidata in the same way that it drew from Freebase?
- Should companies invest in monitoring and updating their Wikidata profiles?
Wikidata: Behind Closed Doors
Recently, Wikidata quietly shed some light on some of these issues, and specifically onto what the most influential players at Wikidata is thinking about this Freebase-to-Wikidata transition. On March 31, Wikidata posted the following on Google+:
Here are two chat logs from WikiData Office Hour that provide more information:
Seems innocent, right? But when you click on the second link, it takes you to a log of the meeting that had transpired earlier that day. Take a look at the selection below:
- The PR Pros and SEOs are Coming: There is certainly an awareness that SEO professionals and many company PR representatives have a newfound interest in Wikidata.
- Wikidata’s Mixed Feelings: These Wikidata thought leaders are somewhat wary regarding the pending influx of new Wiki editors, though there are conflicting views as to whether this is a positive or negative development.
- No Spam/Bias Allowed: Keep in mind that some users might be on the lookout for spammy or biased edits. Keep any Wikidata edits as factual and unbiased as possible. Given the data-centered nature of Wikidata, and the need for recognized references, most edits will, in any event, most likely follow these guidelines, but be careful!
- No More Free Lunch: As one of the insiders notes above, “Wikidata is not a free ticket into the Knowledge Graph as Freebase was.” It may very well be that the direct relationship observed between Freebase and the Knowledge Graph will not be replicated in Wikidata’s relationship with the Knowledge Graph. That being said, it is still “one source among many,” and likely an important one. After all, the Knowledge Graph thrives on the existence of structured data, and – especially in the absence of Freebase- that is exactly what Wikidata provides.
So What Do We Know?
What precisely does the future hold for this new union between Wikidata and the Knowledge Graph? No one knows for certain. (If someone at Google does know, they aren’t sharing it publicly!) But there are two things that can be confidently and reasonably assumed.
First, Wikidata matters. To one degree or another, Wikidata will be a source for the Google Knowledge Graph.
And second, taking control of your brand has never been more important! Optimizing your brand’s Wikidata entry is becoming increasingly critical for strengthening online presence, and is therefore highly recommended.
Featured Image: isak55 via Shutterstock
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