The Google Knowledge Graph is a feature was originally implemented in 2012.
As a feature, Google’s Knowledge Graph improves:
The Knowledge Graph is great for users, but can be bad for SEO, including clicks, particularly if you don’t know how to properly leverage it.
Google Knowledge Graph looks like this:
In this post, we will discuss what the Google Knowledge Graph is, why it exists and how to optimize for SEO.
Let’s dive in!
When a user sends a search query for a specific entity, Google will scour the web to pull and analyze properly formatted information about that entity, and display it in an organized fashion on the right side of the screen. For example, if a user searches for “Barack Obama,” the Knowledge Graph will display important biographical information, such as his birthday, full name, and of course, the fact that he’s the 44th president of the United States.
Google gathers this information by dissecting and interpreting information found on external authoritative sites. This information is efficiently readable if it is entered in a specific microformatting template, like those found at Schema.org for various categories.
Currently, the Knowledge Graph only covers a handful of categories of information, but as it expands, it could offer more information on more topics.
The Google Knowledge Graph is an impressive and relatively new feature, but it has many search marketers fearing for the long-term relevance of their jobs. In case you weren’t aware, the Knowledge Graph refers to a collection of information that Google uses to display concise answers to users with specific queries.
For example, if a user searches for a specific movie, like the Wizard of Oz, Google will display a prominent box of information off to the right of its typical link-based search results.
This box will display significant information about the user’s query, in this case including the year of initial release, the director, and main actors associated with the movie.
The Knowledge Graph isn’t limited to just movies, however, and it’s gradually expanding to consume more and more types of information.
While this growth is both useful from a user perspective and fascinating from a human perspective, the ramifications it has for SEO are somewhat troubling. Fortunately, there are a handful of strategies you can start implementing to avoid losing out to Knowledge Graph traffic in the long run.
The traditional method of search is what drives the value of an SEO campaign. Search results merely listed a series of links to relevant pages, and almost inevitably, a user would click on at least one of those links. If you could get your link to the top, you would receive the greatest number of those clicks.
The Knowledge Graph is changing search because it’s reducing on critical variable in that equation: the number of people clicking on search links. Let’s say a user searched for the Wizard of Oz in the old format of searching, looking for basic information on the movie. That user would be forced to click on a link to find that information.
Today, with the Knowledge Graph, that information is immediately available, eliminating the need to do any clicking.
The entire motivation behind the Knowledge Graph’s release is an indication of the future role of online search. Rather than being a tool to find online sites, it’s becoming a tool to find direct information, and as a result, the scope of SEO and online business marketing is bound to change.
As you might imagine, since it is a Google product, the Knowledge Graph is not some stagnant, one-time development. It is a living, growing mechanic that continues to become more advanced on an almost daily basis. Even in the short history of 2015, the Knowledge Graph has been subject to updates and advancements.
2015 Oscar Nominations
In an unpredicted move, Google began showing information on the 2015 Oscar Nominations in the Knowledge Graph, shortly after they were announced. Any search for “Oscar nominee” or “Oscar nominations” will lead to a list of the eight films nominated for the award for Best Picture. In addition, Google is offering detailed information about the Academy Awards in general, as well as the ceremony date for 2015. It’s a sign of Google’s commitment to providing quick-reference information accurately, but also in a timely manner.
Back in November of 2014, Google stepped out of its Google+ shell and started openly providing links to other social media profiles in its Knowledge Graph box. However, these links were restricted for use by major personalities, such as politicians, actors, and musicians.
Starting in January of 2015, Google is providing links to social profiles of major brands. There’s even a specific markup Google released so you can accurately provide the details to your corporate social profiles to the search engine.
Partly due to an increasing breadth of topics covered by the Knowledge Graph and partly due to an increasing number of companies using proper markup formats on their sites, the Knowledge Graph is showing up for an ever-increasing number of queries. According to a recent post by Steven Levy, the Google team estimates that current total number of queries to be 25 percent. One out of every four queries now leads to a Knowledge Graph box, and that number is likely to grow.
Already, the Knowledge Graph is making waves in the search world. But as most search marketers have learned the painful way, the best way to respond to a new search function is to proactively prepare for it, rather than reacting to it after the fact. As the Knowledge Graph begins to grow in influence, take measures to protect your SEO strategy.
Avoid Writing General Information
This is good advice for any content marketing campaign, regardless of the encroaching Knowledge Graph. Rather than writing general information articles about topics related to your industry, focus on writing a blog post in a very specific niche—the more specific the better.
This is going to hold several benefits for your campaign. First, and most relevantly, writing niche topics will prevent the Knowledge Graph from stepping into your territory. For now, the Knowledge Graph only projects common information about the most general subjects, so the more specific the topics you cover, the less likely it is that the Knowledge Graph will show up for your target queries. Second, the more specific you get with your topics, the less competition you’re going to face.
That means you’re going to rank much higher for slightly lower-traffic keywords. It’s a shortcut to greater search traffic.
Use Schema.org Markups
Google is open about the fact that the Knowledge Graph relies on microformatting to draw in information, so if you want to make sure the Knowledge Graph has the most accurate and most complete information about your company and everything you offer, use every markup you can. Schema.org is a great (and free) resource you can use to mark up the information on your website, and it also provides detailed information on how to incorporate them onto your site.
As Google starts rolling out expanded coverage of the Knowledge Graph, like it recently did with social profiles, be ready to grab new microformatting requirements and implement them as needed.
Find Alternative Means of Improving Online Visibility
It’s unlikely that the Knowledge Graph is going to end SEO as we know it—even in years to come, when the function has expanded in accuracy and coverage, a number of people will still rely on Google to find actual sites with the information they seek. Even so, it’s important to hedge your bets.
Gain online visibility through non-search related channels, such as RSS feeds and social media. Get involved with other sites, exchanging guest posts and starting threads and discussions leading back to your site. You’ll also want to get involved with as many third-party apps and services as possible, such as local review sites and new applications for your industry (such as Open Table reservations for restaurants). As smartphones and smart watches become more mainstream, app-based discovery will come to rival traditional searches, and getting involved with those apps early on will keep you ahead of the trend.
As a result, the amount of web traffic you can theoretically get from queries that populate a Knowledge Graph entry are significantly reduced. For example, if you rank at the number one position for “Wizard of Oz,” you could see your traffic reduced by half or more because your potential visitors would no longer have a reason to click into your site.
There are three main strategies you can use to avoid letting the Knowledge Graph throttle your traffic.
At least for the time being, the Knowledge Graph only collects information on broad, general topics. It can’t give you detailed steps on how to install a ceiling fan, but it can tell you when President Obama was born. Theoretically, if you don’t waste any time ranking for Knowledge Graph topics, you won’t lose any value.
Instead, focus your content and SEO strategy on more niche topics, and the more specific you can get the better. How-to and tutorial articles are some of the best options you have, so take advantage of them. Long-tail search queries looking for this type of information don’t see as much search volume as simpler, broader queries, but because the Knowledge Graph will be encroaching on that territory, they might end up seeing just as much traffic. Plus, you’ll enjoy the benefits of lower competition levels, allowing you to rank faster for relevant queries.
SEO isn’t the only inbound marketing channel around. Capitalize on some of the other communication and discovery channels that lead people to information on the web. For example, to compensate for lower levels of search traffic, you could bolster your social media strategy and increase your following.
You could also step up your offsite presence in the form of guest posting, social profile creation, social media publishing and/or social bookmarking. By leaving traces of your brand or your site behind on pieces of valuable content on external sources, you can capitalize on a significant new stream of traffic.
By using these strategies, you don’t have to abandon SEO altogether. In fact, stepping up your social and offsite strategies can improve your SEO position. Instead, treat them as a way of hedging your bets just in case your search traffic takes a hit.
As the saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them.
Another way to beat the Knowledge Graph is to get your content featured in it. To populate its Knowledge Graph entries, Google scours the web for information, looking for microformatting on sites and pages with extremely high authority, like Wikipedia articles. If you want your content to be seen and found by the Knowledge Graph, mark up your content using Schema microformatting and consider creating Wikipedia and similar entries on topics important to your brand.
While the Knowledge Graph is certainly changing how the world views and uses search, companies generally don’t have to be overly worried about losing significant traffic—at least not yet. In the future, Google could theoretically work to consolidate all the web’s information, completely eliminating the need for individual sites and the possibility for onsite conversions. That’s an extremist view, but it is likely that the Knowledge Graph will continue to rise in prominence. In the meantime, find some alternative strategies to prevent yourself from losing traffic to the information repository, and remember that your users should be your main priority.
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