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An Introduction to Google’s Knowledge Graph

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What is Google’s Knowledge Graph?

The aim of Google’s Knowledge Graph is to provide searchers with as many useful results as possible on the first page of results, rather than making them search through the listings themselves.

Finding the results

You may be unsure where the Knowledge Graph is, but chances are you’ll already have seen it on the front page of many SERPs. For instance, if you were to search for actor and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star ‘Will Smith’ then you’ll find that, in addition to the standard search results, either the right hand side of the page or the space at the top will display a biography of Mr Smith, alongside a list of his movies and other stars that people searching for him have looked for. Those results are the Knowledge Graph at work.

Surely this is useful?

In a sense, yes it is. It might well be that someone looking for Will Smith is doing so because they couldn’t remember the name of a film he was in, or who else he’s worked with. In this case, the user might well be presented with the right snippet of information straight away.

There is also a lot of potential for SEOs. If you were able to optimise a site to the extent that it appeared in the Knowledge Graph results for the search term ‘graphic design in East London’, the traffic potential is massive.

So what’s the catch?

There are a couple. Firstly, the Knowledge Graph can sometimes find it difficult to differentiate between two results with the same name. For instance, typing in JFK (as you can see here) brings up results for both the erstwhile former president AND the airport named after him. Of course, anyone that was more specific in their search would probably get better results.

However, another interesting study (only three months old) highlighted even more of a mix-up.  When searching for ‘brandy drink’, the knowledge graph returned the Wikipedia entry for the renowned spirit, but with a picture of recording artist Brandy Norwood. Needless to say, this demonstrates that as of October last year, the engine was still encountering some mix-ups.

Finally – and amusingly – the Knowledge Graph currently pulls its text largely from Wikipedia, a resource that can be edited by anyone.  During this year’s World Series, therefore, the entry for the St. Louis Cardinals (which had been edited by a fan of the Boston Red Sox) described the Cardinals as something hugely inappropriate. With Wikipedia unlikely to change their own working methods, it’s plausible that the same thing will happen again.

What about SEO?

As ever, reputation will have an impact on whether or not a site or source is included in Knowledge Graph results, so excellent content remains key. Google themselves noted that the Knowledge Graph had three main purposes: to provide the most relevant results, to provide the best summaries of whatever term has been looked for, and to include more detailed information on the search term. In this sense, it seeks – like standard search – to provide the user with what it deems to be the most useful results.

For now

The Knowledge Graph CAN promote companies. But only the big ones. John Lewis, for instance, has a Knowledge Graph entry, as do Marks & Spencer, but only when you search specifically for those brands. Unless Google implements a competitive Knowledge Graph (i.e. one that that works in the same way as search results, giving coverage to the strongest site for that term) then the lesson here is that, as of 2014, the emphasis should continually be on building your online reputation through the same methods that have worked previously.

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