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Google’s Knowledge Graph: Semantic Search Results

Terri Greene

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In May of this year, Google introduced a new search technology called the Google Knowledge Graph. This new technology is intended to enhance the search experience by helping searchers discover new, relevant information quickly and easily. With the knowledge graph technology, Google is able to easily associate your initial search with additional, related information. This information will not necessarily be displayed for every search, instead it will show up within search results when additional information is available.

How it Works

According to Google, the Knowledge Graph technology could display when the following criteria applies:

  • When the search is a person, place, or thing
  • When the search is made by users in the U.S. in English
  • When the search includes, but is not limited to, books, movies, sports teams, locations, dog breeds, roller coasters, or famous people
  • Companies, video games, and cars are currently excluded from Knowledge Graph

Below is an example of how Google Knowledge Graph works when conducting a search for ?“George Washington.”

George Washington Search

As you can see, there is additional information to the right of the search results, where, traditionally, paid search results would display. The information that is displayed could include quick-reference facts, books and people related to the search topic.

So, where is Google pulling this information from? Although Google has not published a complete list of data sources, many experts feel they are getting this information from a pool of different resources. Google has mentioned the following data sources that feed Knowledge Graph:

  • Wikipedia
  • Freebase — acquired by Google nearly 2 years ago
  • Subject-specific sources such as Weather Underground, World Bank, and CIA World Factbook
  • Google’s own search data

How Does This Affect Paid Search?

As you can see in the example, the information displayed by Google’s Knowledge Graph is on the right side of the search results page, the space where paid search results would traditionally be displayed. So what does this mean for paid search? For the searches related to people, in particular, there is limited presence of paid search. So, the impact is minimal. However, for queries where there are paid search results, it looks as though Google will manipulate the additional data provided through the Knowledge Graph technology to accommodate paid search results.

A search done for Las Vegas returns a snippet from Wikipedia. This snippet is compressed to allow the paid search results to appear in their usual position. Notice, there is a gray arrow under the snippet that, once clicked, will expand the additional Knowledge Graph information on Las Vegas. When this information is expanded, the paid search results are moved down the page underneath the additional information.

Las Vegas Search

Even though Google is not removing paid search results, the fact that the paid search results that normally show on the right are moved down the page could have an impact on click-thru rates. This could make it even more important to appear within the top 2-3 results.

Implications on SEO?

There are several implications the new Knowledge Graph technology has on SEO. With less real estate on the page, it is more important than ever to rank high to ensure your listing shows up when the additional Knowledge Graph information is displayed. The Knowledge Graph information could also cause a situation where a searcher’s attention is diverted away from organic search results and, instead, they dig deeper into the Knowledge Graph information rather than scrolling down and looking at the actual search results. Google has made no indication that they will allow companies to pay for placement within the Knowledge Graph panel. In other words, there’s no way to ensure that your site is a suggested source within the information presented.

As always, our recommendation would be to ensure that the content on all of your websites include quality and relevant information that’s written more for human users than search engines to give you the best possible chance for inclusion in the Knowledge Graph results. Search engines have been working to provide semantic results associated to search queries and display that information with search results. Keyword density is a concept that seems outdated because of this fact. This isn’t to say that you should not strive to utilize targeted keywords on your website. You should definitely do this, but make sure it’s done in a genuine, natural way that ensures the content provided is actually valuable and relevant.

With the Knowledge Graph technology being present, we know that Google is capable of evaluating a site’s relevance without seeing particular keyword phrase a hundred times. Focusing on the quality of the content is a priority. And any chance of being included within the Knowledge Graph panel relies on having the highest quality content.

How are Pharma-Related Searches Affected?

Due to the magnitude of the Google Knowledge Graph announcement, many experts expected search results to be affected on a large-scale. However, Google feels the change has only affected 10%-20% of searches. So how does that apply to the pharmaceutical industry? Well, for most branded drugs, we have only seen a slight impact on results at this time. The results seem to be normal. However, some brand searches are displaying limited information within the Knowledge Graph panel on the right.

Aspirin Search

A search for Aspirin displays Wikipedia information on the right about the chemical formula and details of the drug. This doesn’t seem to affect paid search or organic search results in this case because the additional information is very limited.

What Do People Think So Far?

There have been several claims that the Google Knowledge Graph technology actually increases the number of searches an individual user conducts. This is because once someone conducts a search and views the information Google has provided via its Knowledge Graph, they get ideas for further research regarding their original search. Although this seems good, some think that Google’s Knowledge Graph technology is just a marketing gimmick in an attempt for Google to continue to lead search share and blunt their competitors.

There has been a mixture of positive and negative feedback for Knowledge Graph so far. Some searchers welcome the Knowledge Graph technology in helping them find more quality and relevant information while others want to find a way to disable the technology. Because it’s so early and this feature has only been live a little over two months now, the feedback will continue to roll in as more and more people experience the Knowledge Graph technology.

One of Google’s main goals has been to provide the best search experience possible. Inevitably, this is how they keep their competitive edge over all other search engines. The implementation of the Knowledge Graph is another way for them to try to help searchers gain a better experience and receive better results. However, it will be up to the users of Google search to determine whether or not the Knowledge Graph technology actually adds to their search experience or if it’s something they’d rather do without.


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