Google’s Knowledge Graph: Will it Change the Face of Search?
I guess the answer to that is technically yes. It changes the way Google looks. But will it change the way Google works? Yes, absolutely. And it’s not the only change that will occur that will trend in the direction of Google becoming a “knowledge engine.”
These changes to the Google interface took place way back on May 16th, and then took a few days to roll out to everyone. I know it took me a long time to finally notice them in the search results. The first thing that struck me was this: when Penguin was rolled out last month, much of the buzz indicated that perhaps Google’s search for more authoritative pages meant that the search engine wanted to see more “Wikipedia-like” sites top-ranking. For instance, sites that linked out to authoritative sources in the middle of their pages, or sites that provided references at the end of their pages to facts and figures. Then came the “Knowledge Graph,” which makes it seem like Google itself is trying to mimic Wikipedia, as it is trying to educate users about the terms for which they are searching rather than just returning relevant websites that might accomplish this goal.
What is the Knowledge Graph?
Many people are hailing this change as Google’s search engine starting to think like a person. After all, Google claims that it knows when you are searching for one thing over another, even if the two things have the same name (as Amit Singhal explains: “in geek-speak, a “graph”—that understands real-world entities and their relationships to one another: things, not strings”). That’s pretty amazing (and terrifying – watch out for the machine uprising!) A few days ago, we posted the following screenshot on our Facebook page as an excellent example of the new search feature. I had been searching for what exactly a pepperoncini is because I was choosing toppings for my sandwich, and the Knowledge Graph was there to explain it to me:
Google shows me a picture of a pepperoncini, off to the right, and provides some “key facts” about the pepper’s origin. Not exactly the information I was looking for, but the picture did help me place in my mind what a pepperoncini was. It reminds me of social search for non-social things. When you Google a person and you are signed into your Google account, their Google Plus information shows up where the pepperoncini is now. It’s Google’s way of bringing important things to the forefront – in social search, Google assumes your connections and friends are important. In regular search, it’s information Google thinks you are seeking.
Further, today when I replicated the search, check out how it differed:
That is some prime real estate for ads. Now Google is providing me with ads in the whitespace to go along with Knowledge Graph information. I suppose if I wasn’t just searching to learn what a pepperoncini was, and I was searching because I wanted to buy some because of some crazy craving for hot peppers, these ads would be useful.
Not interested in the common names of pepperoncini’s? Perhaps this is a better example of the type of information you can expect to receive from Google with the Knowledge Graph change:
All things – personal AND professional – you ever wanted to know about Britney Spears, are right here on your search results page. Why click through to Wikipedia anymore?
How Will This Change Search?
Obviously this change highlights the importance of authoritative content – content that users can rely on as fact. Because Google is providing this information to users, you can bet your bottom dollar the search engine will expect the sites it top ranks to provide information like this. So, when you are writing content for your website, remember to include verifiable facts. We might suggest linking to them (like Wikipedia does) in a reference section at the bottom of your page. Further, you could link to authoritative pages as well above the fold of each page –which might lend you credibility in Google’s eyes as a site with integrity that prioritizes growing user knowledge over anything else. Portray your site as a hub of valuable information, and you will not only show your site’s visitors that you know what you are talking about, but you will also show Google that you share the desire to distribute important information. Sell yourself by becoming the source of important information people want and need. This goes beyond the usual high quality content we go on about here – this means creating content that almost mirrors a term paper – it’s factual, it’s cited, and it is meaningful.
One Step Closer to the Future
Ultimately, for Google, the Knowledge Graph is one step toward an end-goal. That end goal is to create a search engine that doubles as a “knowledge engine.” Here’s what SVP of Engineering at Google Amit Singhal had to say about it:
“The Knowledge Graph enables you to search for things, people or places that Google knows about—landmarks, celebrities, cities, sports teams, buildings, geographical features, movies, celestial objects, works of art and more—and instantly get information that’s relevant to your query. This is a critical first step towards building the next generation of search, which taps into the collective intelligence of the web and understands the world a bit more like people do.”
The Google of the future is able to draw conclusions about you, the searcher, and understand what you want to know. Beyond that, the Google of the future is able to educate you about exactly what you are looking for, and serve up the most relevant results to your query possible. Google has revolutionized search and brought knowledge to our fingertips – but now, the search engine seeks a different future than we thought, removing the step of each user takes when he or she searches for the right website among other search results. Google wants to be a one-stop shop full of answers, where clicking through sites like Wikipedia won’t be necessary because the answer will be directly in front of you right away (isn’t this what askjeeves.com sought to achieve? Poor Jeeves, he just didn’t have it in him back then). And how does Google know what kinds of information to include in the answers it provides? The same way it knows common spelling mistakes to correct when you are searching – by searching users’ history in aggregate. By knowing the types of things users have been looking for with regard to each subject, Google can return the information users typically want to know.
Though this change will undoubtedly have implications for the search marketing industry, I think it is one step closer to a more edifying and satisfying user experience. Today, I’m disregarding my critical eye and saying, good job Google – keep it up!
On A Last Note…Farewell!
Speaking of the pursuit of knowledge, this will be my last blog post for EverSpark. It’s time for me to move on and move forward – as sad as that makes me. In the year since I started blogging for this company as a newly graduated intern, I have learned so much from my coworkers and from you, the readers. I have been challenged, praised and disregarded in the big bad search blogging world – and I am truly thankful for each of these experiences. I have grown as a blogger, a marketer and, most importantly, as a person. I will miss everything about this role – especially the thrill of publishing content that someone, somewhere out there finds useful. If you start to miss me too much, you can always find me here and here. I’ve enjoyed the past year immensely, and wish all of you out there good luck!
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