Google recently made a major change in how its knowledge graph works. As reported by Search Engine Land, the knowledge graph now links to the main site of companies it features.
Knowledge graph is the “info box” that provides helpful quick answers in the search results. When you search for a brand by name, the knowledge graph shows key information like their address, phone number and logo—but until recently, didn’t link to their main site.
Now, the URL appears just below the company name, as a clickable link. Here’s an example using CBS:
This may seem like a minor change, but it’s an important one. Major websites have been pressuring Google for some time to add a link. Otherwise, Google is effectively dead-ending users who may want to reach those brands.
So is this case closed? Search Engine Land seems to think so:
“This may alleviate some of the concern publishers expressed over the knowledge graph.”
But “concerns” is an understatement. The entire existence of the knowledge graph is controversial. It’s seen as a way to keep users on Google instead of referring them to individual websites. That’s a problem for two big reasons:
- Businesses have to play by Google’s rules to rank in the search results. Thus, Google has always been a sort of referee, passing users along to the most relevant and deserving sites. By becoming a destination in its own right, Google breaks that dynamic. Instead of the ref, it’s the competition.
- With very few exceptions, Google does not write its own knowledge graph content. Instead, it scrapes content from across the web. Ask Google any simple question, from population of Idaho to what is a carburetor, and you will get an instant answer—which Google “stole” from another site.
By providing answers without making users click through, Google drives traffic away from other sites. By using the sites’ own content to do it, Google adds insult to injury.
Google has refuted these objections by pointing out that users still have to click on results to get more in-depth information. But that could change in the future as knowledge graph learns to understand more complex questions and deliver more fine-grain answers.
Linking to a company in their brand’s knowledge graph won’t allay these worries. And it probably wasn’t meant to—if a user wants information on CBS, then providing the CBS URL makes as much sense as providing their phone number. The decision to add the links was probably made from a UX perspective.
For now, however, few companies have experienced traffic drain, and the link only makes your business easier to discover.
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