Late last week Google announced the release of their long anticipated semantic search capability named “Knowledge Graph”.
Despite the geeky name this is something you should be aware of because it represents a very significant and fundamental change to how Google presents search results, (a change as big or bigger than Maps and Universal Search being incorporated into traditional search results).
The BIG question this begs is what impact will it have on SEO and search advertising?
But first, just what is “Knowledge Graph”? It’s a huge collection of facts that Google has assembled about people, places and things in the world, and – this is the important bit – how they’re connected to one another. Currently the Google Knowledge Graph is reported to contain over 3.5 billion facts about 500 million objects and the relationships between them.
As a result of this new found ability to recognize the actual meaning of words, (semantic search), Google can now present facts or direct answers in response to search queries, rather than just links in their search results to relevant pages on external websites.
Google’s traditional search model is based on presenting links to pages that match query terms or keywords. So search on, say “Leonardo da Vinci”, and Google has, until now, presented a search result page like the one below which primarily consists of links to external website pages it considers most relevant for the query.
The difference with Knowledge Graph is that Google now understands the search term “Leonardo da Vinci” is not simply a collection of characters making up words, but represents a real entity, (in this case a person). As a result, Google is able to enhance the traditional search results with a panel containing key facts about Leonard da Vinci; things related to him (in this case, paintings); and popular related searches other people have done. This knowledge panel appears to the right of the traditional organic search results.
If this is hard to get your head around, check out the video from Google at the bottom of this page. A key quote in the video is that Google is in the early stages of transforming from an information engine to a knowledge engine.
So what does this mean for NZ websites?
- At present Knowledge Graph is only being rolled out in the US. This is very much in its early stages and a work in progress – so far in our tests we’ve not yet been able to get Knowledge Graph results to appear.
- Eventually Google will roll Knowledge Graph out globally, which means it’s unlikely we’ll see it in NZ for a while.
- The above is good because it will give us time to assess how this impacts SEO strategy and learn from others’ experiences in the USA. Google have stated that at this stage there is no mechanism available to websites who want to get their content included in the Knowledge Graph results. Early speculation is that schema tagging pages may be an approach that helps.
- As explained above, with Knowledge Graph Google is using semantic search to provide direct answers in their search results pages (SERPS), rather than just links to pages it thinks are relevant. Having said that, this supplements existing SERP results, rather than replaces them (a bit like Universal Search) and only appear when Google deems them relevant.
- In terms of AdWords – possibly this may impact the number of ads displayed on page 1 of Google and so push up prices. Knowledge Graph results appear on the right of the page and so may displace some PPC results.
- Will your website traffic drop with Google providing direct answers on SERP pages? That’s the question most people are concerned about.
- Google have increasingly shown direct answers in their results over the years (do a search for airline flight information, weather, & currency exchange rates to see examples). This trend has concerned many website owners who fear that if Google directly provides answers then there’s no reason for users to click on SERP results and so their referral traffic from Google will drop. Google’s Head of Search acknowledged traffic for some publishers will fall, but stated most shouldn’t worry. According to him, most Knowledge Graph types of queries don’t take traffic away from sites because the information provided in Knowledge Graph results actually encourages more searching, which in turn eventually takes people to external sites.
So in summary, at this stage it’s too early to make any definitive statements about how Google Knowledge Graph will impact websites and SEO strategies. Naturally it’s something we’re closely monitoring.
Some further reading on this:
Search Engine Land – Google Launches Knowledge Graph To Provide Answers, Not Just Links
Mashable – Google Search Just Got 1,000 Times Smarter