If you are reading this, you probably already know the value of ranking highly for relevant keywords in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs), but if you want to take your search presence to the next level, you should be targeting placement in the Google knowledge graph.
Having your brand listed in the Knowledge Graph isn’t an easy task. Inclusion is elusive and the requirements difficult to pin down. Changes might not be reflected in the Knowledge Graph for weeks or months. This can make it difficult to know if, or when, you’ve satisfied the requirements for inclusion, but having information about your brand listed in the Knowledge Graph can mean huge returns for your business, so it is always worth the time and effort.
What is the Knowledge Graph?
Let’s start by explaining exactly what I mean when I say “Knowledge Graph.” The Knowledge Graph displays information that Google has collected about people, places and things directly on the search engine results page.
The Knowledge Graph display includes the boxed section that appears on the right side of the search results when searching for a well-known brand or entity and the carousel that you see at the top of the results when searching for something that may contain multiple items. The Knowledge Graph system was originally launched in May 2012 in an effort to provide concise, accurate information about a subject that a user searches. The system tries to understand a user’s intent when searching specific keywords.
At its core, the Knowledge Graph is an extension of Google’s company mission statement, which you can find on their company information page:
Google’s goal is to ensure that the world’s information is universally accessible and useful. The Knowledge Graph was launched in an effort to improve accessibility. Previously, users had to click through to web pages to find specific information about subjects listed in the knowledge graph. Now, some basic information is provided directly on the search results pages. For business purposes, we are mostly concerned with the Knowledge Graph results that appear on the right side of the search results.
Let’s take a look at what I mean.
Right-Sidebar Knowledge Graph Display
The right side of the Knowledge Graph displays information about a specific brand or entity. This section typically appears when the user searches for something very specific, like people, places or companies. If you search for “Ozzy Osbourne,” the knowledge graph will appear on the right side, giving a small bio, information about his career and life, and a list of affiliated people.
Here is what the knowledge graph displays if you search for “Apple Computers”:
It’s easy to see why having a listing like this would be beneficial for any brand. It provides information. It conveys trust. It proves legitimacy. If Google knows your company well enough to dedicate an entire section of search results to it, that has to mean something, right?
Top Carousel Display
The Knowledge Graph carousel at the top of the search results displays different types of results. It generally provides a list of information, a definition or a very small data pull from Wikipedia. For instance, if you were to search for “best horror movies with ghosts,” the carousel would provide you with a fairly definitive list.
While useful, the top carousel has less relevance for businesses and brands, so we will focus on the right side of the Knowledge Graph from here on out.
What is included in the Knowledge Graph?
Google’s goal has always been to provide the most relevant results for any search term a user enters. The Knowledge Graph is just an extension of that philosophy. However, Google doesn’t always know the intentions behind every search. Not every searcher is so precise, and not every subject lends itself well to being summed up by a list of facts. With this in mind, Google has limited the scope of searches with information that will appear in the Knowledge Graph. Some of the things you’ll find on the right side section of the Knowledge Graph include:
- People: Search for a celebrity (or well-known authority in your industry) and you’ll likely find a quick blurb about what they do, a link to their website, and facts like their birth date, height, siblings, spouses, children and parents. You may also find links to their social media profiles and a list of related people. For our purposes, having a founder listed in the Knowledge Graph can be great for personal branding.
- Places: Try searching for a city. The Knowledge Graph will give a bit of information about the city including weather information, hotel pricing info, flight info, and the population. The Knowledge Graph might also display attractions and universities, depending on the relevancy. You’d be much more likely to see a list of attractions for Orlando, Florida than you would for a small town.
- Brands: Now for the part we are most interested in. As we saw in the “Apple Computers” search, Google also displays information about brands and companies. The types of information the Knowledge Graph shows for brands includes a small bio from Wikipedia, stock pricing, date founded on, CEO, headquarters, customer service lines, information about subsidiaries and links to social media profiles.
- Lists: Lists of products and items are often included in the Knowledge Graph section that appears above the search results. When you click on one of the results in this section, it will reload the search results to reflect the item that you chose, and often include the right-side Knowledge Graph information.
Since its launch, the Google Knowledge Graph has been rapidly expanding and continually displaying the Graph for new terms.
How Does Google Decide What Belongs in the Knowledge Graph?
Google’s Knowledge Graph ties together several algorithmic features together to determine whether or not people, places, things and brands are relevant for inclusion in the knowledge graph.
- Semantic search. The strongest muscle in Google’s arsenal. The Knowledge Graph considers data that their semantic search collects including misspellings, synonyms, searcher locations and context. Google doesn’t only see how users interact with Microsoft properties when they search for “Microsoft,” the algorithm considers all data from searches related to the company.
- Indexing entities. The KG is a very ambitious project. Their goal is to create a data repository that includes information about every single entity while connecting each entity with all related entities. The process of collecting and mapping this data is known as Entity Recognition and Disambiguation.
- User behavior. At the heart of the Knowledge Graph is Google’s deep understanding of user behavior. They see what users are searching, what they click on when they search it, how long they spend on a page after clicking it and what related terms they search in succession, among many other metrics. Then they attempt to algorithmically connect all of these data points to make a determination about that entity. As you can see, the KG takes a lot of things into consideration when determining what results are appropriate.
How to Get Listed in the Knowledge Graph
So now that we know what the Knowledge Graph is and how it works, the next question is how you can get your business or personal brand listed in the knowledge graph. The first thing to understand is that getting listed in the Knowledge Graph is a long and arduous process for businesses that don’t already have a very favorable, established presence in Google. The Knowledge Graph is reserved for well-known brands that are regularly searched for and regarded as trustworthy. Inclusion in the Knowledge Graph is seen as a vote of confidence from Google, and although they do not publish the requirements for inclusion, it is generally accepted that the requirements are strict.
It is no coincidence that many of the things that will help your brand to be listed in the Knowledge Graph also help your brand perform well in the search results in general. To receive inclusion in the Knowledge Graph, you should aim to build a much larger online presence for your brand than just having a website. Google pulls data from many sources to determine relevance for the Knowledge Graph. Remember that most entries aren’t hand checked by Google employees so there are technical aspects that are evaluated algorithmically that determine whether or not your brand is included.
Build a Bigger Presence Than “Just a Website”
Every web site is assigned a certain amount of trust by Google when determining rankings in the search engine results pages. The exact details of how a brand’s level of authority is determined isn’t published, but Google does provide an overview of how their system works. This evaluation is certainly used when determining whether or not a brand is appropriate for the Knowledge Graph, although the Knowledge Graph has much stricter requirements for inclusion than the index itself. In short, brands should attempt to build a much larger presence than just having a website.
Here are a few simple steps that any business can take to increase their authority in the eyes of Google and improve the chances of being including in the Knowledge Graph:
- Validated markup. Google gives preference to brands who are willing to stay with the times and invest in a properly coded website. Poor code is a sign of being outdated or unwilling to invest in your web presence. Make sure that you have had your website code evaluated to ensure that it is validated and follows all of the expected best practices.
- Presence on other web properties. Establish your brand on large social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. A brand that maintains a presence on popular web properties is an active and engaged brand in the eyes of Google.
- A Google My Bussiness Local Listing. There is no better way to make sure that Google knows what they need to about your business than listing your company in the Google Local directory.
- Customer reviews. Try to encourage customers to leave reviews about your business on Google+, Yelp and other review websites.
- Search Volume. Google displays Knowledge Graph information to help users connect with information more quickly. If no one is searching for your brand, it wouldn’t make much sense to include it within the knowledge graph.
- Citations and backlinks. Citations and backlinks play a huge role in your ability to rank in the SERPs and you can bet that they also play a key role in your ability to get listed in the Knowledge Graph. A large, trusted brand will undoubtedly be mentioned in many places around the web and citations and backlinks from prominent publications are seen as a vote of confidence in the eyes of Google.
- A blog with multiple authors. An active blog is a sign that your brand is consistently publishing new content for your audience, and multiple authors show that you are publishing insight from multiple figures within your industry. If those authors are influencers, all the better.
- A Wikipedia Page. Wikipedia entries are highly valued by Google. There are multiple reasons for this. To start, Wikipedia is 7th largest website in the world, according to Alexa. More importantly, they have a very strict moderation team. Not just any brand or person can have their own Wikipedia entry and having a Wikipedia entry about your brand stick around for an extended period of time is a huge vote of confidence. The fact that a lot of information included in the Knowledge Graph is pulled straight from Wikipedia entries shows how important the property is for inclusion.
All of these attributes can help to establish authority in the eyes of Google and increase your chances of being included in the Knowledge Graph, although nothing is guaranteed.
But there is still one attribute that all businesses who want to improve their search engine presence and establish a present in the Knowledge Graph should establish:
Any business that is trying to increase their search presence should already be using structured data to their advantage to help provide Google with information about their brand. If you aren’t, start now! It is the most simplistic way to provide Google with data that they can use to better classify your website. There is little doubt that structured data also has Knowledge Graph benefits as well.
The best part is that you don’t need to be a coder or have web development experience to start using structured data to your benefit. The easiest way to implement structured data is to use JSON+LD, as it does not require that you modify your website code.
JSON+LD is the preferred markup for declaring structured data, according to Google’s Introduction to Structured Data. If you don’t have experience with JSON+LD, you can use the old Schema markup to declare structured data as well.
Things to Remember
The Knowledge Graph contains information that provides users with data about people, places and things in an effort to provide better search results. They make it purposefully difficult to be included in the program, because they want to keep the Knowledge Graph extremely relevant for highly searched terms. Smaller businesses without an established web presence may find it very difficult to be included. Companies with an established online presence will have an easier time but may still find themselves waiting months or years for inclusion. It is and will always be much easier for a brand with a strong, established search presence to make their way into the Knowledge Graph, but the benefits of doing so make it worth the time and effort.