The search world is always on the move, but it wasn’t until the introduction of the Knowledge Graph a couple of years ago that search marketers really started questioning whether conventional SEO practices were feasible in the long-term.
The Knowledge Graph has been the subject of a slow evolutionary process, gradually incorporating more elements and covering more ground, and now it has reached a threshold that’s made it the center of attention for many search experts. It’s changing the way people use search, slowly but surely, and if your search campaign is going to survive its rise to prominence, you’ll have to be ready for it.
The Knowledge Graph is a small box of information you see off to the right-hand side of your traditional search results. Depending on what you’ve searched for, the Knowledge Graph will provide a summary of your subject, including bits of information you may be looking for. For example, searching for a movie will often prompt the Knowledge Graph to show up with a list of actors, the year of release, and any awards associated with the picture. Searching for a politician will prompt the Graph to display his/her picture and a brief rundown of his/her political history. It’s essentially Google’s way of providing immediate information to a user, rather than forcing them to wade through sites to find what they’re looking for.
This move shows Google’s dedication to providing the best possible experience for online users, which is a good thing. However, since many online users won’t venture to the top search results after finding their desired information within the Knowledge Graph, previous top-position holders may not see the same amount of traffic they did before the Knowledge Graph existed.
The entire motivation behind the Knowledge Graph’s release is an indication of the future role of online search. Rather than being a tool to find online sites, it’s becoming a tool to find direct information, and as a result, the scope of SEO and online business marketing is bound to change.
As you might imagine, since it is a Google product, the Knowledge Graph is not some stagnant, one-time development. It is a living, growing mechanic that continues to become more advanced on an almost daily basis. Even in the short history of 2015, the Knowledge Graph has been subject to updates and advancements.
2015 Oscar Nominations
In an unpredicted move, Google began showing information on the 2015 Oscar Nominations in the Knowledge Graph, shortly after they were announced. Any search for “Oscar nominee” or “Oscar nominations” will lead to a list of the eight films nominated for the award for Best Picture. In addition, Google is offering detailed information about the Academy Awards in general, as well as the ceremony date for 2015. It’s a sign of Google’s commitment to providing quick-reference information accurately, but also in a timely manner.
Back in November of 2014, Google stepped out of its Google+ shell and started openly providing links to other social media profiles in its Knowledge Graph box. However, these links were restricted for use by major personalities, such as politicians, actors, and musicians.
Starting in January of 2015, Google is providing links to social profiles of major brands. There’s even a specific markup Google released so you can accurately provide the details to your corporate social profiles to the search engine.
Partly due to an increasing breadth of topics covered by the Knowledge Graph and partly due to an increasing number of companies using proper markup formats on their sites, the Knowledge Graph is showing up for an ever-increasing number of queries. According to a recent post by Steven Levy, the Google team estimates that current total number of queries to be 25 percent. One out of every four queries now leads to a Knowledge Graph box, and that number is likely to grow.
Already, the Knowledge Graph is making waves in the search world. But as most search marketers have learned the painful way, the best way to respond to a new search function is to proactively prepare for it, rather than reacting to it after the fact. As the Knowledge Graph begins to grow in influence, take measures to protect your SEO strategy.
Avoid Writing General Information
This is good advice for any content marketing campaign, regardless of the encroaching Knowledge Graph. Rather than writing general information articles about topics related to your industry, focus on writing in a very specific niche—the more specific the better.
This is going to hold several benefits for your campaign. First, and most relevantly, writing niche topics will prevent the Knowledge Graph from stepping into your territory. For now, the Knowledge Graph only projects common information about the most general subjects, so the more specific the topics you cover, the less likely it is that the Knowledge Graph will show up for your target queries. Second, the more specific you get with your topics, the less competition you’re going to face. That means you’re going to rank much higher for slightly lower-traffic keywords. It’s a shortcut to greater search traffic.
Use Schema.org Markups
Google is open about the fact that the Knowledge Graph relies on microformatting to draw in information, so if you want to make sure the Knowledge Graph has the most accurate and most complete information about your company and everything you offer, use every markup you can. Schema.org is a great (and free) resource you can use to mark up the information on your website, and it also provides detailed information on how to incorporate them onto your site.
As Google starts rolling out expanded coverage of the Knowledge Graph, like it recently did with social profiles, be ready to grab new microformatting requirements and implement them as needed.
Find Alternative Means of Improving Online Visibility
It’s unlikely that the Knowledge Graph is going to end SEO as we know it—even in years to come, when the function has expanded in accuracy and coverage, a number of people will still rely on Google to find actual sites with the information they seek. Even so, it’s important to hedge your bets.
Gain online visibility through non-search related channels, such as RSS feeds and social media. Get involved with other sites, exchanging guest posts and starting threads and discussions leading back to your site. You’ll also want to get involved with as many third-party apps and services as possible, such as local review sites and new applications for your industry (such as Open Table reservations for restaurants). As smartphones and smart watches become more mainstream, app-based discovery will come to rival traditional searches, and getting involved with those apps early on will keep you ahead of the trend.
The Knowledge Graph is a game-changer, and while it’s improving the search experience for millions of users, it’s also complicating the lives of search marketers. Still, suggesting that the Knowledge Graph is going to “kill” SEO or otherwise destroy the foundation of your inbound strategy is an overstatement. Like with any development, you’ll need to work to understand it, cover your bases wherever you can, and proactively prepare for its next iterations.