The Google Knowledge Graph is an impressive and relatively new feature, but it has many search marketers fearing for the long-term relevance of their jobs. In case you weren’t aware, the Knowledge Graph refers to a collection of information that Google uses to display concise answers to users with specific queries. For example, if a user searches for a specific movie, like the Wizard of Oz, Google will display a prominent box of information off to the right of its typical link-based search results. This box will display significant information about the user’s query, in this case including the year of initial release, the director, and main actors associated with the movie.
The Knowledge Graph isn’t limited to just movies, however, and it’s gradually expanding to consume more and more types of information. While this growth is both useful from a user perspective and fascinating from a human perspective, the ramifications it has for SEO are somewhat troubling. Fortunately, there are a handful of strategies you can start implementing to avoid losing out to Knowledge Graph traffic in the long run.
The traditional method of search is what drives the value of an SEO campaign. Search results merely listed a series of links to relevant pages, and almost inevitably, a user would click on at least one of those links. If you could get your link to the top, you would receive the greatest number of those clicks.
The Knowledge Graph is changing search because it’s reducing on critical variable in that equation: the number of people clicking on search links. Let’s say a user searched for the Wizard of Oz in the old format of searching, looking for basic information on the movie. That user would be forced to click on a link to find that information. Today, with the Knowledge Graph, that information is immediately available, eliminating the need to do any clicking.
As a result, the amount of web traffic you can theoretically get from queries that populate a Knowledge Graph entry are significantly reduced. For example, if you rank at the number one position for “Wizard of Oz,” you could see your traffic reduced by half or more because your potential visitors would no longer have a reason to click into your site.
There are three main strategies you can use to avoid letting the Knowledge Graph throttle your traffic.
At least for the time being, the Knowledge Graph only collects information on broad, general topics. It can’t give you detailed steps on how to install a ceiling fan, but it can tell you when President Obama was born. Theoretically, if you don’t waste any time ranking for Knowledge Graph topics, you won’t lose any value.
Instead, focus your content and SEO strategy on more niche topics, and the more specific you can get the better. How-to and tutorial articles are some of the best options you have, so take advantage of them. Long-tail search queries looking for this type of information don’t see as much search volume as simpler, broader queries, but because the Knowledge Graph will be encroaching on that territory, they might end up seeing just as much traffic. Plus, you’ll enjoy the benefits of lower competition levels, allowing you to rank faster for relevant queries.
SEO isn’t the only inbound marketing channel around. Capitalize on some of the other communication and discovery channels that lead people to information on the web. For example, to compensate for lower levels of search traffic, you could bolster your social media strategy and increase your following.
You could also step up your offsite presence in the form of guest posting or social bookmarking. By leaving traces of your brand or your site behind on pieces of valuable content on external sources, you can capitalize on a significant new stream of traffic.
By using these strategies, you don’t have to abandon SEO altogether. In fact, stepping up your social and offsite posting strategies can improve your SEO position. Instead, treat them as a way of hedging your bets just in case your search traffic takes a hit.
As the saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them. Another way to beat the Knowledge Graph is to get your content featured in it. To populate its Knowledge Graph entries, Google scours the web for information, looking for microformatting on sites and pages with extremely high authority, like Wikipedia articles. If you want your content to be seen and found by the Knowledge Graph, mark up your content using Schema microformatting and consider creating Wikipedia and similar entries on topics important to your brand.
While the Knowledge Graph is certainly changing how the world views and uses search, companies generally don’t have to be overly worried about losing significant traffic—at least not yet. In the future, Google could theoretically work to consolidate all the web’s information, completely eliminating the need for individual sites and the possibility for onsite conversions. That’s an extremist view, but it is likely that the Knowledge Graph will continue to rise in prominence. In the meantime, find some alternative strategies to prevent yourself from losing traffic to the information repository, and remember that your users should be your main priority.