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How To Optimize Your Site For The Knowledge Graph

What is the Google Knowledge Graph?

The Google Knowledge Graph is a knowledge base used by Google to enhance the search engine results with semantic information gathered from a wide variety of sources. It provides structured and detailed information about a specific entity such as a company, musician, politician, etc. Knowledge panels, answer boxes, featured snippets, knowledge cards, carousels, etc. are all part of the Knowledge Graph.

The Knowledge Graph is designed to help Google provide more accurate and contextually relevant results by surfacing results that match the searcher’s intent and the real-life context of the search. In its quest to become a semantic knowledge engine and satisfy its users, Google is seeking to understand the entities or things behind the keywords used on a webpage and how they relate to one other. It does this by collecting information about millions of frequently searched keywords to build a massive database of over 500 million entities (people, places and things) collated from high authority sites such as Wikipedia, Wikidata and CIA Word Factbook.

The Knowledge Graph was primarily designed to help Google fulfil its mission of “organizing the world’s information to make it universally accessible and useful.” Prior to the Knowledge Graph, when you performed a search, Google gave you results based solely on the keywords that you put in that search. Effectively, Google provided its best guess, and you’d have to dig through a set of relevant and irrelevant resuts to find the results you’re really looking for. Today with the Knowledge Graph, the search engine interprets a search query as a search for a specific “entity” rather than a search for webpages that are best optimized for the keywords used in the search query.

Google is increasingly able to recognize a search query as a search for a distinct entity rather than for a string of keywords. Essentially, it is able to provide accurate answers to questions based on what the searcher wants, rather than returning optimized webpages with SEO-friendly keywords used in the search query.

Understanding the searcher’s intent behind asking the question and context such as location, social connections on Google+, previous searches and other information that Google already knows about the searcher, Google ensures the pages in search results match the meaning of the entire query and the intent of the searcher, rather than pages that match individual keywords.

The Hummingbird Algorithm

The Knowledge Graph is based on the Hummingbird algorithm, and is the “brain” of semantic search.  In other words, if you want to be discoverable in the search results of the future, semantic search engines need to be able to understand what entities are on your web page.

Google Semantic search seeks to provide the best results based on what Google knows about you including your network of contacts, previous searches and social shares, current trends, use of connecting words and geographical location. Thus, organic search on Google is now much more personalized, and the same search can yield different results to each searcher, based on their unique circumstances and intent.

The Hummingbird algorithm is fundamentally designed to return content that answers specific questions your potential customers may be asking about your products and services. Using the searcher’s current location, Google will return the most relevant results for the query in a more precise manner than it did pre-Hummingbird. These geo-targeted, conversational, query-specific results are meant to help users find results that are most relevant to them.

When Google understands the relevance of your site’s content to a particular search query that you’re relevant for, this will have an indirect ranking effect because your engagement signals will increase. Your search ranking will improve in relation to that keyword, and you’ll be more visible to users searching for that keyword.

Getting Listed in the Knowledge Graph

The Knowledge Graph can be a very powerful branding tool for businesses that are optimized for it. For example, if a prospective customer is searching for photography company Kline Studios, the company will be immediately found on Google with a summary of Kline Studio’s information including the company’s Wikipedia page (if they have one), opening hours, products and services, description, social media links, etc. All of this information is pulled from a variety of trusted sources including the company’s Google+ page and other external sources such as Yelp, Facebook, etc.

Understanding Entity Search

Traditionally, search has been about matching queries to keyword-rich web pages optimized for the keywords used in the search query. The problem with relying on keywords to generate search results however, is that the same keyword can mean different things to different people.

Google is transforming the search process from universal search results to “entity search results” that mean something and have related attributes. This is so they can move away from serving search results that are based on matching keywords to web pages to a more intelligent model that understands “real-world entities” and their connections or relationships to one another, so that they can interpret the meaning of a particular search query in the same way as people do.

Optimizing for entity search involves mapping all of the different ways in which you can refer to a particular person, product or thing as if it had its own unique barcode. In other words, with semantic search, Google is less concerned with matching keywords, and more concerned with understanding entities and the way they are related together. It is bringing knowledge about entities to searchers in knowledge panels next to search results.

This doesn’t mean that keywords are no longer relevant to SEO. Google still needs keywords to identify entities, and they will continue to play a central role in search – precisely because they do describe entities. However, strategies developed for keywords (or strings) alone, are now inadequate for ranking on Google today.

The real power of semantic search lies in the connection between these entities, and simply replacing keywords with nouns does not provide a meaningful description of what these entities are, or help to clarify the connections between these entities. For example, if your services have been defined as an entity on your website, each customer review on Google+ or LinkedIn recommendation that are linked to your business can be defined as entities that are connected to your brand using schema mark-up.

Links are the key to establishing connections and understanding the relationships between entities on your site. You need to know and demonstrate how things are connected across your site and other sites you are connected to, so you need to ensure that the content on your site is sensibly linked.

You can do this by linking your blog or website to all of the web properties that you own, including your social media profiles, videos, podcasts, etc. As already mentioned, semantic search is not just about optimizing for strings, or for entities, but for the connections between entities. According to Google, it’s the intelligence between the different entities on your site that’s the key.

In effect, semantic SEO is not just about optimizing for keywords, or for entities. It is really about optimizing for the connections between entities. These connections are informed and facilitated by the ability to uniquely and unambiguously identify these entities, and to provide unambiguous data about them through the use of unique identifiers.

Knowledge Graph Optimization

Knowledge Graph Optimization (KGO) is essentially about identifying and mapping the entities in your content so that search engines better understand what the content of your website is about. This leads to more accurate and relevant search results for your potential customers, and will make it easier for you to rank for relevant keywords. As people, we know that some words can have a variety of meanings depending on the context in which they are used.

For example, the word boot can refer to a type of footwear, a computer start-up or an individual’s unceremonious exit. Until semantic search, search engines have had problems understanding that context. Semantic search makes the search engine “think” more like a human being, leading to more relevant and accurate results. This approach provides the semantic search engine with the ability to answer far more complex search queries, more successfully predicting the intent of the searcher and refining search results based on the initial query.

Consider a Google search for ‘Manchester United’ prior to semantic search. Using strings – or keywords as a primary means to search would have been somewhat ambiguous and confusing for the search engines, and lead to a mixture of irrelevant and relevant results about the town of Manchester, the keyword “United”, and Manchester United, with the user having to wade through the results to find exactly what they are looking for.

With the Knowledge Graph, Google has gotten extremely good at understanding terms that are most frequently used together so that this query would yield smarter,  accurate and more relevant results about the football team.

Essentially, Google has mapped ‘Manchester United’ to an entity (a thing) that has a specific entry in the Knowledge Graph and therefore returns a much richer result. It also maps all of the colloquialisms that people use to refer to the football club, including man united, man u, etc. This process of entity mapping is called Entity Recognition and Disambiguation, or ERD.

How to optimize for the Knowledge Graph

It is important to understand that Google does not provide a list of steps that a particular business can take to ensure that Google will generate a Knowledge Panel for that company in the search results. However there are a number of steps that you can take to increase the likelihood of Google recognizing your organization as credible enough to display a Knowledge Panel for your business.

Here’s an example of how a business is typically featured in a Knowledge Graph panel:

 

knowledge graph card

Here are tips on increasing your chances of getting a Knowedge Graph result:

Clean up your backlink profile.

It goes without saying that you need to have a clean, rich and diverse backlink profile in order for your site to have any chance of getting a Knowledge Graph result. A backlink profile is simply a list of all the websites that link to your site. Essentially, you cannot have more than 5-10% of low-quality links in your backlink profile.

A strong and diverse link profile could have links from a diverse variety of sources including editorial links from high ranking blogs, authority sites like Wikipedia, high quality directories, review sites, news sites, newsletters, forums, podcasts, videos, coupon sites, etc.

If the majority of your backlink profile are links from low quality blogs, directories, and not much else, this will severely limit your chances of getting listed in the Knowledge Graph because Google will have no trust in your business.

Mark-up your site with schema.

What is Schema?

Schema is a way to mark up your HTML web pages in ways that make it easier for semantic search engines to parse and interpret this information more effectively when indexing your content. It tells the search engines exactly what a piece of content on your site actually means, not just what it says. In essence, structured data mark-up is a way for webmasters to tell search engines what the content of their site actually is, and to relate the content on their site to real world entities (things) in a way that search engines understand.

When you add schema markup to your website, users can see in the SERPs what your site is all about, where you’re located, what you do, how much you charge for your products or services, etc. Some people have taken to calling schema markup “your virtual business card.”

Google wants to have 100% confidence in understanding the properties of a particular website and what they refer to, and structured data mark-up helps to better distinguish your content in search results. What this does is help semantic search engines identify specific properties on a website in a clear, digestible way so that they are in no doubt whatsoever as to the meaning of a particular piece of content on any website. You can mark-up products, articles, reviews, authors, landing pages, events, business hours, phone numbers, addresses, navigation breadcrumbs, etc.

You’ll need to specify your logo, social profiles, Wikidata and Wikipedia profiles using the SameAs element. Google recommends the use of JSON-LD mark-up to submit data to the Knowledge Graph. You can use this mark-up method to submit your logo, contact phone number and social profile links. Note that you can provide data for about 10 different types of social networks. So you would essentially place this code within script tags somewhere within your HTML.

<script type=”application/ld+json”>

{

“@context”: http://schema.org,

“@type”: “Organization”,

“url”: http://www.company.com,

“logo”

“http://www.company.com/images/logo.png

}

</script>

You can use this script to submit a variety of phone numbers:

<script type=”application/ld+json”>

{ “@context” : http://schema.org,

“@type” : “Organization”,

“url” : “http://www.company.com”,

“contactPoint” : [

{ “@type” : “ContactPoint”,

“telephone” : “+1-720-555-222”,

“contactType” : “customer service”

}]}

</script>

You can use this script to submit your social links:

<script type=”application/ld+json”>

{ “@context” : http://schema.org,

“@type” : “Person”,

“name” : “John Doe”,

“url” : “http://www.company.com”,

“sameAs” : [ “http://www.facebook.com/john-doe”,

http://www.instagram.com/john-doe”,

“http://www.pinterest.com/john-doe”,

“http://www.google.com/john-doe”,

</script>

 Create a Wikipedia Page.

Wikipedia is an established, highly credible and powerful online encyclopaedia. It is the fast track to inclusion in the Knowledge Graph. Links from highly authoritative sites such as Wikipedia are given an increased weighting by Google which is why pages from the website tend to rank very highly in the search results page.

Note that you do not always need a Wikipedia page to become an entity and gain a Knowledge Graph entry, however, it can certainly help. It is not easy to get a Wikipedia page, especially if the webpage you link to does not add much to the community and likely only benefits you. You must have had national press coverage.

For example, if your company has been added to the Forbes “Top 5000 Growing Companys” list. On the other hand, if your site can be considered a useful resource in your industry and you cannot find any objective information about the topic covered by your website, then you may be able to develop a Wikipedia page on that subject-matter, add an editorial link to your website, and receive the SEO benefits of that link.

Click here to learn how to develop a Wikipedia page.

Make sure you’re ranking for your domain name.

To be featured in the Knowledge Graph, you need to be ranking for your domain name. You can check if you’re ranking for your domain name by typing in the name in Google without the TLD. This is why using an exact match domain name can be counter-intuitive. If you consider cheapinsurance.com, the company never ranks for their domain name because when someone does a branded search, Google doesn’t know whether the searcher is looking for cheap insurance or searching for your company. This limits the company’s chances of ever being featured in the Knowledge Graph.

Verify your identity with a Wikidata profile

Wikidata is an open source and collaboratively edited knowledge base similar to Wikipedia, and is a highly trusted online presence. It is one of Google’s Knowledge Graph’s main sources of information.

Creating an entry in Wikidata is subject to the strict moderation and notability requirement of Wikipedia. It allows you to further define your entity, and to provide more context to Google about the relationship of your brand with other entities. It is relatively easier to create a page on Wikidata than it is on Wikipedia. Click here to learn how to create a Wikidata page.

Optimize your Google+ page

The Knowledge Graph draws much of its information directly from Google+, so it is imperative to have a Google+ account. This helps to validate a company in the eyes of Google. Individuals and businesses with optimized Google My Business pages have an advantage for KGO.

Consider the following example. When you do a search for “best restaurants in london“, the Knowledge Graph populates photos, reviews, and directions directly from the Google My Business pages of the relevant food establishments. Google+ allows you to set up your business’ hours of operation, menu, and other important details. Searchers will see this in the Knowledge Graph results.

Get more customer reviews

Customer reviews are powerful social proof, and play a large part in the development of your business’s online reputation. Google depends on the review text to create graph displays in search and map search results. Online reviews can be a major asset for businesses, and this is especially true because they do impact search relevancy and, more to the point, Knowledge Graph results. The more reviews your online business has, the more prominent you will be in the search results.

Local Knowledge Graph

The Local Knowledge Graph shows up in branded searches. It is featured on the right side of the search results page, and will typically appear if you have the following:

  • A branded domain name.
  • You must be ranking for your domain name. To check whether you’re ranking for your domain name, type in your name without the tld e.g. lead flow experts.
  • A verified and fully optimized Google My Business page or brand page
  • Semantic mark-up
  • Quality citations
  • Active social media presence
  • A clean backlink profile and
  • At least five positive customer reviews.

Here’s an example:

local knowledge graph

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