Back in 2012, Google had made another technological breakthrough that changed how search engines serve their purpose – forever. Instead of being a passive source of information – identifying data-driven websites and showing users the way to get there by providing direct URLs – they’ve transformed into an active resource by providing useful and factual data right on the face of the SERPs.
This was the beginning of the Knowledge Graph. And roughly six years down the road, it has evolved from being just a little box appearing on the right side of the search results to being a formidable, prominent, and data-rich resource.
And for someone committedly looking for ways to rank a website in Google’s search results such as myself (and probably you too), this means trouble. Big trouble.
But hey, for those of you who are still new to SEO and have no darn idea about what the Knowledge Graph is, allow me to enlighten you.
What is the Knowledge Graph?
The Knowledge Graph is basically a web of connections. You know, how they say that everything and everyone in this world is interconnected by a single string of fate? Let’s just add a bit of science to that concept and apply it to an entire earth worth of data. When we do that, we get the Knowledge Graph.
So let’s give the romantics some credit now, shall we?
Picture the Knowledge Graph as something similar to the neural circuits communicating in your brain. They connect, overlap, and branch out to every other part that is related to their function. As of 2016, the Knowledge Graph holds over 70 billion facts. You can try to imagine how much more it has grown to this day and how much more it will grow in the years to come – but one thing’s for sure, as long as Google stands, the Knowledge Graph will just continue to grow.
How Does The Knowledge Graph Work?
Knowing that the Knowledge Graph is a data network already gives us an idea about how it operates. On a macro level, we can say that Google has made a systematic bank of data where every bit of information is connected to everything else that is related to it.
Say, you like Jennifer Lopez.
Since J-Lo is a popular public figure, there are bound to be many data associated with her name. It could be her songs, movies, interpersonal relationships, residence, hometown, sponsors, etc. Just one name can form diverse and complex connections in the Knowledge Graph. And this ‘intelligent’ database Google developed, takes all of these pieces of information together and tries to makes sense out of it. By doing so, search results become more meaningful. Instead of just crawling your website for keywords, Google gets a more in-depth understanding of what lies beyond encoded syntax – they get to uncover your website’s intentions.
Going back to our example, if you’ve ever written content about one of Jennifer Lopez’s songs – “Let’s Get Loud,” for example – Google knows exactly what and who you’re talking about. When your content passes Google’s strict quality screening process, it gets incorporated into the Knowledge Graph. The database then forms the connections surrounding your content – it can link to all videos that use or relate to the song on Youtube, to Jennifer Lopez’s bio on Wikipedia, to movies she stars in, and so on and so forth.
By creating all these connections, Google is able to understand who Jennifer Lawrence and what might people want to know about her by closely monitoring search trends and patterns.
So Is The Knowledge Graph Good or Bad For My Business?
The basic premise in SEO nowadays is this:
“Help Google and Google will help you.”
Google plays a large part on your website’s SEO because out of several billions of searches made by people annually, roughly 65% of that is Google’s share (according to 2015 statistics). They get around 4,464,000,000 searches per day to be exact! If you want your SEO campaign to be successful, you need to rank the front pages of the king of all search engines.
Without doubt, websites need to adhere to Google’s standards – most of them being highly concentrated on improving user experience. For the past years, many SEO methods were devised to meet what Google wants. And for a good while, everything worked perfectly.
Much recently however, another concern surfaced. It’s still too early to call it a problem in SEO but it is definitely a matter we should give more thought into.
What if the very search engine you’re trying to rank is preventing you from doing it?
Such is the dilemma brought about by the prominence of the Knowledge Graph. You see, the Knowledge Graph is mainly there to help improve user experience; it does not directly do anything for websites. At first, positive correlations have been found between being an asset to the Knowledge Graph and ranking high on Google so everyone who’s into SEO started to get serious at producing rich content.
However, ironic as it may be, the Knowledge Graph may use the quality data you produce but it’ll be in the form of “rich snippets.” And this is where much of the controversy lies.
Rich snippets are short – usually a paragraph long – excerpts taken from a good resource that appears with much emphasis on the front page of the SERPs. Google believes that by making targeted information conveniently accessible to users, they can improve the experience they have with their service. What happens is that instead of actually clicking a website’s URL, the user can already get the information they need just by viewing a snippet.
What Implications Do Rich Snippets Have On Your Website’s SEO?
If you can get the answer in 10 seconds of reading, why bother with a whole 7-minute article?
The issue is that simple but it can impact your website a great deal because of two reasons:
Of course, with users having less engagement with your website, you are bound to lose opportunities. And losing precious chances means losing money.
This is why the Knowledge Graph is leaving a bad taste in the mouth of some SEO specialists and website owners. In a recent study conducted by Internet Marketing Ninjas, they observed that first and second pages don’t get any clicks 25% to 35% of the time! The reason was because these queries had snippets turn up in the search results.
Still, some people claim otherwise. One case study by Search Engine Land found that acquiring a featured snippet can lead to bigger gains. One of their clients was even observed to have a 516% increase in website sessions.
In conclusion, whether the Knowledge Graph brings fortune or misfortune to online businesses still remains a mystery. But what we do know is that going against Google’s wishes isn’t going to improve your website any better either.
To make the Knowledge Graph work to your advantage, why not try ranking for a featured snippet instead?