Knowledge Graph

The term “Knowledge Graph” generally refers to a system for searching for and linking information. As a rule, however, the term “Knowledge Graph” refers to Google’s implementation of such a system. The Internet giant has chosen a name for it that is as simple as it is appropriate: Google Knowledge Graph. With the help of Google’s Knowledge Graph, additional information on the corresponding query is displayed alongside the search results. In this way, Google can offer the user suitable information for his query. He does not have to visit another website to get an answer to his question.

Google introduced the Knowledge Graph in 2012 – initially in May on the American website, and from December 2012 it was also available on Google’s German site. The Google update “Hummingbird” from 2013 expanded the functions of the Knowledge Graph once again, but the basic principle remained unchanged. The aim of the introduction was to give users a way to quickly find information on a specific topic without having to click through search results. To do this, the Knowledge Graph draws on a so-called “knowledge base”. This is a database in which the information is not simply stored on one level, but is linked to one another on several levels via references. Google often uses content from Wikipedia, but the pages of companies and its own data also flow into the knowledge graph.

In this way, Google can offer users a wide selection of information that either directly contains what they are looking for or simplifies the search for it. However, the Knowledge Graph also has its limits, because it does not provide data on every topic. Its strengths can be seen in search queries about well-known personalities and companies, and it can also often provide answers to simple questions entered in the search field. The Knowledge Graph can also help with general search terms, but it is limited to well-known, simple or clearly defined terms. For example, if you search for “lion” or “Cairo” on Google, the Knowledge Graph will provide additional information. If, on the other hand, you want to know more about “tax laws in Germany”, this is beyond the capabilities of the search engine helper and you have to rely on the regular search results.

How is the Knowledge Graph structured?

In order to be able to use the Knowledge Graph specifically for SEO or for optimization in the context of online marketing, you first need to know how it is structured and how it works. Basically, it consists of three areas:

  • the answer box
  • the Knowledge Panel
  • the carousel

The answer box appears above the SERPs, but only if Google can provide the answer to a specific question. For example, the question “How tall is the Eiffel Tower?” will tell you after just one or two seconds that the Parisian landmark rises 300 meters into the sky. Even for more complex questions, such as “How do I change a car tire?”, Google has step-by-step instructions at the ready, making further clicks on the search results superfluous. Only when it comes to a really complex topic, such as how to fill out your tax return, does the search engine get ahead of itself. This fact is also important from an SEO and marketing perspective.

The Knowledge Panel is the “heart” of the Graph, because this is where information on the searched term appears – summarized compactly. No matter whether you search for “IBM”, “Bombay” or “William Tell”, Google can help with almost any topic. The Internet giant owes this not least to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, whose data Google frequently accesses – and this fact is also important for SEO and online marketing. The specific information that appears in the Knowledge Panel depends on the search queries on the topic. Google evaluates the entries made with the respective search term and compiles a balanced mix of information from this. The goal that Google is pursuing with the Knowledge Graph also becomes clear here: The user should quickly and easily obtain information on frequently searched terms. However, Google does not want to steal traffic from an information website like Wikipedia, as was often feared at the time of the Knowledge Graph’s introduction.

The carousel is a part of the Knowledge Graph that does not appear immediately with the search results. Instead, you can get to the carousel by clicking on one of the links located under the answer box or in the Knowledge Panel under the heading “Is also often searched for”. A series of images then appears above the SERPs, referring to related topics. For example, a question about the height of the Eiffel Tower will find the Empire State Building, Big Ben, Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral and Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre in the carousel – well-known landmarks in other cities as well as other sights in Paris. With the carousel, Google wants to offer further information in case one did not directly find the information one was looking for in the answer box or the knowledge panel. Clicking on one of the images in the carousel also automatically starts a corresponding query at Google, so that one receives suitable search results for the topic and a new Knowledge Panel.

The Knowledge Graph and SEO

At first glance, the Knowledge Graph seems rather annoying from an SEO and marketing point of view, because instead of clicking on the search results, the user fetches the information directly from Google – so he no longer ends up on a company’s website.

To a certain extent, this is true, but it is still no reason to throw in the towel on SEO. For one thing, it is disputed among experts whether relevant traffic is lost through the Knowledge Graph. Anyone who only wants to know how old George Clooney is or where howler monkeys live will in most cases only get the information they need and then leave again. On the other hand, companies can influence which information about their brands and products appears in the Knowledge Graph. Google often uses Wikipedia as well as the company’s page for the graph – and on both sides the company can influence which topics are treated in which way. Of course, there’s no point in writing a wild fantasy story on Wikipedia about the company’s social commitment, because it would be corrected by other users in no time. However, a company’s image can certainly be enhanced by making gentle adjustments and using the right wording. If the data on one’s own page is presented in a well-structured manner, the likelihood that it will actually be included in the results of the Knowledge Graph also increases, because the Knowledge Graph relies on structured data. So it pays to optimize accordingly.

In addition, the Knowledge Graph offers companies the opportunity to distinguish themselves through content. Since very simple queries now often go directly through Google, you should not try to counter this with countless SEO and marketing measures. Instead, leave this field largely to Google and concentrate on gaining users, and perhaps customers, through high-quality content.

Google’s Knowledge Graph is a practical aid for many users to quickly obtain information on simple queries. Although this can cause a website to lose traffic, it is possible to counteract this with the right measures. Well-structured data on one’s own website helps to positively influence the information in the Knowledge Graph, and high-quality content with further information can at least partially compensate for the lost traffic.


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