Google has rolled out what it describes as ‘the next frontier in search’, the Google Knowledge Graph. Already in use in the US, this new search engine upgrade from the advertising giant will be made available to most English speaking countries within the next few days and, as usual, to the rest of the world in the weeks and months to come.
Google claims that this upgrade is a much more intelligent version of its existing engine, because it is able to read the words in web content on a semantic level as opposed to a lexical one, as has always been the case.
This means that Google no longer sees phrases and search terms as strings of letters that form words, but that it understands the empirical meaning of those words in different contexts.
In the Google’s own words, the company is ‘in the early stages of moving from being an information engine to becoming a knowledge engine’.
The output of data stored in the Knowledge Graph will be displayed as per the image below, with Google SERPs being split into two columns – the kind of results that currently appear in the SERPs will now appear on the left, with encyclopaedic results and results related to the user’s Google+ Circles being displayed on the right – essentially the representation of the new Google Knowledge Graph.
Image credit: Google
The Knowledge Graph uses approximately 3.5 billion different ‘facts’, many of which presumably come from its 2010 acquisition of Metaweb’s Freebase database, to organise results. These ‘facts’ are then are combined with material that previous searchers found useful.
The newly designed right-hand SERPs panel offers the searcher a direct link to encyclopaedic information with the addition of a list of subjects that ‘people also search for’. In this way, it seems, there could be no end to the growth and learning capabilities of the Graph.
The official video was posted to YouTube by Google on 16 May and gives users a more visual insight into how the new technology works. Depicting the Graph as being akin to the synapses of a human brain, the video more deeply entrenches the idea that Google is to become an entity in its own right, with the power to learn and grow the way the human brain does, with the aim of it serving users better and better over time.
The engine’s algorithms act ‘more human’, added Google Engineer, Mr Singhal. Some have even likened it to the technology behind Apple’s virtual assistant: Siri.
So what does the introduction of the Knowledge Graph mean for SEO, content strategies and social media?
Until we have the power in our own hands, all we can offer is conjecture.
For SEO, it seems that traditional methods will still apply to the results in the SERPs’ left-hand panel – but the methods that can be applied for influence of results on the Knowledge Graph panel remains to be seen.
With regards to content, Google has prescribed endlessly that rankings in this field rely on quality, relevancy to the topic, freshness and shareability. But with the Knowledge Graph now displaying a constantly updated connection to what others find useful, content is ever more important in terms of usability and suitability for searchers.
In terms of social media, there have been many discussions, debates and studies carried out regarding the correlation of social signals with rankings… But what does the Google Knowledge Graph spell for corporate use of social channels?
In its nascent form, not a lot is certain, but it seems obvious that the use of Google’s own social platform is set to rise, with a convenient +1 button appearing in any search relating to a Google+ account.
This therefore means that it will become ever more imperative for companies to ensure that their brand profile appears on the platform if they are to benefit from the power of the new tool.
A notable interlude on the social media front would be the fact that Bing is also rolling out its own Snapshot sidebar, which feeds on the collective intelligence of the searcher’s friends through social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
A shrewd move from Google’s competitors, as it becomes more and more apparent that ‘in an increasingly social world of business consumers and buyers want to connect with people [as opposed to corporations]’ (Optimize, Lee Odden, 2012).
This relates back to the age-old marketing rule that consumer belief in the opinions of their piers far outweighs their belief in companies and even service providers, such as search engines.
Whether or not a social element (other than Google+) is something that Google is thinking of incorporating on its new SERPs panel remains to be seen.
So what’s in it for Google?
It may seem a little pessimistic searching constantly for an ulterior motive but there are a couple of ramifications that seem to be fairly obvious…
1. Online encyclopaedias, namely Wikipedia, will surely see a fall in the visits and perhaps even links to their pages. This could result in a natural fall in Wikipedia’s rankings as Google becomes the authority on encyclopaedic knowledge. Their scholarly authority will derive from the fact that their panel will display an amalgamation of all internet most reliable sources which trumps Wikipedia who have been known to be unreliable at times.
Is there a gain for Google in doing this? There may be a gain for businesses that have been gunning for the top spot on the SERPs, but how does this benefit the search engine? Comments already posted on the Youtube video reflect this forcast: a commenter known as has ps3animalfunds added ‘no more Wikipedia for me if they keep it up’.
2. With the introduction and growth of the Knowledge Graph, the use of Google+ by brands and consumers is set to become much more widespread, as brands find it increasingly necessary to engage with G+ and spur users to follow them over and engage with them on the platform. This activity will be necessary for brands if they are going to appear in the Graph panel, because via Google+, they will have the opportunity to push themselves here as industry authorities with great onsite content.
The Google Knowledge Graph and Google+ will therefore feed into each other helping each other to grow quickly over time. Other Google products such Google Docs will also be displayed against the new panel, further saturating users’ web experience with Google products.