The Knowledge Graph: What you need to know
Many online marketers today are making one fundamentally mistaken assumption. They want to use their content as a way to fool Google into believing a website has a certain keyword combination users might find relevant in their searches.
This is not only taken as a strategy among many power players around the world. It has been discussed and recommended by thousands of pseudo marketers for years.
Well, we have news for you. The game is changing.
We know that this has also been said. Marketers and analysts everywhere have been keeping everyone up to date with the latest Google algorithm changes. They have warned us that every time there is a new Penguin or Hummingbird rollout, page ranking shifts favoring those who have “richer content”. Then marketers start talking about keyword density, the use of H1, H2 and bullet points, or the right amount of buzzwords to include in your content if you want to rank higher.
They are all trying to find some kind of esoteric formula, but are missing one important point. That way of thinking is good only if we expect search engines to remain stupid.
We know that Google bots, until now, do not have the ability to really understand what words mean. When they see a keyword, they only see a string of characters that might resemble other strings people might be searching for. It is then logic to try to stuff our websites up with the most searched for strings of characters.
There was a time where this would guarantee a privileged spot on the search results. However, during the last few years, this has stopped being the case. We must remember Google’s mission: “…to organize the world’s information to make it universally accessible and useful.”
By just reading that, one could infer that they must be trying to build something that sees past all the gimmicky ways marketers try to disguise whatever they are selling as useful information.
The Knowledge Graph
A few years ago, Google revealed that they were building something called the knowledge vault. This is a different thing than building an encyclopedia, where information is collected and arranged by topic. The knowledge vault is not just a compendium of data. It does not just put pieces of information in front of you if you type a combination of characters in the search bar. Instead, it is a system that actually answers questions.
To make an example, let us compare the two systems. Databases contain information about a subject. If you want to know how old Einstein was when he wrote his relativity theory, you will have to perform a search for “Albert Einstein”, and then another search for “General Theory of Relativity”. You would have to go through his biography and put together pieces of information to find out how old he was when he published his famous theory.
The knowledge vault allows you to ask a question and get a direct answer, just like a human being would. It is all displayed in what we now know as the Knowledge Graph. Moreover, the graph offers additional lists of facts and related topics that you might find relevant according to what people has previously searched.
What does this all mean for online marketing?
It is amazing to hear marketers and so-called SEO experts talk about Google as if it were their enemy. Every time a new update rolls out, I hear many cursing the search engine giant and blaming it for making their jobs a nightmare.
What they fail to understand is that Google is not hunting marketers down. Google needs our help and wants us to contribute by enhancing the search experience for its users. We might want our page to rank highly for our own economic reasons. But Google wants exactly the same thing because it would mean we actually provide users with valuable and factual information about a product, service or entity.
If we are able to provide definitions, facts and detailed information about our business, products, and industry, we would actually be helping Google sort out what is truly relevant for a number of given search queries.
There are certain ways to make Google perceive you as a candidate for having a dedicated knowledge graph.
The main limitation for search engines has been to “know” what your website is about. Human beings can read words and phrases and understand concepts that are related to a wide array of other topics. Contrastingly, computers see text as strings of characters that bear no actual meaning for them. So, there has always been a need to help them “get it”.
That´s why semantic markup formats exist. Shema.org is an example of a shared vocabulary that you can use to mark up sections of your website so major search engines can actually understand what you are talking about.
For example. Imagine you are trying to promote yourself as a speaker. You would like Google to know that you are not a sound system. You would also want to narrow down to the specific topic you cover in your conferences by creating semantic tags to signal what subjects you talk about.
Using semantic markup formats is the best way to tell Google what your website is about without stuffing up your content with repetitive keywords. It also increases your chances of appearing on the Knowledge graph.
Google+ accounts are another great way to boost your chances. As you have to fill up information about your business, it serves as a fact sheet about who you are, what you do and where to find you. You can also tell Google what is the most suitable category or industry to put you in. This way, users have better chances of stumbling upon your website when they are searching for related topics.
Having an active Google+ profile could prove even more effective. If people give +1 to your posts or add you to their circles, it helps you garner a strong presence.
You should also create a Google+ local page for your business. This will allow people review your business, further boosting your chances to have your own Knowledge graph. Make sure your information matches with that on your Google+ profile.
Changing your attitude towards search engines can go a long way. The best advice is to stop trying to fool Google. Instead, start helping them make the internet a richer place for all. The tools are out there. If you use them, you and your business will soon be part of their knowledge vault and your rankings will likely go up as a result.