The Knowledge Graph is like a free billboard on Google’s search results. Maximizing the real estate your Knowledge Graph occupies will further dominate search results when customers search for your brand.
What is the Knowledge Graph? Google displays a Knowledge Graph panel when a search query contains a notable entity — such as a well-known brand or a famous person — with information and links to related content.
In a sense, the Knowledge Graph is both friend and foe – it links to some owned content, but it also links away to other sites and even competitors. Like so many Google search features, however, the Knowledge Graph is a case of “if you can’t beat them, join them.” Ecommerce sites should learn how to optimize their presence in the Knowledge Graph because there is no way to remove it from your branded search results.
More importantly, an optimized Knowledge Graph presence can outweigh and even reduce the appearance of links away from brand-owned content.
Knowledge Graph Example
Williams-Sonoma enjoys a particularly lengthy Knowledge Graph as part of its near total domination of the first page of search results (shown below). Nearly every paid ad, local listing, and search result links to content owned by Williams-Sonoma — its consumer-facing and corporate sites, its nearest locations, its social profiles.
The only content that leads away from Williams-Sonoma-owned content are the three areas circled in red in the image above — links to Wikipedia content and links that trigger new Google searches for other information or competing brands.
The Knowledge Graph for Williams-Sonoma is spectacularly long for a brand. With the help of the local results map panel at the top right, the Knowledge Graph actually pushes the “People also search for” competing brand logos out of the first page view. Williams-Sonoma has the benefit of brick-and-mortar stores to help accomplish this feat, as well as a long set of information snippets after its initial description statement pulled from Wikipedia.
Longer Knowledge Graph panels also increase your brand’s domination of the page, and draw more eyeballs, making it more likely that searchers will click to content that your brand owns. Below is a comparison of four Knowledge Graph panels.
The length of the Knowledge Graphs expand as the amount of brand-owned content expands.
Sur La Table’s Knowledge Graph contains no brand-owned content. Clicking on the logo takes you to Google Image search result, and the remaining links trigger new Google searches that are not relevant to Sur La Table. Interestingly, Sur La Table does maintain a Google+ profile, but there’s no real indication that the profile is from the official company.
Restoration Hardware’s panel is a little longer, thanks in part to the fact that it’s a publicly traded company. But its panel also contains an additional phone number and a Profiles section. Interestingly, the panel doesn’t list all of its social sites, not even Google’s own YouTube. There’s no recent posts section because its Google+ presence is also weak, with little indication that it is the official profile, versus the many competing profiles for “Restoration Hardware.” And clicking on the logo still triggers a Google Image search result.
Pottery Barn’s Knowledge Graph panel includes all of the possible sections – Profiles and Recent posts on Google+. However, Pottery Barn’s Knowledge Graph is still very short, and it’s only showing four out of the maximum five social icons allowed, despite the fact that it manages profiles in at least seven supported sites.
And lastly, Williams-Sonoma displays all of the optimizable sections and makes full use of its potential.
How to Optimize the Knowledge Graph
A combination of using Schema.org’s Organization markup structured data and maintaining an official Google+ profile will optimize your brand’s Knowledge Graph in Google. Your developer will need to implement the structured data piece. But don’t worry, it doesn’t affect how customers view your site.
- Logos. There are two ways to optimize your logo. Specify the image that should show in the Knowledge Graph, and influence where the link takes searchers when they click on it in the Knowledge Graph.
First, identify your official logo using Schema.org’s Organization markup in the home page of your official website. Have your developer see Google’s official logo guidelines here. In addition, if you want the logo to link to a Google+ page instead of an image search result, claim and optimize your Google+ profile.
- Company contact numbers. Many times consumers just want to know what your important phone numbers are. Placing phone number data in the same Schema.org Organization markup allows you to show those phone numbers easily without forcing customers to get frustrated digging through your site to find them. It may even make your shoppers more polite when they finally get a support person on the phone.
You can specify a wide range of phone numbers from customer and technical support to billing and credit card support. Remember, the more phone numbers that Google displays, the longer your panel will be. Have your developer see Google’s official contacts guidelines here.
- Social profile links. Google supports seven different social profiles in its profiles section — Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Myspace — though it will display a maximum of five. As with the others, to specify the official profile URLs that should be associated with your official website, we’ll be using Schema.org’s Organization markup in the home page of your official website.
Specify the five profiles you put the most effort into, and Google+, because the social profile logos act both as links to content your brand owns and also as distractions away from content your brand doesn’t own. Have your developer see Google’s official profile guidelines here.
It’s possible that Google will infer the same information from the social sites you link to in your header or footer, but inclusion is typically incomplete with Google deciding to show a couple and not others. The best way to be certain that Google knows which social profiles belong to your brand and should be included in search results is to declare them using structured data.
- Google+ recent posts. After you use structured data to establish your official Google+ account, the posts you submit on Google+ should be shown on your brand’s Knowledge Graph. Getting them shown is the first step, because it exposes your latest social posts to everyone who searches for your brand, not just the far fewer people specifically using Google+ that day. It also gives searchers an opportunity to follow your brand right from the Knowledge Graph.
This is an excellent way to both increase the reach of your individual posts, and also to increase your following. To make the most of it, follow Williams-Sonoma’s lead — always use an image, preferably a vertical image to expand the length of the panel, and say something engaging in your text. Pottery Barn’s two line message about spring cleaning, with no image and a visible short link, is at best ignorable and at worst off-putting.
Utilize this space. It matters to the people who see your posts on Google+, but it also helps grab the attention of the far larger audience of people searching for your brand in Google.
How to Get a Knowledge Graph Panel
If a search for your brand doesn’t already trigger a Knowledge Graph panel, the unfortunate reason is that Google doesn’t consider the brand to be a large enough entity that searchers would benefit from seeing additional information.
That’s a truth that’s hard to swallow. Your brand may be important in ways that people don’t understand or talk about. Your brand may go quietly about its business doing great work. The only way that Google understands that an entity, in this case a brand, is important is because it is talked about on the web.
Google doesn’t publish guidelines for appearing in a Knowledge Graph, so the criteria are fuzzy. However, most brands share a set of common attributes.
Certain areas trigger Google’s interest more than others. Gaining entry in the Wikimedia family of sites, particularly Wikipedia, that cross-link with other profiles and acts as reference to others is a strong signal that a brand is worthy of a Knowledge Graph panel.
Brands that aren’t even recognizable to many people show up in the Knowledge Graph because they are a publicly held company that trades on the stock market or they are part of the Internet Retailer 500 or another notable list of successful brands. Inclusion in those types of lists implies notability, which in turn indicates worthiness to be included in Wikipedia.
Creating a Google+ profile and regularly posting to it certainly doesn’t hurt. I reviewed, above, how to use it to optimize Knowledge Graph exposure. An active profile with a strong following would also be a signal to Google that the brand is generating interest.
Along the same lines, if searchers search for your brand, that’s a signal Google understands very well to mean that people want to know more about a brand. This in itself could trigger the creation of a Knowledge Graph panel.
Generating search demand and inclusion in a list of the most successful businesses aren’t easy, however. It’s akin to saying “Be very successful, then you can have a Knowledge Graph panel.” Unfortunately, that’s somewhat true.
A strong content marketing strategy could help trigger search demand by increasing awareness of your brand. It’s an excellent place to start, not just to trigger a Knowledge Graph panel, but to boost organic search performance and direct traffic overall.