SEOs have been warning us about semantic search for quite some time. That day has finally come.
On May 16, Amit Singhal announced the arrival of the Google Knowledge Graph. While Panda and Penguin disrupted SEO, this update has the potential to change it forever. The fallout will be more subtle and gradual, but most genuine revolutions are.
What, specifically, has changed? Google has announced three new features that are being slowly rolled out to users.
1. "See Results About" - Suggestions in the search results are nothing new. If you misspell something, Google will correct you. If you search for a popular phrase, Google will suggest other popular phrases that contain the same words.
The "See results about" box is different. It can tell the difference between a person, a place, and a thing. It can recognize that two different things can have the same name, and it allows you to choose results for just one of those two things.
2. Summaries and Relationships - A new summary box will appear for certain queries. The information in the summaries will include answers to questions that are commonly searched for. So if you search for somebody's name, it will tell you all the information that most people want to know. It understands what that person is famous for, who they are related to, when they were born, and so on.
But it goes beyond understanding relationships between people. It understands relationships between concepts. More importantly, it understands how they are related. Marie Curie isn't just related to Radium and Polonium, she discovered them.
3. Serendipity - If there is traditionally only one downside to search engines, it's that they can only tell you what you already know you want to know. They can't tell us what we don't know we would be interested in. Or at least, they couldn't.
The new summary box provides us with information about the topic that other people have searched for, but that we might never have thought to search for. It also includes a "People also searched for" feature that tells us about other things we might be interested in.
Impact on SEO
The Knowledge Graph could very well change the way that people search, and this means that SEOs will need to change the way they do business. Only time will tell exactly what these impacts might be, but here are a few possibilities.
1. More Targeting - If you have an article about nails, currently you might receive traffic from people who are searching for the piece of hardware, as well as people who are searching for finger nails. Now that Google understands the difference between these two concepts, you can expect to receive more targeted traffic.
On the flip side of this, if you are pulling traffic for keywords that have dual meaning, you can expect to lose some of that traffic. This loss shouldn't have a tremendously negative impact, since they were looking for something else to begin with. Nonetheless, you will lose the opportunity to convert that traffic.
2. More In-Depth - Searchers will now have access to an easily digestible summary box that answers all of the most popular search questions. It's going to be sitting right next to the search results. If your articles are little more than more lengthy ways of providing the same information, you are going to be rendered irrelevant.
In order to compete with the summary box, you are going to need to do everything in your power to capture the searcher's attention. This means writing eye-catching titles, great hooks, and answering the searcher's question in a way that no summary ever could.
3. Be Searched For - Google will be recommending popular searches to its users. If your brand name is often searched for in close vicinity to a massively popular keyword, you can expect a tremendous boost in traffic. This means your brand, trust, and popularity are going to become even more important than they already are.
Will these changes influence pure SEO, as in rankings? Google hasn't made any statements suggesting that they will, but it would be naive to assume that such changes aren't on the way.
If Google is starting to understand what concepts are and how they are related to each other, it's easy to believe they'll get better at detecting whether you're offering new concepts, or just recycling what everybody else is saying. It's possible these factors are already being incorporated into Panda updates.
By the same token, it's easy to believe that the algorithm will use this data to measure relevancy. If your content is full of off-topic tangents or doesn't answer the searcher's question, it's increasingly likely Google will be able to tell.
Will the Knowledge Graph change your strategy? What other impacts can we expect?
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