The search experience at Google
has changed dramatically over
the past few years.
While the factors used today by the search
engine to determine placement on its results
pages aim to deliver an enriched user experience,
it has made the process of natural or
organic search optimization an infinitely
more complicated and challenging undertaking for
What Is Google Doing to Us?
When Google announced its Knowledge Graph initiative
back in May 2012, search engine optimization professionals
(SEO’s) across the Web started to worry. They
worried that the top organic listings they worked so diligently
to establish would be pushed down the results
page. They also worried that big brands would ultimately
not just control more virtual real estate, but also,
in many respects, completely dominate and overshadow
their smaller (and perhaps less savvy) competitors. For
some, that’s already happening.
But the situation is getting worse. In early Oct.
2012, Google formally released its Product Listing Ads
(read more on page 36) and the very next month
“spiffed” up its search result pages with a new navigation
bar. Both of these announcements, you guessed
it, pushed those coveted first-page listings even farther
down the fold (sometimes out of view completely). It
is almost as if Google has a virtual vendetta against
anyone who ever optimized their site for higher placement
on search results.
If Google’s recent set of changes has your SEO team
flustered and fearing for the long-term sustainability of
your digital enterprise, know that understanding what
the Knowledge Graph is and how it works can provide
some virtual relief.
Understanding the Knowledge Graph
From a high level, the Knowledge Graph is Google’s
attempt to provide information instead of, or rather
than, websites alone. As you might imagine, the
“knowledge” can come in a variety of forms (from a
one-line answer to a micro-biography or an organizational
profile). These developments are intended to
make search more intelligent and accessible.
With information on hundreds of millions of people,
places and things, Google’s Knowledge Graph initiative
isn’t just about aggregating, indexing and ranking
data, but is also about taking action upon the attributes
of data that enables Google to better understand connections
and make the information more useful and
meaningful to an end-user. For example, if a user
searches for “things to do in Chicago,” they will encounter
an image carousel that consistently sources information
from Wikipedia, an authoritative, well-cited
’Net destination, and contains images of popular destinations
in Chicago (see image).
Understand that, today, content needs to be correlated,
connected and shared by authorities to top the
search results pages.
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Solutions for Search Salvation
Every enterprise on the Web is concerned with the
constantly shifting state of SEO best practices. It is
being transformed right before your digital-loving
eyes and in significant, business altering ways. The
strategies employed today are wildly different than
those used even a few short years ago. Fortunately, it
is possible to, at least in part, avoid a Knowledge
Graph-tastrophe. Consider future proofing your SEO
with the following strategies:
The path toward avoiding a
Knowledge Graph-tastrophe moves squarely through
Google+. Digital marketing and analytics vendor
Fathom conducted a study recently that examined the
top-100 brands as defined by Millward Brown’s 2012
BrandZ List. What was found may surprise you. Only
24 percent of the top-100 brands examined triggered a
Knowledge Graph entry when searched, and the information
for 92 percent of those entries came directly
from Google+ (the remainder came from Wikipedia).
You’ll be hard pressed to find more convincing evidence
that creating a Google+ page is fundamental to future
proofing your SEO campaigns.
If there is one area where Google
needs the help and support of SEO’s, in relation to success
with its Knowledge Graph, it is in the use of microdata.
Remember, Google’s aspirations are to evolve
from a search engine into a knowledge engine, and it
can’t do that with sparse levels of data. Google needs
Web marketers, designers/developers and, of course,
SEO’s to use more structured markup, as it enables the
knowledge engine to better correlate a Web page to the
intent of a user/searcher. This, in turn, makes it easy for
Google to determine relevance. To stay alive on the
SERPs in 2013 and beyond, you’ll need to focus on supporting
more types of microdata on your digital property
including types for reviews, people, products,
events and, yes, even authorship markup.
“The (SEO) strategies employed today are wildly different than those
used even a few short years ago. Fortunately, it is possible to, at
least in part, avoid a Knowledge Graph-tastrophe.”
Let’s hope you’re not just using
traditional “content” in your SEO efforts. If there
is anything that Google’s SERP shuffles over the past
18 months have taught SEO’s, it is that using a variety
of assets (blogs, videos, places, books, etc.) proves
incredibly useful to securing search positions. One of
the more feasible strategies is something we’ve discussed
previously within the pages of Website Magazine’s
Mastering Search column — re-optimization or
content re-purposing. For example, if you have spent
resources (time or money) on blogging the past few
years, revisit that content and determine ways to transform
it into videos or infographics.
Perhaps more than any other
strategy referenced here, the acquisition of authoritative
citations remains the single most important
factor in generating competitive positions on the
SERPs. All data on the Web is inter-linked and has
relationships, and these signals establish your Web
presence. How well you refer to other sites with relevant
content and how many sites refer back to the
content — considering it a valuable resource — determine
the inter-connectivity of data and documents.
Other social signals, such as shares, likes, +1s,
etc. quantify these signals.
Avoid a Knowledge Graph-tastrophe
From Penguin to Panda and every index refresh in between
and after, you’ve likely felt the impact of Google’s
seemingly constant algorithm changes in the recent
past. As the search engine refocuses its energy and resources
on providing an improved experience for endusers,
SEO’s may suffer the most. To avoid a Knowledge
Graph-tastrophe focus on more and better Google+ participation.
You should also accelerate the integration of
microdata, expand the types and depth of content and
creative assets and pursue the most authoritative inbound