One of the standout and most interesting aspects of Google's Knowledge Graph execution is the presentation of the Quick Answers Box. That, of course, leads us to the ultimate question: how do you get your website and its content as the answer in the answer box?
Opinions vary wildly among the community of Web professionals about the presence of the Quick Answer box, which provides both significant challenges and incredible branding and acquisition opportunities. Is it possible to optimize for this increasingly common experience on the search results? There's some heady content below addressing semantic markup, structured data and the Knowledge Graph in general, but the answer is a resounding yes!
Starting with a Definition & A Brief History
There's a lot of confusion about optimizing for the current Google search results, and perhaps the most challenging aspect of SEO for Web professionals to wrap their head around today is the Google Knowledge Graph itself. While it sounds somewhat lofty and mysterious, the Knowledge Graph is essentially just a knowledge base used by the search engine to enhance its organic results with additional and accurate information that is rich in meaning (which can be gathered from a variety of sources - knowing that will come in handy shortly).
Google certainly isn't the only search engine with a knowledge base (Microsoft's Bing offered up the Satori Knowledge Base in mid-2013), but since Google has a majority of the search activity today and the presence of features like the Quick Answer box is increasing, it's important to find ways to maximize the opportunity that exists. So let's begin!
Google first introduced the Knowledge Graph back in 2012 and it has steadily grown in both breadth, depth and importance since.
In Aug. 2014, for example, Google unveiled the "Knowledge Vault," which accumulates data from various crowd-sourced information sources such as Wikipedia and Freebase (the latter, Freebase, will actually be shut down in late 2015 with the data migrating over to Wikidata) as well as data it compiles itself from the Web (moving us a step closer to optimizing the Quick Answer box).
With nearly 2 billion facts (and answers) available today, it should be obvious to Web professionals that it is now absolutely necessary to address some of the variables considered by the machine learning algorithms in place at Google which fuel this new search experience.
Structured Data: The most important variable to optimize when it comes to the Knowledge Graph is structured data and semantic markup. Well-structured data enables search engines to understand information and in turn provide better (read richer) search results, allowing end-users to find relevant information more efficiently than ever before. Website Magazine regularly publishes practical tips and guidance on implementing structured data and taking advantage of semantic markup such as the Semantic Markup Crash Course.
Manage Presence: It wouldn't be Google if citations weren't at least one part of the equation used to determine what gets a Quick Answer box or a Knowledge Graph listing. Very little information is available on the conditions under which Google will use information and from where, but there is no shortage of information available provide guidance. If you're looking to get a Knowledge Graph listing for your organization, start with building out your own Google+ profile and doing your best to secure a Wikipedia listing as these are the best opportunities available to ensure a Knowledge Graph listing is secured.
Quality Information: While Google encourages organized and well-structured data, they also provide a boost to those sites they determine to be of "higher quality" and one of the defining characteristics of that seems to be the use of content that is relevant and optimized for the digital user experience (factual, to the point and informative), and most importantly, answers a specific question. This is by no means a new concept - in fact, Website Magazine wrote about Knowledge Base Optimization way back in 2011 (now, aren't you glad you're a subscriber?).
So what does any of this have to do with capturing an answer in the answer box? In a word, everything. If you're already optimizing your broader digital presence by complementing it with semantic markup, earning citations from sources which Google regularly leverages for data and are providing quality information, you're ahead of the game - but it's not over yet (not by a long shot). There needs to be a dramatic shift in approach by brands in the way content is developed. As previously mentioned, content on those sites that have received an answer box listing are those that tend to answer a specific question, providing relevant and factual information to support their answer.
During the Google I/O conference in May 2013, Google's Amit Singhal presented on the future of search, explaining that a search engine's three primary functions will need to evolve and that search will need to: 1. Answer, 2. Converse and 3. Anticipate. In order to make that a reality, Web professionals need to do their part and that includes offering up information that is richer in meaning, information that answers questions, encourages understanding and engages.
Head of analyst relations, public relations, customer advocacy (People Heroes), customer community, content marketing (full funnel/lifecycle), content operations and optimization, reputation management and social media. Leads a team of nine superstars to exceed our goals multi-fold.