Google’s ultimate goal is to provide the best online experience to its users, and that means delivering users exactly what they want, when they want it. One major step toward this goal means offering users direct answers and resources instead of merely links to other sites.
I’ve written before about how these advancements are putting pressure on organic click-through rates, and most search optimizers are curious about how these developments might impact their strategies and careers.
However, not all of these developments are threats to search visibility and SEO — in fact, some of them, like the Knowledge Graph, may offer more opportunities than disadvantages.
What Is the Knowledge Graph?
Conduct a Google search for a simple question, like “what year did Wizard of Oz come out?” or “how to check oil in a car” and you’ll be met with a box of straightforward information to answer that question.
Sometimes, it will appear on the side in an organized box with basic information, and other times there will be a paragraph attempting to answer your question above the fold of traditional search results. This is the Knowledge Graph, a bank of information designed to give search users more immediate, thorough, and concise answers to their questions.
While this is obviously both convenient and informative for users, it also has the capacity to poach traffic from typical organic search results — if you let it.
How It Works
The Knowledge Graph is always expanding, and as you would expect, Google doesn’t publish exactly how its algorithm works. However, the general premise is simple. All the information in the Knowledge Graph comes from outside sources — usually high-authority informational sites like Wikipedia.
When this information is marked up properly, Google can interpret it, determine whether it’s the best or most succinct answer to a user query, and display it accordingly.
Key Opportunities for More Visibility
Though the Knowledge Graph may take some of the traffic and click-through rates of conventional entries, there are two main ways to exploit it for more visibility:
· Getting featured. For most Knowledge Graph entries, you’ll notice a citation. Google points out where it obtained the information, calling out the brand name and providing a link for users to follow to get more information. This could be your shortcut to getting your site featured higher in SERPs, provided you can get your information featured in the Knowledge Graph.
· Realigning your goals. You can also readjust your SEO goals and content strategy to compensate for the existence of the Knowledge Graph, which I’ll cover in more detail shortly. Essentially, you’ll want to select content topics that won’t necessarily compete with the Knowledge Graph for organic visibility.
Your first job is to get better at selecting the types of content you publish on your website. Depending on how you want to approach the problem, you could either deliberately choose topics that will feature Knowledge Graph entries in the hopes of getting featured, or choose topics that have a low likelihood of competing with a Knowledge Graph entry.
The former case has advantages and disadvantages. You’ll get a shot at getting featured in an entry, for sure, but that doesn’t guarantee you’ll see higher click-through rates. In fact, if users get all the information they’re looking for, they might actually have a lower chance of clicking through. You’ll also be competing with some existing sources of high-quality information, like Wikipedia, which have probably already covered your topic in depth.
Pursuing low-likelihood topics will generally give you topics with lower search volume, but better visibility and less competition.
Optimizing Your Content
If you choose to optimize for getting featured in the Knowledge Graph, start by choosing general-information topics. Oftentimes, these are entries on common subjects or how-to articles on general user needs.
However, you’ll want to be specific enough to avoid topics that are already sufficiently covered. From there, try to frame your article title in a format that mimics the user question you’re targeting, such as “how do I optimize an article for the Knowledge Graph?”
In the body of your content, answer the question succinctly and straightforwardly, in plain terms and as early in the article as possible. This will maximize your chances of getting featured.
On the other hand, you could deliberately choose to write topics that are highly niche-focused and specific, avoiding competition with the Knowledge Graph altogether.
No matter what, you should include microformatting on your site, using standards you can find at Schema.org. This is a way of formatting data on your site that makes it easier for Google to interpret, priming your content to be featured in the Knowledge Graph. It may also become a ranking factor in the near future.
As you can see, the Knowledge Graph isn’t something to be feared, but instead is simply a new opportunity for visibility. You’ll need to adjust some of the targets in your content marketing campaign and possibly change up your SEO strategy overall, but ultimately, this isn’t going to kill or overwrite any of the best practices you’ve grown to be familiar with over the years.
Instead, your tactics need to evolve gradually, alongside Google’s search algorithms, to adapt to the new circumstances. Remain flexible and cognizant of the times, and you’ll have nothing to worry about.