Knowledge Graph Optimization 101

04/14/2016 09:39 am ET Updated Apr 14, 2017

Before Google was the global search engine juggernaut that it is today, it was far more primitive at its initial launch in 1998.

Heck, I remember just a few years ago when practically anyone who plugged a few keywords into an article could get on page one with relative ease. But over the years, Google has gradually evolved and has become increasingly sophisticated along the way.

The knowledge graph represents a significant leap in Google's evolution and has taken them one step further to fulfilling their mission to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."

Here are the basics of how the knowledge graph impacts SEO, and how you can optimize for it.

What is the Google Knowledge Graph?

Search Engine Land defines the Knowledge Graph as "a system that Google launched in May 2012 that understands facts about people, places and things and how these entities are all connected. It's used both behind-the-scenes to help Google improve its search relevancy and also to present Knowledge Graph boxes, at times, within its search results that provide direct answers."

Here are two specific examples of how it works:

  1. A user types in "famous rock bands" into the Google search box. Instantly, they will see a picture carousel at the top of their screen that includes bands like The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, Nirvana, etc.
  • A user types in "The Beatles." In addition to relevant links on the left side of the search results, users will get information from the knowledge graph on the right side of the screen. This includes a few images of the band, a brief summarization from Wikipedia, their origin (Liverpool, England), band member's names and so on.
  • In other words, Google analyzes a search phrase and offers additional information that would be relevant to whatever a user is searching for. This provides a more comprehensive picture of what users are curious about and allows them to perform more in-depth research with minimal effort.

    What Does the Knowledge Graph Mean for SEO?

    The fact the knowledge graph now exists is tangible proof of Google's growth and evolution and has added a new dimension in terms of helping users find the information they're looking for quickly and conveniently. Or as Razvan Gavrilas of Search Engine Journal eloquently puts it,

    "It's about the interconnections between several entities and concepts. Google can intuitively perceive what you are really trying to find."

    When it comes to SEO, this algorithmic feature is about deciphering user intent and effectively answering whatever question they may have rather than simply displaying a list of websites based on keywords. In my opinion, this is a significant game changer and is proof that old school, antiquated SEO techniques are on their way out and are being replaced by more humanized ones.

    How to Optimize for It

    The truth is, "knowledge graph optimization" isn't about optimizing for an algorithm as much as it is optimizing for humans.

    Your goal should be to produce information and create a website that provides the best value in the best way for people -- specifically your target customers.

    Gone are the times where digital marketers try to manipulate search engines by using the latest, crafty strategies.

    Instead, getting results is more reliant upon creating valuable content aimed toward actual humans rather than search engine bots. In my opinion, this is good news because we can forget about constantly shifting from one slick technique to the next and simply focus on generating the best possible content.

    So what's best way to ensure that you rank high in the SERPs?

    Arguably the most important thing to do is to brainstorm some common questions that users would ask and figure out what their intention is. Or as Razvan Gavrilas puts it,

    "You have to head off your audience's need and create question-based content."

    By putting yourself in your audience's shoes and thinking from their point of view, this should guide you in the type of content you create and the keywords you choose.

    Using Keywords Correctly

    Keywords still play an integral role in SEO. Using them just requires a different approach than in the past. Here's an example that goes back to a user searching for "The Beatles."

    By including the keywords "The Beatles" and "John Lennon," you could receive traffic from people searching for the band, who are then led to the singer, and from people who are searching for the singer, who are then led to the band. When done correctly, you can capitalize on the Knowledge Graph -- and you should be able to pull in a larger traffic volume without a lot of extra effort.

    When it comes to incorporating your keywords, you should of course use them in the appropriate places, just as you would comply with typical SEO best practices.

    • Title
    • URL
    • Meta description
    • Image name and description
    • Introduction, in the body of your post once or twice and in the last paragraph

    But there's a very important caveat. Remember, it's about the user experience. The keywords you use should enrichen the user experience and not take away from it.

    Conclusion

    I know that I personally have enjoyed the Knowledge Graph and have found that it has created a more robust search experience.

    I also think that it's a good thing for SEO and will be an asset to digital marketers who understand it and know how to use it to their advantage.

    The main takeaway is that creating user-centric content has never been important -- and the digital marketers who thrive will be able to deliver what their audience is looking for.

    How have you adjusted your SEO campaign to account for the Knowledge Graph?