Strings to Things; Google Knowledge Graph Turns Searches into Answers

You may remember earlier in the year when Google mentioned a “semantic search” was in the works. Well, as of yesterday, it’s here. In a recent post on the official Google blog, Senior Vice President of Engineering Amit Singhal explained the next big thing from Google – The Knowledge Graph. The concept is fairly simple, instead of just returning a list of websites that have keywords that match the string of characters that comprise your query, Google does that and attempts to deliver information that might pertain to the subject.  In short, the search engine attempts to understand exactly what you’re getting at in order to deliver relevant content; not only possible websites that might match what you’re searching for, but also images, birth dates, locations, prominent works, recipes, and similar scientists/artists/architects/churches etc.

But any old search engine can show a mini Wikipedia article. The genius behind the Knowledge Graph is how it guesses what your query was intended to actually mean. You may recall back in January, Google revised their privacy policy to promote cross-platform information sharing on an account and a trimmed down privacy policy. It also allowed Google to collect data more efficiently from its users. By tracking almost everything you do on a Google service, Google is now able with the Knowledge Graph to better tailor what exactly you’re looking for.

For instance, the example Amit Singhal uses is the Taj Mahal, Now if you enter [Taj Mahal] into google, it has no way of knowing if you mean the iconic monument, the accomplished blues musician, or any number of Indian restaurants that use the name. With Google Knowledge Graph, the results can be much more tailored. Say in your google+ account, you’ve mentioned an affinity for Chana Masala, and in your gmail account you asked some co-workers if they’d like to go out for some Indian food for lunch. “Sure!” they say, “we should go to that Taj Mahal place that opened up, where is it?” Well, google it, duh.

Knowledge Graph takes the information from those disparate Google services, and binds them together (with possibly, and this is simply conjecture on my part, time and location data) to give you a list of all the Taj Mahal Indian Restaurant locations near you. It forgoes the way more famous monument and musician to display what it thinks is the most relevant data to you at the time.

Ok, But What Does it Mean for SEO?

Reception has been subdued among the SEO community.  As it is fairly new, advice from SEO experts has been mostly to remain calm and carry on. Essentially, keep building websites with SEO oriented markup (which is to say, good markup,) and develop deep, well done content. The eyes are to the future, however, as this does have the potential to shake up the status quo. For instance, Wikipedia, which has long dominated google page rankings, might take a traffic hit. Because a basic outline of information is being displayed right on the google search page, people will only need Wikipedia for very specific questions. With “things” getting more and more emphasis than “strings,” or simple keywords, content is king.