Google increasingly takes third party content and displays it on Google so that the need to click through to your site gets eliminated. This is part of the so called Google Knowledge Graph, an initiative to provide information people search for right on Google instead of sending visitors to other sites.
Some SEO experts like AJ Kohn suggest to optimize your site to get included in Knowledge Graph results.
I’d like to take a closer look at this new and somewhat unsettling development without jumping on the bandwagon but considering pros and cons.
The Google Portal
The good old days of uncluttered Google search results are long gone. What we witness now is what I like to call the “Google Portal”. Others have dubbed it the Mega-SERP because there is a myriad of new additions beyond the simple 10 blue links of the past. You get bombarded with ads, (paid) Google services and inline content by way of the Knowledge Graph.
I’m a bit biased when it comes to Google these days after I had a lot of negative experiences with the search giant. I don’t want to whine again but let it be said that I wasted a lot of time and money on trying to use Google services and optimizing websites to suit Google’s requirements (white hat SEO) just to get penalized etc. Thus I’m wary of anything new and shiny coming from Google.
So personally I’d like to refer to the new scraped third party content entries on Google as the “Knowledge Grab“. It’s obvious why,
Google grabs your knowledge without giving back.
They get the eyeballs and thus ad impressions while you only get a barely visible link leading to the source nobody clicks on. Some scraped results are not much longer than the average snippets like with “how to lose weight” but others replace the search result almost completely like with weather related queries:
Adapting to Google’s Web
I may be the exception. I see a lot of people grumbling about these new changes but most people in the search marketing industry try to grab whatever stick is thrown to them by Google. So optimizers are trying to get a competitive advantage by considering this an opportunity.
When you want to show up in these Google boxes you have to to help Google a little bit more. It doesn’t suffice anymore to simply publish a website and get people to link to it. You need to use
among others to get listed in KG results as AJ Kohn has shown. As you see some of these services are on Google or have been introduced by Google and other search engines while others are community sites you don’t necessarily can edit yourself.
For example on Wikipedia you don’t just publish an article about yourself or your brand.
You may try that but you may encounter difficulties like downright deletion or even ban of your account. You can even get legal trouble in case you try to pay others to write about you.
It’s really hard to get an entry on Wikipedia, not even Rand Fishkin has one. Moz, his company sports a page but as a person he only shows up as source for or contributor to some articles and on an entry for another very prominent search personality, Barry Schwartz.
Freebase is also a community run knowledge base most people haven’t even tried yet to edit but now they may have to at least attempt to do it.
Bill Hartzer, a fellow SEO I know for years due to his writings has managed to show up prominently on Freebase for SEO. I wondered how he did it and whether it affected the KG. He simply created a profile for himself but the Freebase profile or entry data does not show up on Google results.
It’s about giving Google what they need
Then it’s of course essential to engage on Google+ regularly otherwise your profile or page will be utterly useless as nobody will see it.
You could argue that you only want to do it for Knowledge Graph optimization but Google also attempts to assess your authority and connectivity. So when nobody even looks at your Google+ content your score will be pretty low.
This is what I see when I search for [positionly] on Google.com while logged in. As you see Positionly is in my circles so that’s the reason why I see the extra box. Searching anonymously on a clean browser I don’t see any KG addition to the Google search results for the query.
The same things happens when searching for [moz]. Despite them being on Wikipedia I don’t see any of the content from there. When I search for [seo software] I see mostly ads above (for the likes of Fiverr) the fold and I don’t get any Knowledge Graph results.
How did Google+ engagement work for me?
By now you may now that I’m pretty popular on Google+. I have ca. 10k followers there and I have been busy for 2.5 years sharing content, commenting, and voting for other people’s shares. When I search for my name (nobody besides me and other poles can type in anyway) I see the following box:
Now consider what happens when I search for my cryptic name while logged out. This is all I see on #1:
Below there are several very ugly images of someone else of the same name so I didn’t want to show them here. There is no KG box on the side. Take also note how Google outranks my site for my own name in regular search results. So I have shot myself in the foot by actually engaging on Google+ while neglecting my own homepage. Only on German results I see my homepage onreact.com on #1. So actually the Google+ engagement backfired for me when it comes to SEO.