What Is the Google Knowledge Graph & How Does It Work?

Mar 26, 2023 | SEO News Feeds | 0 comments

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What Is Google’s Knowledge Graph?

The Google Knowledge Graph is an enormous database of information. It enables Google to provide immediate and factual answers to search queries about real-world topics.

These topics—also known as entities—may be people, organizations, places, events, things, animals, foods, abstract notions, concepts, etc.

If you’ve ever googled something and received a useful answer without having to make another click, you likely have Google’s Knowledge Graph to thank.

Let’s take a look at Google’s search result for the query “J. R. R. Tolkien”:

This search doesn’t provide just standard search results with links to other websites. Instead, it shows a summary of the basic information about the author, his books, and other relevant media.

All of this is part of Google’s Knowledge Graph. 

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at how Google’s Knowledge Graph works, how it impacts SEO, and what it means to optimize your website for the Knowledge Graph. 

How Does Google’s Knowledge Graph Work?

Google introduced the Knowledge Graph in 2012, with the slogan “things, not strings.”

Google’s goal is to understand the meaning behind “real-world entities and their relationships to one another.” As opposed to just showing results based on the strings of words used in the search query. 

Here’s Google’s introductory video explaining the Knowledge Graph (in less than three minutes):

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Youtube video thumbnail

Google’s Knowledge Graph contains two basic types of data:

  1. Entities: Real-world topics like J. R. R. Tolkien, book, “The Lord of the Rings,” South Africa, or the year 1892
  2. Relationships: How different entities connect to each other. For example, J. R. R. Tolkien is the author of the book named “The Lord of the Rings.” Tolkien was born in South Africa in 1892.

It might help to picture the Google Knowledge Graph like a mind map. The nodes represent entities, and the edges represent relationships between them.

Google Knowledge Graph example

Thanks to this database of knowledge, Google is able to provide immediate answers to search queries like “where did the author of the Lord of the Rings die”:

where did the author of the Lord of the Rings die query

Or “famous writers born in South Africa”:

famous writers born in South Africa query

Neither search contains Tolkien’s name. But Google understands the context and knows the queries are related to him—thanks to the information in the Knowledge Graph.

Google collects data for the Knowledge Graph from a variety of sources (like Wikipedia, Wikidata, and the CIA World Factbook).

The information Google shows in the search results is generated automatically.

Side note: Aknowledge graph is any semantic network that stores data. So Google’s Knowledge Graph is not the only one. Another well-known knowledge graph is Wikidata.org

Knowledge Graph vs. Knowledge Panel

The knowledge panel is the visual representation of data from the Knowledge Graph. People sometimes refer to the knowledge panel as a “Knowledge Card” or “Google Search Graph.”

You can find it on the right side of Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs).

Here are some examples of various knowledge panels:

various knowledge panels example

We’ll take a closer look at how to optimize for the Knowledge Graph and get a knowledge panel later in this guide. 

Further reading: Google knowledge panel

How the Knowledge Graph Impacts SEO

The Knowledge Graph gives users speedy and clear answers to their questions. 

This means no more clicking through website pages full of text to find a straight answer. Or typing endlessly into the Google search bar to ensure Google understands your question.

If your business has a knowledge panel, you get increased visibility in SERPs. 

Here’s one that appears if you search for “Semrush”:

By including images and basic information about the company, this knowledge panel gives Semrush more exposure in the search results.

But there’s also a downside: 

Because Google offers answers to users directly on its results pages, zero-click searches have increased. Zero-click searches are searches that don’t end up with a user clicking one of the search results.

According to Semrush’s Zero-Clicks Study from 2022, around 25% of all desktop searches are zero-click searches.

google search CTRs infographic

This likely isn’t great news for those who create content about topics Google’s Knowledge Graph covers. 

If someone wants to find out “what’s the capital of Switzerland” or “how old is King Charles,” they don’t need to visit a website if the answer is right in the SERP. 

The good news is: 

Although some keywords may have become ineffective to target (e.g., “how old is King Charles”), there will always be demand for more in-depth and authoritative information on various topics.

That’s why conducting detailed keyword research for your website is more important than ever.

It will help you:

  • Pick the best and most effective keywords for your SEO strategy
  • Understand the search intent behind those keywords to give users exactly what they need

How to Optimize for the Knowledge Graph

The reason why you would want to optimize your website for Google’s Knowledge Graph is usually simple: to get more SERP visibility and brand exposure by getting a knowledge panel.

But here’s the problem:

  • The process of getting a knowledge panel is not straightforward. There is no simple “do this, and you’ll definitely get a knowledge panel” hack.
  • It depends on your overall authority. If you are a smaller brand with an average online presence, you almost certainly won’t get a knowledge panel immediately.

So, optimizing for the knowledge panel may not be relevant for you right now. 

However, you can look at the following tips as ways to improve your online presence and authority. And help Google understand your business better.

Regardless of whether these tips will lead to a knowledge panel for you, they will certainly help your brand in general.

Claim and Edit Your Knowledge Panel (if Applicable)

Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who already got their knowledge panel without even knowing about it.

If this is the case, you can claim and verify your panel.

Start by signing in to your Google account. Then search for your brand name to see the knowledge panel you want to claim. 

Once you find your knowledge panel, click the “Claim this knowledge panel” button at the bottom of your panel.

Claim this knowledge panel button

You’ll be sent to Google’s claim page. Click “Get Verified.” 

Get Verified button highlighted

Here, you’ll have to log in to one of your profiles associated with your knowledge panel. It can be a profile on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.

verify your profile page

Once you’re signed in, you’ve successfully claimed your knowledge panel. Now, you’ll be able to add more users to manage your Business Panel. You can set different permissions for each of them. 

You can also edit information in your Knowledge Graph—although not directly. You’ll be able to suggest an edit that Google will review.

Once you’re logged in to one of the verified Google accounts, look for a “Suggest an edit” link in your knowledge panel.

You can suggest changes to various areas of your knowledge panel. Just click the little pencil icon next to the area you want to edit.

suggest changes to various areas of your knowledge panel

Fill in all the information in the pop-up window that will appear. Be as detailed as possible. Then, click “Send.”

giving feedback on knowledge panel page

Now, you’ll have to wait for manual approval by Google. They’ll email you the result of your request. 

Note: Anyone can make edit suggestions to any knowledge panel (both claimed and unclaimed) through the little “Feedback” link at the bottom of each knowledge panel. 

A lot of the information on the Google Knowledge Graph comes from Wikipedia and Wikidata (Wikipedia’s Knowledge Graph). 

For example, here’s a Wikipedia article about Starbucks:

Wikipedia article about Starbucks

As you can see, the knowledge panel uses the exact first sentence from the Wikipedia article.

knowledge panel about Starbucks

Getting a Wikipedia or Wikidata entry will almost certainly help you get a knowledge panel.

But there is a catch. 

You usually have to be a “notable” company to get a Wikipedia article. As Wikipedia states in their guidelines to notability for companies:

An organization is generally considered notable if it has been the subject of significant coverage in reliable, independent secondary sources. 

To put it simply, you need to be a really big company with a lot of authoritative references.This makes getting a Wikipedia entry almost as difficult as getting the knowledge panel. 

Side note: If you are a “notable” business, read this guide to getting a Wikipedia article. Or read our post on how to create a Wikidata page to learn more. 

If you’re a smaller business that is not notable enough for Wikipedia, don’t worry. Wikipedia is not the only source of information for the Google Knowledge Graph.

According to Kalicube, the two sources Google uses the most after Wikipedia are:

  1. Crunchbase
  2. LinkedIn

The great thing is that it’s much easier to create a company profile on these websites than it is to get a Wikipedia article.

So they might be a good start. Here’s how to create a Crunchbase company profile and how to create a LinkedIn company profile.

Besides, many other reputable sources can help you improve your overall authority. 

These can be:

  • News sites
  • Industry magazines
  • Reputable directories
  • Etc.

A great way to find backlink opportunities in your niche is to use the Backlink Gap tool.

It’s simple: 

Enter your domain and the domains of some bigger players in your industry (e.g., the ones that already have knowledge panels).

Backlink Gap tool

Within seconds, you’ll get a list of domains linking to your competitors but not to you.

list of domains linking to your competitors

You can order them by Authority Score and review them one by one. 

By clicking the number in the column belonging to your competitors, you can check what specific pages attracted those backlinks from reputable sites.

number in the column belonging to your competitors highlighted

Then, you can reverse engineer your competitors’ backlinks to replicate their success. 

Use Structured Data for Organization

Structured data is a way of tagging specific pieces of information on your website so Google can understand them. The most common way to use structured data is schema markup. 

The “Organization” type of schema markup helps you tag various information on your website, such as: 

  • Name
  • Logo
  • Address
  • Contact info
  • Person
  • Etc.

For example, the schema markup with the basic information about Semrush (name, description, logo, and contact information) would look like this:

<script type=”application/ld+json”>
“@context”: “http://schema.org”, 
“@type”: “Corporation”, 
“name”: “Semrush”, 
“description”: “Semrush – online visibility management and content marketing SaaS platform”, 
“logo”: “https://cdn.semrush.com/__static__/semrush-logo-700.jpg”, 
“email”: “mailto:mail@semrush.com”, 
“telephone”: “+1-800-815-9959”, 
“url”: “https://www.semrush.com/”, 

Because the information is clearly marked up, Google will have a much easier time understanding what’s what. And possibly use the information in its Knowledge Graph. 

We won’t go into the details of implementing schema on your website, but we have some useful resources that may help you:

To check the implementation of your structured data, use the Schema Markup Validator.

You can also check invalid structured data items in Semrush’s Site Audit tool. 

Just create a free account and set up the first audit of your website.

In the Site Audit overview, find the “Thematic Reports” section. Then, click “View details” under “Markup.”

Site Audit tool markup highlighted

Here, you’ll see an overview of all types of markup your website uses.

pages by markup type overview

Beneath that, you’ll see a list of all your structured data items.

structured data items page

If there are invalid items in the list, click the “View invalid items” button at the bottom of the report, review the issues, and fix them. 

Set Up a Google Business Profile (if Applicable)

If you’re a business owner with a physical storefront, sign up for Google Business Profile. 

Google Business Profile (formerly known as Google My Business) is a free tool that lets you manage your business information and presence in Google search results and Google Maps. 

Here’s what a Business Profile looks like in SERPs:

Business Profile in SERP

As you can see, it’s very similar to a knowledge panel. Except it contains more information relevant to your customers (e.g., opening hours, popular times, reviews, etc.)

Having a Google Business Profile doesn’t mean you’ll also get to the Knowledge Graph. But it provides an additional source of data for Google.

And a Google Business Profile is almost as valuable as the Knowledge Graph from a business point of view. 

Make sure all the information about your business is 100% accurate, up to date, and consistent.

Further reading: Read our detailed guide to Google Business Profile and learn how Semrush’s Listing Management tool can help you step up your local SEO game. 

Key Takeaways

  • Google’s Knowledge Graph is a huge database of information that allows Google to better understand search queries and provide answers to some of the questions directly in the search results 
  • The most common way the data from Knowledge Graph appears in search results is the knowledge panel
  • If your business already has a knowledge panel, you can claim it and suggest edits 
  • To optimize for Knowledge Graph, you need to let Google understand your business and show that you’re a reputable entity
  • Some of the most effective ways to get a knowledge panel are using structured data and having links from other reputable sources (such as Wikipedia, Crunchbase, authoritative websites from your industry, etc.)
  • A great way to find backlink opportunities is to use Semrush’s Backlink Gap tool. You can create a free account and try it out right away.

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