Google began slowly rolling out entity search almost two years ago in an effort to increase relevancy by identifying what words mean. By developing a smarter search that understands the correlation between strings of characters and real-life context, Google can improve the user experience by offering timely, accurate results.
Since then, we’ve seen a major evolution of search that has changed listings for organic, paid, local, shopping, and many additional features. But what does this mean for your brand? Below, I have highlighted how these changes have affected search and offered insight into how your brand can overcome this changing environment to stay relevant.
The Knowledge Graph is a knowledge base used to enhance Google’s search results with semantic search information gathered from a wide variety of sources. Google’s entity search aims to expand the Knowledge Graph by understanding relationships through stringing together relevant data and making real-world connections between content and how users search.
Today, when users search, Google analyzes past searches on similar topics and collects the information other users found relevant to build its Knowledge Graph. Google takes this information and displays it directly on its search page within graph panels. These panels save users time and allow search engines to learn more about the behaviors and interests of its users.
Google leverages the Knowledge Graph’s connected web of information to suggest related points of interest that simplify the search experience and help further educate users.
Entity search is another twist in the winding road of search optimization. One result of this new direction is that Google now provides direct answers to many queries within the search results, eliminating the need for users to click a link on the search engine results page (SERP).
However, this does not eliminate the need for brands to perform SEO. Google pulls its Knowledge Graph information from websites that are established as an authority based on search engagement, social activity, engagement around the web, and use of what they deem as factual data.
That means it is important to continue developing quality content and high rankings in search. Some brands and publishers will have the opportunity to be referenced as direct answers due to entity search; it’s also important to not forget that niche and in-depth content still holds value for those users deeper in the sales cycle looking for more information.
As you’ve seen in search results, Google has continued to develop its knowledge graph feature with an assortment of panels and carousels focused around an increasing variety of topics. Google pulls information for these direct answer panels from partnerships (ex: restaurant menus) and facts (ex: historical information, birthdays, definitions) which limits the need for users to leave Google and dig for information through other websites.
Marketing Opportunity: Google can’t answer everything in direct answers, so there will always be a need for content development. Continue to create valuable content that solves problems for your audience segments to gain authority in organic search.
Build up brand SERPs with content that creates an experience and drives conversions with content that addresses the primary needs of your current and prospective customers (reviews/testimonials, customer service, differentiators, location information, etc.).
Many recent updates, including direct answer panels, have created a shift in how results are displayed in Google. These panels have pushed down standard organic search results in an attempt to provide a better search experience. In some examples, standard organic results may not appear above the fold due to crowding from advertisements and entity search graph panels.
Marketing Opportunity: Adjust paid search strategies to focus on supporting the information provided within graph panels. Keep in mind that many keyword phrases will not trigger a graph panel and may not need to be adjusted, so do your homework. Doing paid search for graph panel related queries can be a great opportunity to drive users to educational content like videos or blog posts.
New local result 3-Pack panels offer more information but show fewer results in SERPs. Additionally, local results are being integrated into more search results for broad terms such as “restaurants” in an effort to help users find information faster. Clicking on the “more” link at the bottom of the 3-Pack will expand local search results into a full list of results that can be sorted and offer additional information for each individual link.
Marketing Opportunity: Ensure local listings are updated with relevant and correct information to increase exposure in search and chance of appearing in 3-Pack results. Tag your listings with keywords and detailed descriptions that can influence user decisions when exploring results. The example for “happy hour” below is a common missed opportunity for restaurants.
Entity search can offer great additional branding with informative panels that help your brand and products stand out; however, it can also give competitors a piece of your spotlight through suggested search results of similar brands.
Marketing Opportunity: Creating a robust SERP for your brand can help push competitor information further down the page and create a more complete and branded experience for users. Product manufacturers that support e-commerce should consider utilizing Google Shopping in conjunction with more standard ad formats such as text ads. Additionally, consider running ads to help claim more real estate on your results page as seen in the example below.
As Google’s Knowledge Graph continues to expand and reshape search results with more relevancy and personalization, brands must stay ahead of the curve with comprehensive digital marketing strategies. With Google, we’re often forced to become reactive — and this isn’t always a bad thing.
Develop a robust search presence with quality content, reviews, product listings, local presence, and paid advertisements to increase exposure and become an authority when current and prospective customers search. By building strong digital assets your brand will meet the needs of Google today, and likely for many updates to come.
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