The Knowledge Graph: Should Your Content & Business Strategy Change?

Many articles have been written on the Google Knowledge Graph and its impact on SEO, but have you given thought to how the Knowledge Graph potentially impacts your content strategy — or even your entire revenue model?

For many publishers, it’s time to take stock of how to work with the Knowledge Graph and how content strategy and revenue models may need to adjust with this shift in organic search.

The Knowledge Graph was designed to provide information about people, places and things (i.e., entities). Google gathers information to supply answers via the Knowledge Graph from a variety of sources, including Freebase, Wikipedia and select websites Google has indexed. When Google pulls Knowledge Graph information from websites, it does so without permission from website owners.

While the Knowledge Graph is potentially helpful for searchers, helping them find information faster, the addition of this information to the search results may likely mean a reduction in clicks to the websites in the SERPs. Take this search for [bengal tigers], for example. If a searcher can glean the information needed from the knowledge graph, why click on the Wikipedia entry?

knowledge graph

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Not all topics have a Knowledge Graph result today, but Google continues to expand Knowledge Graph categories regularly.

Just last week, concert dates were added to the Knowledge Graph. If you haven’t yet examined how the Knowledge Graph may affect your website strategy, make a plan now so that you’re well prepared in the event that your website’s information begins to be covered in the Knowledge Graph.

Content Strategy

In my estimation, the websites that may have the most to lose with Knowledge Graph results are traditional publishers. In the example above of the search for [bengal tigers], notice that National Geographic ranks second in the SERPs, just under Wikipedia.

National Geographic has a wealth of information about Bengal tigers, but if the knowledge graph provides just enough information for the searcher, will he or she click on the National Geographic result?

The Knowledge Graph issue extends beyond traditional publishers, though. If your content strategy has been centered around answering questions, you likely need to rethink that strategy quickly.

Searches for specific data or information will likely be affected in the future, if they have not been already. What types of information are likely to be included in the Knowledge Graph? Looking at many existing examples and knowing Google’s goal of providing quick access to information via the Knowledge Graph, expect information that can quickly answer questions to begin appearing in the knowledge graph results.

For example, while not a part of Knowledge Graph results today, current interest rates are an ideal candidate. What’s to stop Google from replicating the information found on MarketWatch directly in the knowledge graph?


Questions For Certain Business Models

Consider the following search for [United Way]:


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In this brand search, a Knowledge Graph entry appears, but it likely isn’t ideal for the United Way.

While the Knowledge Graph entry shares quick information about the United Way, this information is from Wikipedia — not necessarily written by the United Way itself — and the link to more information does not link to the organization’s website.

Why is that a problem? Take a look at the United Way’s homepage:

United Way Homepage

Note all of the calls-to-action on this page. It’s very clear when you visit the United Way that they have three main calls-to-action (or goals) for this website: give, advocate and/or volunteer.

But these calls to action aren’t communicated via the Knowledge Graph result. So if a searcher never makes it to the United Way homepage, doesn’t this essentially reduce the United Way’s opportunity to convert those visitors into donors, advocates or volunteers?

In the case of other businesses, like medical publisher WebMD, there are also potential direct impacts on revenue. For example, here is a search for [diabetes symptoms], a common type of search that will generate a WebMD result. Notice how this medical search has not one, but three Knowledge Graph boxes, taking up most of the search results page:


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WebMD’s revenue model is partly based on advertising revenue. However, if the Knowledge Graph reduced clicks to the site, this in turn reduces the impressions for advertising and potentially reduces clicks as well, likely reducing advertising revenue.

On-site advertising is arguably the most popular revenue model used by publishers today. But if publishers risk losing traffic to the Knowledge Graph, is their revenue also at risk? It may be time for publishers, especially those sharing more-broadly-searched facts, to rethink the revenue model and diversify where possible beyond on-site advertising.

Fighting Back & Enticing Clicks

How can a website potentially address this issue and fight back?

Fighting back may not be an option. There is currently no “opt out” option for Knowledge Graph. But I would argue that if the knowledge graph result will be showing anyway, wouldn’t you want your brand and your link in it instead of Wikipedia or a competitor as the source?

At least if your website is present in the Knowledge Graph, your site may receive clicks via the link to more information in the Knowledge Graph result.

Another approach to consider is to fight fire with fire: beat the Knowledge Graph altogether. How? Currently, one type of content that is not appearing in Knowledge Graph yet is video. However, video content, when well-optimized, often realizes more clicks than text entries.  A 2011 study by AimClear demonstrated that video can receive as much as 41 percent more clicks in organic search over text results.

However, I offer a word of caution here. Just because video content is not appearing in the Knowledge Graph today doesn’t mean that it won’t someday be included. Simply changing your content delivery type may not be a long term solution, especially if your entire revenue model depends on it.

The time to address the issue is now, before Knowledge Graph takes a toll on your clicks and ultimately your revenue.