Google Knowledge Graph Changing Search

Well, the inevitable has happened.  Google is changing the way it displays results again, and this change looks to be a big one.

Starting today, Google is rolling out their “Knowledge Graph” in the US, to be followed “soon” (whenever that is), everywhere else.

What is the Knowledge Graph?  Why not see what Google has to say about it in the official blog post? (I’ll wait.) Ok.  Now you know about as much as anybody else does, but I’ll summarise briefly in case you didn’t feel like reading it all.

Google’s Knowledge Graph

The knowledge graph changes the way that results are displayed, and the way that people interact with the search engine results themselves. It is intended to improve the contextual understanding of your search terms, offer you options on the results to let you filter out unrelated results if your search is for a homophone, (words that are spelt the same, but have different meanings, like rose (the flower) and rose (to the occasion), display related information based on context, and, (what I’m most interested in here), offers users summaries of information that matches what they’re searching for.

Information Summaries In Results

That’s right…think about that for a moment.  If you’re searching for information about Marie Curie, (to take a random example from Google’s blog post), then alongside your search results, you’ll see a brief summary of important information about her.  Google compiles this summary based on historical search data from their database which shows them the facts that people usually search for about her, and displays it right in the results.

The outcome?  The user doesn’t have to actually visit a web page to see the information.  They never need to leave the search engine results page if they don’t want to.  Now, what sort of implications can this have for SEO?

It’ll be very interesting to see what happens to website traffic for example, when you can get information you’re looking for without actually going to the site on which it appears. And of course, it’ll be very interesting to see the reaction this causes in the SEO industry.

Additional Implications

And here’s another implication I’ve just thought of…going by the screen shots in the official Google blog post, it looks like all this extra functionality is going to appear in the side bar of the search results.  You know…the place where it usually displays AdWords ads.

Now obviously these are samples, so maybe they’re not showing how ads will display in this new interface, but I wonder if bidding for the top 3 positions is suddenly going to rise, with a corresponding loss of screen real estate on the right?

Obviously this isn’t going to affect anybody else for a while, as at present, only users in the US are going to be experiencing the knowledge graph, but they’re planning on rolling it out globally sooner or later.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so feel free to comment.  Otherwise, check back every now and then, I’ll be talking about this more as new details become known.

Personalised Search Engine Results Unpopular

A recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project has revealed that although search engine users are highly satisfied with the quality of search engine results, there is a growing concern about the collection of personal data, and the subsequent personalisation of results.

Personalised Search Results & Data Collection

According to their report, a summary of which you can find here, 65% of search engine users feel that search engines collecting information about your search habits, and using that information to rank future search results is a bad thing.  The prevailing reason behind this feeling appears to be the worry that personalised results may limit the information you’ll find online, and the search results you see.

Only 29% said that it was a good thing, in that you’d receive results that were more personally relevant to you.  (I assume the remaining 6% didn’t have an opinion.)

73% of respondents additionally felt that data collection for search personalisation was an invasion of privacy, while only 23% didn’t care.

Targeted Advertising

Targeted advertising, which incorporates remarketing or retargeting, essentially involves serving people ads based on their browsing or search history. In the case of remarketing or retargeting, this means serving people who visited your site with your ads, when they’re on other sites, and is usually accomplished by dropping a cookie on visitors who don’t convert, allowing participating sites to serve them ads based on where they’ve been before.

According to this study though, as many as 68% of respondents said that they didn’t approve of targeted advertising, because they didn’t like their online behaviour to be tracked or analysed, even for the purpose of showing them ads for things they’re probably more interested in.

28% said that they were fine with it, for the very same reason: A better chance of seeing things that they might be interested in.

Advertising Aside

Aside for the privacy issues around advertising and personalised search, people were in general however very happy with search engine results on the whole.  However, it appears that only very few users are actually aware of the ways that they can prevent search engines (Google) from collecting information about them, or tracking their browsing or search habits.

This is particularly interesting because I’ve personally seen a marked increase in the (not provided) statistic from Google analytics.  Which tells me that even here in SA, there are more and more people searching Google while logged in.

So What Does It All Mean?

Uh, probably nothing.  I think it’s unlikely that Google will stop or dial back the personalisation of search results, leaving us with the very real possibility that we’ll be merrily creating our own little filter bubbles, where nothing but what we know and like will ever intrude.

Of course, it’s also something of a nightmare for SEO’s, knowing that ranking well in organic results for one search doesn’t mean that you’ll do as well when somebody else searches.

Can we do anything about it?  Not that I can think of, although I welcome suggestions.  In the end, we can’t do anything but stick to the fundamentals.  Good content, good page construction, and good links. Those are the basic principles, and they still apply, and probably, (hopefully), always will.

(Except for links. Hopefully that will change eventually. But that’s a topic for a different day.)