Is the Google Knowledge Graph a Search Engine Game-Changer?

May 17, 2012 by Eric Taubert

Google has been collecting knowledge about what people search for, and what they search for after that, for quite some time.

Now they are using all of that data - plus much, much more - to power the latest update to their search engine. It’s called the Knowledge Graph. They’ve already begun the rollout to U.S. English users - and everyone will have it soon - desktop, tablet and mobile.

This is a critical first step towards building the next generation of search, which taps into the collective intelligence of the web and understands the world a bit more like people do.” states Amit Singhal, SVP of Engineering at Google.

The Knowledge Graph concept represents a paradigm shift in Search -- one in which search engines begin to see the words you type into them, not as random strings of characters, but as representative of actual things and ideas which share relationships with other things and ideas.

Google is striving to absolutely understand what you are searching for -- and immediately empower you with the most relevant details about that thing. At the same time, you will also be introduced to the things you are most likely to search for next - or related information to help your research unfold in serendipitous fashion.

The biggest change you can expect to see from the Knowledge Graph update will be panels, located on the right side of your screen, which supplement your search results with relevant information and links you might also be interested in based on your search. Danny Sullivan, industry expert at SearchEngineLand, calls them “Knowledge Panels”.

To take an example, a search for “Marie Curie” will pop up a Knowledge Panel with a short bio, pulled from Wikipedia and details such as birth date, death date, city of birth, spouse, children, discoveries and education. Beneath these snippets of information are image links for topics “people also search for”, such as: Albert Einstein, Pierre Curie, Ernest Rutherford, Louis Pasteur and etc.

Knowledge Panel - Google

If the phrase you enter into the search box is ambiguous, or has multiple meanings, you may also encounter a “See Results About” panel which will help you refine your search by offering direct links to results pages for all of the different semantic options related to your original query.

How do we know which facts are most likely to be needed for each item?” continues Singhal. “For that, we go back to our users and study in aggregate what they’ve been asking Google about each item. It’s not just a catalog of objects; it also models all these inter-relationships. It’s the intelligence between these different entities that’s the key.

Google Knowledge Graph also has a crowdsourced correction system built in. When users find and report errors, Google will share those findings with the source and the knowledge graph will continue to improve.

It’s still too early to determine how the Google Knowledge Graph will change strategies businesses rely on to optimize their websites for search engine placement. It does seem that some of the rules and techniques used for Search Engine Optimization may need to be overhauled as “keyword” results morph into the relationship-based results returned by the Knowledge Graph.

We are in the early stages of moving from being an information engine, into becoming a knowledge engine,” states Johanna Wright, Director of Product Management at Google. “And these enhancements are one step in that direction.


Tell us what you think about Google’s Knowledge Graph in our conversations on Facebook and Twitter.

-- Written by Eric Taubert

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