Is the search of the future coming? It seems so; Google Knowledge Graph will be launched this week in the States across all US English Google Search tools and mobile devices.
So what is it?
Google’s official blog aptly describes it as “things, not strings”. Typing in a general query into the search engine will not only give you results, but also filter them, give you a summary of your relevant result, dare to give you facts that it feels is relevant to you and suggest other related pages or what others have searched for: “The Knowledge Graph also helps us understand the relationships between things… 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.”
If you’re in the US (or simply want to get a heads up before it heads across the pond), simply type in a general query into Google Search and you will find a new window appears on your screen directly to the right of your result asking you what you meant by it. By clicking on one of the options, your results will be consequently filtered. It would appear that Google is changing from simple recognition of keywords to identification, intuition and a focus on relationships. Google Knowledge Graph is reported to have over 500 million entities and those entities could have in excess of 3.5 billion attributes.
Thus, a search query for “Liverpool” could possibly bring up not only the city in the UK and its football club, but also the cities in Australia, Canada and America but also ask whether you meant the name of a chain of department stores in Mexico! To build this however, Google is not its own; it will tap into the knowledge database called Freebase (which it owns), Wikipedia, Google Local, Google Maps and Google Shopping.
Why has it happened?
The official word from Mountain View is that “search is a lot about discovery… But searching still requires a lot of hard work by you, the user.” Therefore it seems that the search engine not only wants to give you the information quickly but also filter out the relevant information you want. Here is what the dudes at Google conclude about Knowledge Graph:
“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… We’ve always believed that the perfect search engine should understand exactly what you mean and give you back exactly what you want. And we can now sometimes help answer your next question before you’ve asked it, because the facts we show are informed by what other people have searched for… We’re proud of our first baby step—the Knowledge Graph—which will enable us to make search more intelligent, moving us closer to the “Star Trek computer” that I’ve always dreamt of building.”
The reaction so far
Lance Ulanoff – writing for Mashable – has compared some of its features to Amazon in terms of suggestions, but stresses that the Knowledge Graph has not got any smarter about you than you think it might and adds that even Ben Gomes – one of Google’s lead engineers on search features – has conceded that “We don’t have anything to announce for personalization”. Danny Sullivan from SearchEngineLand is however very positive about what he calls the “knowledge panels”: “I couldn’t help but think of it like a form of StumbleUpon or channel surfing for search.” Sullivan focuses more on the ‘fun’ aspect of Google Knowledge Graph, comparing it to when users get caught up reading for pleasure on Wikipedia. Speaking of Wikipedia, they are extremely supportive of it and particularly happy about the ‘report a problem’ feature to fix errors that commonly damage their crowd-sourced site. When Google Knowledge Graph is informed of a problem, so is Wikipedia.
What does this mean for search marketing?
It seems that its impact on search marketing is unclear, what is clear is that the discovery aspect through search is strong. It seems to value contextual information around results and a smarter interpretation of search results. Sullivan points out a significant lacking in that, if you type in “Buckingham Palace”, it does not give you options to book tickets for example which is what users could want. What we do know is that Amit Singhal – Google’s global head of search engine technology – has confirmed that there is no mechanism available for sites to be included in the knowledge panels. Singhal, does however, strongly infer that publishers should not worry about their traffic dropping, as the Google Knowledge Graph wants to encourage more searching which will eventually lead the user to external sites.
Are you a Google user in the US? If you have started using Google Knowledge Graph, please feel free to comment on your experience below.