Beyond PR

May 17, 2012

Google’s Knowledge Graph Of ‘Things’

On May 16th Google announced their Knowledge Graph, a change to their search engine results pages that  is, in their words, ” 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.”

The post talks a lot about “things,” nouns, entities, and their relationships to other things, and that is at the crux of the paradigm shift that Google is making. Mixed in with the search results we get back from Google they will be providing not just other phrases that are similar to or in some way related to the phrase you searched with, they’ll be making lateral links to ‘things related to the thing you’re searching for.’

There is  already much being written by others covering what to expect in the SERPs, so I’m not going to rehash that here.  The question I have about this is, what does this mean to content creators working in PR and marketing?

If you’re in content marketing or PR, should Google’s new way of looking at the information on the web change what you do?  And how do we optimize for this?

I don’t have complete answers, but perhaps I can contribute a little insight to move us towards an answer.

Press releases have always had the potential to be good quality search engine fodder: they’re reasonably well structured; they’re a good length; they’re often written by people who can; they’re fresh; they come with images, videos, links, and…. lots and lots of THINGS.

Press releases are packed with things and, importantly, they provide strong signals for Google to understand the relationships between those things.  Here is press release issued by PR Newswire’s parent company UBM plc.

Business4Better Comes to Anaheim, CA to Transform Community Involvement & Engagement

Entities in the Business4Better press release

Entities in the Business4Better press release

The release is about a new conference and exhibition that will help businesses and nonprofits work more closely together for their mutual benefit. In the release there are brands, companies, organizations, places, dates, people, quotes, logos, websites, etc. that all have relationships with one another.

From this release a search engine could learn that UBM plc is a company:

  • that is led by a person called David Levin,
  • is partnering with organizations called OneOC and City of Anaheim,
  • and that owns the Business4Better brand,
  • which is hosting an event in Anaheim CA.

And so on.  Here’s now these entities and the relationships between them might be categorized at a an abstract level that could be used by software:

Press release entity relationships

Press release entity relationships

So if I’m writing a blog post, or a product web page for my site, or a press release, does this all mean I have to do something different?  In the short term I’d say that if you’re writing good quality content that is clear and useful for your  audience, then no.  Everything you do will support Google’s attempts to understand the meaning behind your content.  In the long term all those good things you’re doing will continue to pay dividends, but new content strategies may emerge based on the G-Graph.

What about optimization? How do we optimize for the Knowledge Graph? Basically it’s too early to say.  Not every entity mentioned in every document on the Web will get a Graph, but patterns and best practices will emerge.  For now it’s a case of ‘steady as she goes’ and keep creating content your audience wants to consume and tweak it for search.  If I were to hazard a guess at the best long term strategy though, it would include content that clearly communicates the relationships between entities, and high levels of clarity consistently achieved over the long term.

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