Improving brand reputation using Google Knowledge Panel

Published on Yaagneshwaran March 9, 2021 (Jason Barnard)

Knowledge Panel is not as niche as they used to be back in the day. It’s become relatively universal now.

I like to consider it this way. On the left, Google is recommending what it thinks the best answer or the best solution to your question or your problem is. One the right-hand side it’s saying, “This is a fact, this is stuff we are sure about.” 

Left-hand side: Advice. 

Right-hand side: Fact. 

Getting that Knowledge Panel means you have to convince (Google) that it is fully understood facts about yourself or your brand. 44.8% of brands have a Knowledge Panel, 36.6% of people have a Knowledge Panel. This from my data set. And the data set is 70,000 brands and people. 

And now we’re going to look at exactly what Google puts in there and it depends on what it’s understood.

But for starters, let’s begin with – what is a Knowledge Panel and is it any different from Google MyBusiness Panels.

Related: Google Knowledge Panel Definition

Knowledge Panel Vs. Google MyBusiness

Simply put, Google MyBusiness is a business listing. You provide information to Google saying, ‘This is who I am, these are the times I am open, and I belong to the xyz category, etc.’ In short, it is the information provided by the business entities themselves, and Google just shows what you give them. 

Whereas the Knowledge Panel, backed up by the Knowledge Graph, is Google’s machine understanding of who you are and what you do. And another key difference is that Google MyBusiness is local, whereas the Knowledge Panel is international.

So, how does the Knowledge Panel help a person or a business?

Firstly, if you search somebody’s name or brand and a Knowledge Panel on the right-hand side, it means Google is showing facts about that entity. In other words, it’s what Google has understood to be facts about that entity, that person, or brand.

Source: Hubspot Knowledge Panel

Google is no longer looking at the string of characters and the number of times they appear on a page. The knowledge panel is Google’s way of saying that it now understands that XYZ is a person or brand or an entity and hence lists pages or facts related to that entity.

What’s the monetary impact of these panels on business? 

Before we get to the monetary impact, let’s quickly recognize the difference between knowledge panels and featured snippets. Featured snippets are more like Google telling you that ‘This is the best resource or best set of answers I found related to what you are searching right now.’ Whereas the knowledge panel is more like a verified fact for which Google is sticking its neck out. A featured snippet is perhaps a step on the way to a knowledge panel, but it isn’t the same thing. 

In terms of a knowledge panel’s monetary value to a business, it’s not as easy to evaluate as you would in the case of a typical ad-click. That said, a Knowledge Panel comes into play on multiple levels. The first level and the most obvious level is probably the easiest to sell to your CEO or the person who controls the budget. Because, at the outset, when someone searches your brand name, the knowledge panel helps you look convincing and assures them that whatever they are seeing is accurate and positive.

But it would be best if you also took responsibility for owning and answering the questions around your brand by creating content on those topics. If not, the impact can quickly become negative.

So, the critical part of the monetary value is that you maintain your reputation and keep your clients. If you are not in there, your competitors will be. You want to get that SERP real estate and not just the ranking.

Can you create knowledge panels or only claim a created panel?

One of the obvious questions you might have is –can you control what Google understands about you? In that essence, can you create a Knowledge Panel?

The straight answer is yes, and you can create a Knowledge Panel. Far and away the most important thing is that little thing, the little world icon, the little globe icon with your website next to it. And that’s the single most important thing in this entire blog post, as we’ll see in a moment: giving your entity a home.

Jason's Google panel

It’s not the description, it’s the world icon with the domain name or even a page, as in the case of my daughter, that says, “This is where Google considers the home of the entity is.” And that is the place it will look for information about the person, the brand, the event, whatever kind of entity it might be. And then go out and corroborate it, as we will see. 

Once you’ve convinced Google that your site is the home, a page on your site is the home for your entity. Then you can state a fact on that home. It can be when it was founded, who the founder was, the area served, it can be your social profiles, that would be one not very long ago, anything you want to inform Google about. 

Then you need to get significant corroboration from multiple independent, authoritative sources. And it’s not always Wikipedia.

People get confused between Wikipedia and a Knowledge Panel. Wikipedia is the initial source that Google trained its machine on. About 1.5 years ago, Google had an update, what I call the Budapest update. And that’s when Google let off its safety wheels, i.e., it started to let the machine just go out and find the information for itself. In other words, Wikipedia is no longer the only source of information that you will see in the Knowledge Panel. 

But, in terms of controlling Google’s understanding of you? I wouldn’t say ‘control’ as it’s too strong a word. But you can heavily influence it to the point of control if you got your hand on it.

Therefore, it boils down to having a clearly established home for your entity on the web. It could be your website, Wikipedia, etc. What matters is the notability aspect of the source of information. Hence, whoever you are, whatever brand you are, however small or big, Google doesn’t care. It just wants to understand. And all it needs is to know what the source of information is and if the source is reliable.

So, how do you make your website a key source of information for your brand’s knowledge panel? Schema markup and backlinks. But that’s not everything.

Listen to this podcast episode where I do a deep dive on working on your knowledge panel.

Positioning your entity in the competitor landscape using these panels

Let’s say you search for HubSpot; you see a Knowledge Panel on the right side of the search results. The panel’s bottom-most section shows a bunch of competing entities like Marketo, Salesforce, MailChimp, etc.

So, does that mean we can use a knowledge panel to position ourselves amongst a specific set of competitors?

Yes, absolutely! But the point is that Google doesn’t see the other entities as competition necessarily. It sees them as associated entities. So, it could be competitors, subsidiary entities or anything closely related.

For example, my mother is an entity on the Google knowledge graph. But nobody searches for her and me in the same breath, session, month or even the same year. 

So, in such a scenario, Google isn’t saying we searched for these two entities in tandem, but it recognizes that I associate myself very closely with that entity. It’s a subtle but significant difference to understand. 

I did quite a few experiments with it and managed to trigger more digital marketing people as my associated entities. It now associates my entity Jason Barnard with Cindy Krum, Rand Fishkin, Joost De Valk, etc. 

The key learning is you need to establish strong relationships with these associated entities and communicate that to Google. It’s a big job. It’s not something that you just ask Google to change. You have to prove to Google or educate Google that you are closely associated with entity XYZ.

Closing notes…

Regardless of several other Google products that have come and gone, the knowledge panel is here to stay. And there are multiple reasons as to why I say that. Google wants to provide the information that we’re looking for as quickly as possible. If you look at it from Google’s point of view, they want to serve their users to answer their questions, solutions to their problem and want to do it as efficiently as possible. 

And knowledge panel is the base. So, make the best use of it, and jump onto the bandwagon to take control as quickly as possible.

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