Goodbye Google+ People & Pages, Hello Knowledge Graph Box

knowledge-graphGoogle’s Knowledge Graph has claimed its first “victim,” if you will: The content box that showed “People and Pages On Google+” is gone. In its place? A variety of Knowledge Graph-related content that will show up differently depending on the search query.

In making the changes to this prime real estate on a search results page, Google is lessening somewhat the visibility of Google+. But it’s still using the space in the upper right of its search results to keep searchers on Google — something well within its rights, but something that may attract criticism in the same way that the Google+ box did.

Let’s look at what’s going on now….

Background: People and Pages On Google+

When Google launched “Search Plus Your World” in January, it made content from Google+ much more visible in the search results.

Part of the Google+ push was a content box called “People and Pages on Google+” that would appear adjacent to the top organic results. It didn’t matter if you were logged in to a Google account, or used Google+ — there was the “People and Pages on Google+” content box in the top right of the search results page. It showed primarily for generic search terms like “music,” “cars” or “Facebook.”

music - Google Search

cars - Google Search

facebook - Google Search

Search results like that — especially the one for “Facebook,” which has been the most popular search term in the U.S. for the past three years — brought on a lot of criticism because Google was promoting Google+ ahead of what were often more relevant social profiles. In the third example, Google was leading searchers to Mark Zuckerberg’s inactive Google+ page rather than to his Facebook profile. Danny Sullivan covered that and several other relevance issues in his article, Real-Life Examples Of How Google’s “Search Plus” Pushes Google+ Over Relevancy.

Now: People and Pages on Google+ Is Gone

Now that the dust is settling on last week’s Google Knowledge Graph launch, we’re no longer able to see the “People and Pages on Google+” content box on any searches. It’s gone, replaced instead by different Knowledge Graph-related content boxes.

That search (from above) for “music” now shows a Knowledge Graph box for “People related to music.”

google-people-related

A search for “cars,” which used to include links to the Google+ pages of brands like Toyota, Nissan, Ferrari and others, now shows a Knowledge Graph box that invites searchers to “See results about” the Pixar movie Cars.

google-see-results

Other searches that previously showed the “People and Pages on Google+” content box, like “Facebook” and “seo,” don’t show anything from the Knowledge Graph. Search Engine Land’s editors did a number of searches yesterday and none displayed the old Google+ “People and Pages” content box.

Google: We’re Blending Content

A Google spokesperson explained that Google is blending different content sources, including Knowledge Graph connections and Google+ profiles, to return the most relevant content on the search results page.

And it’s true that searchers are seeing content from different sources; a search for Google CEO Larry Page, for example, shows this in action. The photo is from (and links to) his Google+ profile, and further down the Knowledge Graph box is a clipped version of his most recent post there.

larry-page

There’s also text from (and a link to) his Wikipedia page, along with several links related to the Knowledge Graph data. And, even though those links don’t promote Google+ like the old “People and Pages on Google+” did, they do keep people on Google and may lead to some of the same criticisms that Google faced before.

Possible Knowledge Graph Criticisms

To be clear: It’s Google’s search engine and I’m a big believer that they can link to their own properties if they want. But, as with the Search Plus Your World examples from January, if they do so in a way that’s not relevant and/or not user-friendly, they leave themselves open to vocal critics. (And if they do it in a way that appears anti-competitive, those critics may include the U.S. government.)

A search for “seattle mariners” offers an example of what I’m talking about:

mariners

In this case, like many others, the Knowledge Box is showing a mix of content — text from Wikipedia, latest post from Google+, and other information. The possible issues are:

  • the Mariners’ logo and the light text below it send searchers to the Mariners Google+ page, not to the Mariners’ official site, which would seem to be the most authoritative, relevant and user-friendly link for that spot in the Knowledge Graph box (and the fact that the team logo says “Mariners.com” is likely to mean users will think a click there leads to the official site)
  • the links on “Eric Wedge,” “Safeco Field” and the others are links to conduct more Google searches; will users expect to get links to search results there? or will they expect to be linked to the official Safeco Field page? or, since Wedge doesn’t have an official site, will they expect to be linked to his Wikipedia page or his bio on the Mariners website?

I don’t know the answers to those questions. But I do know that, when a Knowledge Graph box about the Seattle Mariners doesn’t contain a single link to Mariners.com, and has several internal Google links instead, critics have an opportunity to continue accusing Google of promoting itself at the expense of relevancy.

The Knowledge Graph box has its pros and cons. The data is, in many cases (but not all) excellent — it’s very cool to be able to scroll through the Mariners’ roster right from inside the Knowledge Graph box, for example. But the fact that all of the links keep searchers on Google, either sending them to Google+ or creating another search, probably won’t quiet the criticism about Google promoting itself too heavily in search results.

Bottom line: The “People and Pages on Google+” content box brought Google a fair amount of flak, but what’s replacing it isn’t necessarily going to change that.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Google: Knowledge Graph | Google: Search Plus Your World | Google: Web Search | Top News

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About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • daveintheuk

    These units do not contain knowledge (look it up in a dictionary) – they simply contain data.

    Does Google add significant value to this data? Would a “knowledge graph box” pass the same demanding and constantly changing set of rules that webmasters content has to get to rank post Panda? I very much doubt it.

    The reason Google has been lecturing publishers that they must add value and build deep sites is because they have decided to go after the “low hanging fruit” and carve off all the queries that can be answered by scraping/automation themselves.

  • http://www.maxminzer.com/ Max Minzer

    I find Knowledge Graph very relevant. Don’t understand the criticism.
    Don’t see a point of including official homepage there.

    Definition of Knowledge Graph: a huge collection of the people, places and things in the world and how they’re connected to one another.In other words – social.

  • MichelleRobbins

    Extremely disingenuous to call this a “knowledge graph” when they certainly know they are not populating the results with the most relevant information. They should be more transparent and call it the “Google Graph” as they are no longer simply organizing the world’s information, but are also rather subjectively deciding which information the users need to see, based on their own corporate goals. I agree with Matt – it’s their sandbox, we can all take our toys and go home at any time. However, to position itself as the authoritative search engine when it comes to relevancy while providing such subjective “knowledge” is specious.

  • MichelleRobbins

    If social is the key – why does the Mariners logo link to their Google+ page, where only 4,000 people have the Mariners in their circles and they have 4,100 +1s vs. the Mariners’ Facebook page? Where almost half a million people have liked them? In reviewing the activity on both platforms, the average FB post gets in excess of 500 likes (many in excess of 1-2,000); the average G+ post gets less than 10 +1s or shares.

  • http://www.maxminzer.com/ Max Minzer

    Michelle, did you read my last paragraph?

  • http://www.rustybrick.com/barry Barry Schwartz

    I see it as Google attempting to bring in web results, structured data and social data all into one picture.  Calling it a knowledge graph, well – whatever.  But this UI will be changing a ton in the next 3 years – that is for sure. 

  • http://twitter.com/Nathan_Safran Nathan_Safran

    Matt,

    Good post.

    “…will users expect to get links to search results there? or will they expect to be linked to the official Safeco Field page? or, since Wedge doesn’t have an official site, will they expect to be linked to his Wikipedia page or his bio on the Mariners website?I don’t know the answers to those questions.”Yes you do :-).  Users expect to get to a web page, not G+.

  • MichelleRobbins

    That last paragraph was not there when I made my comment. Also, Google can and does index public data on Facebook & Twitter. Do some searches at Google (eg “max minzer on facebook” or “max minzer on twitter”) and you’ll see. 

    I don’t dispute that they have the right to show whatever they wish in their results – or to rank things as they see fit. I simply think they should be honest about that – that they are not objectively showing the best quality, the most relevant. 

  • http://www.maxminzer.com/ Max Minzer

    I do know that they index things that they can on Facebook and Twitter (and Facebook/Twitter profiles normally rank better than Google+ – referring to recent outcry that they are not).

    However, if you were following 2011 social news you’d know that Facebook, and Twitter for that matter, blocked Google to index people’s public posts on their networks. 

    So, when I publish something publicly on Facebook, Facebook doesn’t let Google index that public post, which is stupid.
    Hence, no social data for Google which makes no sense from search engine standpoint today. Which forced Google to hurry up with Google+. 

    My point is (with that last paragraph of mine) – this is much larger issue than Google+ has 4000 and Facebook has 500k. That’s just a tiny piece in the huge picture which will take a lot of time to elaborate on and it’s not for this post. Might want to research that more.

    I’d love to see Facebook & Twitter in Knowledge Graph as well but Facebook & Twitter boycotted Google, blocked all the data they could for the past year or so and made that move impossible.

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  • Scott McKirahan

    I am continually amazed at people who think that Google has any obligation to show anything in their results pages. It’s just a website, albeit an HUGE one that has taken the world by storm. Nobody has to use Google; there are numerous competitors.

    The alluded to federal lawsuit is ridiculous. How in the world the federal government has ever gotten to the point where they think they have a right to tell a business what it can and cannot promote “out of fairness” is an affront to liberty.

  • MichelleRobbins

    Thank you for taking the time to reply to me with insults . It’s helpful. I do keep up, and my point is that with the data Google does have available, it could provide better, more relevant “knowledge” – it is choosing not to. The reasons that it is choosing not to do so do not matter where the issues of relevancy, and best data available  are concerned. And that was my point.

  • http://www.maxminzer.com/ Max Minzer

    Michelle, I honestly didn’t intend any insults. If you felt insulted or it sounded like it – I’m sorry.

    That’s just a discussion/opinion on topic that doesn’t make much change; not worth any insults.

  • totnuckers

    “Mariners logo link to their Google+ page ”
    Ask Facebook to open their data to Google. They open it to Bing why not to Google? You’re an obvious Google hater.

  • robthespy

    Google+ has been replaced by Google$.  Why display UGC when you can send searchers into a continuous loop of Adwords ads?  ;)

  • MichelleRobbins

    Google has access to lots of Facebook data. As I recommended to Max above, doing a few cursory searches will show you that. I’m not a Google hater – I personally know quite a few incredibly bright human beings that work there, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for many of accomplishments of the ‘plex. But I’m neither a Google sycophant, and I think they’ve lost the mission.

  • http://twitter.com/sidetweet Side Tweet

    the link to mariners.com is on the left where the search results are.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    And on the right, the link from the logo in the box leads to the Mariners on Google+. That’s kind of the point — if you’re going to point occasionally outbound from the knowledge box, it’s not crazy to think you might point to the official site too.

  • http://twitter.com/BIGELLOW Bob Bigellow

    You know that the information in the Knowledge Graph boxes aren’t paid for, right? Those aren’t ads.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cwtct Chris Tucker

    must be fun to be able to play around like that…

  • robthespy

    It’s all about keeping users on Google.

    The KGB links aren’t paid…but they often lead to SERPS w Adwords. Do you think that will increase or decrease over time?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/2HSRBIOOYWPFBVBZF6FVVZISFU yahoo-2HSRBIOOYWPFBVBZF6FVVZISFU

    Could it be a case of Trademark?  Google is following the link to the location of the picture.  I’m not sure they can pull those pictures from official sports teams’ websites.

  • http://www.gg2.net/ Garavi Gujarat

    Welcome for Knowledge Graph.

  • http://www.easterneye.eu/ Eastern Eye

    Google+ is still playing it’s role in SEO.

  • http://twitter.com/AlesiaKrush Alesia Krush

    As for me, even though I wasn’t at all thrilled by SPYW, I like the Knowledge Graph idea. I think it will be similar to the video suggestion feature on YouTube or the movie suggestion feature on Netflix. I find that very helpful, because it lets you discover things you’d probably never discover, since you don’t even suspect they exist and don’t know the names for them. 

  • http://twitter.com/Zen2Seo Giuseppe Pastore

    Google+ links are completely unuseful. What a great user experience visiting Zuckemberg empty google+ profile!

    Anyway it only mantain searchers on Google pages increasing chances they can click on an ad during the search session

  • http://www.facebook.com/seo.jaipur Seo Jaipur

    I live in India Knowledge Graph is Not Live

  • Aditi Datta

    Thanks Matt for providing this useful information with us!! I did not know about this before and right from this post, I have come to know about this knowledge graph. I think it is good. Getting Google+ results aside in the search box will help to get the attention of the searched people. But somehow, this knowledge graph is also very relevant. Thanks once again for the share!!
    Regards,
    Aditi Datta
    http://www.indian-seo-company.com/

  • robthespy

    A search for “White Sox” displays the official team site “below the fold” on my iPad.

  • http://twitter.com/SocialJulio Julio Fernandez

    The knowledge “panels” are useful when you are searching for local content. The links under “points of interest” when you search for a city are a great discovery tool, even if they take you to another Google search query. During our tests, we found several local attractions that are part of the “people also searched for” results and if you click their panel, you reach a new panel with Google Places data. Let the Knowledge Graph Optimization begin ~ KGO is the new SEM!

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  • David Hitt

    You write: ”… I do know that, when a Knowledge Graph box about the Seattle Mariners doesn’t contain a single link to Mariners.com, and has several internal Google links instead, critics have an opportunity to continue accusing Google of promoting itself at the expense of relevancy…”

    I see your point but I’m sure Google would respond that, in the case you cite and in most cases. the link to the relevant homepage is the first organic result (I’m also getting rich snippet scheduling information to boot, which are linking out MLB…) So, I think Google’s answer is that they are supplementing organic SERPs with relevant information. And, for me at least, referring out to another organic search doesn’t seem as blatantly self-promoting…

    Really nice article; it is a brave writer to author a post on topics that Google seems to change the relevance of so frequently!

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    my buddy’s step-mother makes $62 hourly on the internet. She has been out of a job for 6 months but last month her check was $20978 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more here ====>> ⇛⇛⇛⇛► http://enternet-Job.blogspot.com

  • john2004

    Easipedia would like to congratulate Google for their introduction of the Google Knowledge Graph
    in their search results. We like their Knowledge Graph because it will
    give internet users quicker and wider access to all kinds of
    information. We also like it because we’ve been doing the same thing since 2009. See Easipedia in action at:http://easipedia.net/index.html

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