Perform a Google search for [depeche mode members]. Not long ago, you’d get something that looked like the image below (plus a few images of a video to fill out the universal search results).
Today, the search results look like this:
Google is transitioning from universal search results to entity search results. In my example, Depeche Mode is a popular music band, and a band is an entity. Let’s break it down:
Appearance & Behavior
Let’s look at what happened to the appearance and behavior of images in Google’s SERPs with this transition.
Knowledge Graph Image Carousel
At the top, in fashionable black, Google gives us an image carousel. Because I searched for the members of Depeche Mode, Google displays pictures of each band member. Notice how each image is a clear head shot, and all are roughly the same size and dimensions. The pictures are served from gstatic.com, a Google-owned server. These images don’t exist on some website anymore — they’ve been appropriated by Google.
Back on Google, click on Dave Gahan’s photo in the carousel. Surprise! You don’t go to a website hosting this image. Instead, you are taken to Google search results for [Dave Gahan].
Take a moment to think about this. If I search for [depeche mode members], click on Dave Gahan’s picture, then click on a search result to your website, you will get an organic search referral from Google for the keyword “Dave Gahan” — not “Depeche Mode Members.”
Another thing to note is that the image carousel persists. Click on all the band members’ images — the carousel remains visible.
Image carousels aren’t only for band members. A number of different collection types are appearing.
- Musical Album Collections: Depeche Mode Albums
- Authors’ Books: Neil Gaiman Books
- Local Search: Seattle Coffee Shops
- Lists and Collections: Famous Jazz Composers
(To my eye, it appears some of the early lists and collections were human-curated.)
When you break it down, each type of collection is an entity waiting to get filled with relevant search results. The types of collections Google Search presents continues to expand.
Knowledge Graph Biography
To the right of the search results is the Knowledge Graph Biography. This is the oldest portion of the Knowledge Graph, released in May 2012. In the Depeche Mode example, you see:
- A biographical snippet, taken from Wikipedia and edited (one has to wonder if scores of Google interns spend time editing Wikipedia articles to make them more parse-able)
- Selected bullets: Origin, Albums, Lead Singers and Record Labels. These seem pretty consistent from artist to artist
- Upcoming Events
- People Also Searched For
(Note: If I had just searched for [Depeche Mode], the Knowledge Graph Biography would have included a list of band members there as well, with no image carousel at the top of the SERP.)
Again, all the links in the biography area direct the user to more Google search results. Google seems determined to become your encyclopedia, fan magazine and touring schedule reference all in one. One has to wonder how long it will be before Google sells tickets right out of the Knowledge Graph!
If you click on an Upcoming Events link, the results pages are interesting. At the top (below the paid results and above the organic results) is a white panel with the venue location and, in small grey text, links to websites where you can purchase tickets. (Naturally, these are the type of links Google might come perilously close to finding suspicious on your website.)
Given Google’s prowess, I expect we will see these types of results attached to an increasing number of search queries.
The biographies have changed a bit since last year, mostly because Google backed off from trying to compile information from different websites into one field. For example, last year Google thought that, in addition to singing the oldies, crooner Andy Williams was a member of a punk band and a Christian rock band. The only result I can take issue with is that I’d have included Gary Numan as a related search before David Bowie, but I cannot blame Google for that one. (Remember, the opinions of the writers are their own.)
Organic Search Results
Let’s look at organic search results. They look a lot like Google’s original 10 blue links. Outside of a few sitelinks, there is nothing notable: no images, no local results, no videos.
This isn’t entirely consistent. Search for Seattle Coffee Shops, and you will see a map where the Depeche Mode biography sits. One result has a thumbnail — another, a review score. Search for Depeche Mode CDs, and you may see Google Shopping ads above the organic listings or the Knowledge Graph biography. The fact that there are no shopping ads for Depeche Mode Albums tells me Google has more tweaking to do.
The sources for Google content are trustworthy sites with machine readable content.
- The biographical information comes from Wikipedia.
- The tour dates come from the ticket sites. Again, click on a tour date and then look at the small, gray links just below the white rectangular result.
- The images come from Google Image Search. What’s interesting here is that the pictures in the image carousel do not come from the original search, but from searches for each band member’s name.
- What other people searched for comes from Google’s historical database.
Tips For Getting Links Alongside Entity Results
Queries that trigger Google Knowledge Graph have to pass a popularity threshold.
- Yes: The Fluid Albums
- Almost: Bum Kon Albums (Notice the site links from last.fm.)
- No: The Soul Merchants Albums
They also must match a type of collection that serves Knowledge Graph results of some type (local search, famous people, albums by artists, books by author, etc.).
The more popular the subject of an entity, the harder it will be to get a first page ranking. On the Depeche Mode Members page, the results include Wikipedia, the official Depeche Mode band site, Rolling Stone and The Sun. These are sites with high domain authority. To compete with the likes of these, you’d need:
- Citations: Get lots of links from webpages and social media to the content you want to rank.
- Domain Authority: You’ll need citations for many different pages on your site, not just a few viral articles.
- Domain Velocity: Sites that keep getting links over time, right up to the present, demonstrate current trust and popularity.
- Uniqueness: If the Knowledge Graph results include a biography, a Wikipedia page is likely to be in the organic search results. It’s also probable there are similar biographies all over the Internet. If they are in the press, there will be different versions of different stories. This is when Google likes to activate Query Deserves Diversity. If you need inspiration, look to the 2nd and 3rd page of the search results.
- A Serious Tone: As an observation, I don’t see a lot of comedy or satire in organic search results that accompany entities and Knowledge Graph.
Of course, the real question is whether or not you want to compete for inclusion in these particular organic search results. You may decide that are you better off trying elsewhere. After all, you’re competing with Google — and Google doesn’t seem to want visitors to click on the blue links.
If a carousel or Knowledge Graph appeared on a query you rank for, let me know. I’d like to know how it affected your traffic.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.