With the Knowledge Graph, Google is trying to be the "Swiss Army Knife" to publishers' corkscrews. That is according to Google SVP and software engineer Amit Singhal, who spoke at SMX West earlier this week.
Do you think this is a good analogy? Has your traffic suffered from Google putting its own content on search results pages? Let us know in the comments.
Since Google launched the Knowledge Graph, and more so as it has continued building it to encompass more types of queries, publishers have wondered what it means for the future of getting traffic from Google. After all, if Google is giving users what they're looking for right on the search results page, why would they need to click over to your site?
In addition to the Knowledge Graph, in some cases, Google is even going so far as to put sponsored results for its own products above sites that people are specifically searching for. We're talking branded searches in which Google forces its own product above the actual brand being searched for.
Google's Matt Cutts recently announced a new tool for users to report scrapers who are outranking original source content. In response, Dan Barker tweeted this back at him, illustrating an example of how Google gives an answer to a question making it so the user doesn't need to click over to another site (in this case, WIkipedia).
— dan barker (@danbarker) February 27, 2014
That got nearly 35,000 retweets and 4,000 favorites, which is quite a lot for an SEO-related tweet. Clearly this resonated with people.
Search Engine Land, sister site to SMX, has a liveblog of Singhal's keynote (which was an on-stage interview with Danny Sullivan). Sullivan brought up the tweet, and asked him about the Knowledge Graph and its effect on publishers.
The liveblogged account of Singhal's words (some of which was paraphrased) says:
If you look at a search engine, the best analogy is that it’s an amazing Swiss Army Knife. It’s great, but sometimes you need to open a wine bottle. Some genius added that to the knife. That’s awesome. That’s how we think of the Knowledge Graph. Sometimes you only need an answer.
The world has gone mobile. In a mobile world, there are times when you cannot read 20 pages, but you need something — an extra tool on your Swiss Army Knife. When you build a better tool, you use it more.
Note: According to Barry Schwartz, Singhal specifically referred to publishers as "corkscrews" and "screwdrivers".
"Personally, I kept finding it funny Amit using the 'screw' drive[r] and cork 'screw' association to publishers," Schwartz blogged. "Yea, publishers do feel 'screwed' and him using those words didn't help. But his analogy, while it stinks, is true."
Back to Search Engine Land's liveblogged account. On getting the balance right in terms of using others' content...
It’s a great question and we think about it all the time. We built Google to fulfill user’s needs. Somewhere along the way, people started debating if web traffic is more than users. But keep in mind that we need to keep our user’s trust. We’re part of an open web system. If we lose our user’s trust, the open web would lose its strongest ally (sorry readers, I’m paraphrasing here). If people stop trusting us, then a sinking tide sinks us all.
We deeply care about this. I’ve been in this field for 20 years. The relationship between publishers, Google and users is all one of mutual benefit. We work hard at getting that balance right. You guys (the audience) have been great contributors to the web. The world is changing, and SEO is all about change. Users dictate how the world changes. We are changing so that our users get a lovely product, and publishers get access to our users. (paraphrase again)
I don't know if any of this is going to make publishers feel better about the direction Google is heading in, but it's pretty consistent with the things Google has said in the past.
The Knowledge Graph is definitely useful to searchers looking for quick answers, but how much users can really rely on it for accuracy is debatable.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.
Image via Wikimedia Commons