Can Users Trust Google’s Knowledge Graph Results?

By: Chris Crum - October 3, 2013

Most of the time, Google’s Knowledge Graph is pretty good at what it does. It uses structured data to conveniently get searchers to the results for what they were actually referring to when they entered their query. This is particularly helpful in cases when names apply to multiple people or things.

Sometimes, Google still has some trouble.

Have you ever seen Google display erroneous information in its Knowledge Graph results? Have you ever felt like these results weren’t showing the best possible answer? Let us know in the comments.

The latest example that has been spotted comes when the user searches for “brandy”. Brandy could mean the alcoholic beverage or it could mean the pop singer/actress (Brandy Norwood). If you go by Google’s Knowledge Graph results, they’re pretty much the same:

Brandy results

Brandy Results

Brandy Results

It’s also worth noting that after a day of this particular result being pointed out in multiple articles, it hasn’t changed.

To be fair, Google’s Knowledge Graph results are getting the text right, but clearly there are issues with image association that can occur. Perhaps drawing images from Wikipedia when drawing text from it is the better way to go. Wikipedia gets it right:

Brandy on Wikipedia

Okay, so what? Errors happen, and this is a harmless one. But it’s not the first time one has been spotted. A while back, we reported on another one where it got a football player’s marital status wrong. While errors may very well be few and far between, how can users know for sure whether or not they can trust the information Google is providing as “knowledge”. Typically, users aren’t going to question the information they see here unless it’s obviously wrong.

We’ve seen other cases where Google displayed images for Knowledge Graph results which probably weren’t optimal. For example, Google shows an image of Laura Prepon as the main image for the show Orange is the New Black. Sure, she’s on the show, but she won’t be for long, and she certainly isn’t representative of the entire show. She’s not even the lead actress. Why not show a poster or a picture of the cast?

Laura Prepon

There have also been cases where Google has shown nudity in these results, and this is obviously not something that Google wanted to do intentionally.

Google knowledge graph nudity

The point is that Google does not always display the best possible results for these highly prominent “Knowledge Panels”.

This could become problematic when your consider that Google is continually expanding the type of information that appears in the Knowledge Graph, including much more important types of information (like medical and nutrition).

Knowledge Graph nutrition

Knowledge Graph medical

It’s one thing to show questionable results to third-party sites. That’s just Google trying to deliver on information provided by others, but Knowledge Graph is supposed to give you accurate information so that you don’t have to hunt it down on other sites. It needs to be accurate. These results, if users are satisfied that they got the answer that they were looking for, are going to prevent a lot of users from going to other sites, which may or may not have better information.

There’s also the fact that Google just changed its algorithm to apparently treat the rest of the web more like it does Knowledge Graph, at least in some ways.

Mike Blumenthal, by the way, recently wrote a post called “Hummingbird, Local Knowledge Graph & Shitty Search Results,” suggesting that when Hummingbird launched it immediately led to a decline in quality of local results.

“For example if you search on the phrase ‘Buffalo NY Diamonds’ it surfaces a second listing for a local jeweler at the same address that was created long ago for the purpose of keyword spamming ‘marketing’ in local,” he writes. “The problem of Google showing a single branded results was first spotted years ago. It subsequently lead to a spate of one box spam and then, for the most part, squelched by Google. For whatever reason, these spammy local knowledge graph entities seem to have made a come back.”

“The timing and nature of the results makes me believe that we are seeing ‘the Hummingbird effect’,” he adds.

Obviously this can be harmful for businesses who rely on local search visibility.

Meanwhile, Google is apparently dumbing down some of its organic results, indicating that high quality, accurate content isn’t always enough.

Regarding the Knowledge Graph, Google told us when it first launched that they realize it will never be perfect. Hopefully users realize that too.

Do you think the Knowledge Graph has improved the Google experience? Do you think it has significant room for improvement, or is it doing a good job? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Note: This article has been updated from its original form.

Image: Google

Chris Crum

About the Author

Chris CrumChris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

View all posts by Chris Crum
  • Mia Taylor

    This is a great post, thanks for sharing it with us! You’ve got some very strong ideas!

  • Dennis

    Thanks for the sharing very useful and handy information about the Google knowledge graph. Day by day Google improves the search engine result quality by updating algorithm.

  • A Morris

    Hah, I like the Orange is the New Black one. I’ve only watched one episode so far, but I think I’ll stick with it. It’ll never be as good as Breaking Bad, though.

    I think Google should be able to rid some of these errors as there algorithms go about their duties… or someone might just point out mistakes.

  • ronis

    Google search results are always worth it to follow, thanks for sharing

  • Jason

    It appears that the knowledge graph is giving large brands an unfair advantage by displaying them for generic terms. One such example is when you do a search for a generic term such as travel insurance. It currently brings up a bio for an individual company, Travel Guard.

    • Chris Crum

      Wow, that’s interesting. I haven’t seen this before.

    • Chris Crum

      Do you have any other specific examples of this?

      • Jason

        This is the only example that I have been able to find which makes it stand out more to me.

        • Chris Crum

          I found a couple more. I’m putting together an article.

    • Shaleen Shah

      Intriguing… sometimes I wonder just how many people rely on Google’s search for accurate results. Then again, what good is a knowledge graph if we’re not getting the right info. More room for improvements?

  • Jay

    For a long time is showing results for Visby in Sweeden when you search for Faro car hire.

  • glover

    cannot trust of course. It scrape of free site/wikipedia. It type of gateway block to get more searches. It exactly what google penalize on webmasters sites, but G conscience allow to use it on own sites.

  • John Colascione

    Seems to me that 99% if not 100% of the ones I see seem to be accurate. I don’t remember ever seeing one that wasn’t accurate outside of it not being updated fast enough when someone passes as in the example:

    Knowledge Graph Misses Company Philosophy: Fast Better Than Slow