Back in 2001, UK computer scientist and inventor of the world-wide web Tim Berners-Lee wrote an article in Scientific American Magazine about his vision of the semantic web in which he described a web that was accessible and understandable to both humans and machines.
Search engines have made dramatic changes in the past few months, adopting some of the ideas of the semantic web to create a new way of showcasing people and brands in search. The addition of Authorship and the Knowledge Graph has made huge ripples within the search industry, but many digital marketers are still yet to realise their full potential.
Allowing digitally aware brands to display author profiles next to their webpage within Google, enhanced ‘Authorship’ listings receive a higher click-through rate than more traditional results due to their improved visibility and perceived trustworthiness. Authorship is also one of the first steps towards a potential algorithm change called AuthorRank, which would calculate a piece of content’s relevance for searchers not only based on quality, but also audience size and the author’s authority across the web. In essence, ensuring good audience engagement with high quality content attributed to a trusted author will become hugely important for ranking well within search.
Currently, about 17% of Google queries include at least one instance of author verification within the first 100 search results, but I expect this number to rise rapidly over the next few months as Google+ begins to become more integrated with search.
The Knowledge Graph is a database of more than 570m of the most searched-for people, places and entities online, including about 18bn cross-references. Using their vast bird’s-eye view of the web together with structured machine-readable data, Google supplements search results with factual information in the form of an information panel, adding value to the user’s experience.
For instance, when you search for “How old is Tim Berners-Lee?” Google identifies, from your raw text query, an entity against which to cross-reference its Knowledge Graph data. In this example, it understands that you’re referring to the inventor of the web and returns the corresponding information.
At the moment, these results are reserved for only noteworthy people, places and things. This is, however, about to change. Google patent blogger Bill Slawski has identified a recent patent application from the search giant exposing plans to widen the scope of the Knowledge Graph to include businesses, just a few days before Google announced new ways of highlighting brand logos to its crawlers.
Bill noted: “In the future we might get either a local business listing and/or a corporate listing, depending upon where we might be located, with a disambiguation set of links based upon informational intent.”
This new development opens up a huge opportunity for digital marketers to enhance their presence within the search results, influencing what may be the first piece of brand messaging their customers see and driving increased traffic and sales.
It makes sense that publishers of content would look to control their brand message on the most visited platform on the web and with the recent buzz around content marketing, the growth of brand authors will only accelerate.
With the expansion of search into an increasingly full-featured experience and as digital marketing budgets swell trying to keep up, I predict that Authorship and the Knowledge Graph will become a huge part of future campaigns. In the continually evolving digital industry, it’s vital that as marketers we adapt and evolve our strategies accordingly.