Understanding the Google Knowledge Panel for Brands

Recently, I was helping a company with some SEO and as part of that effort, trying to get a knowledge panel to appear when you search for their brand in Google. While having a knowledge panel isn’t as important as producing high quality content to improve your search engine result position, it does reinforce to prospective customers that your brand is indeed legitimate. Besides, since Google’s ranking algorithm is not publicly known and changes over time, I wouldn’t be completely surprised if having a knowledge panel is considered a positive factor in the ranking algorithm, or could be at some point in the future.

So let me back up a second and tell you what I’m talking about when I say knowledge panel, because if you haven’t done SEO before or don’t pay close attention to the results that come back when you do a Google search, you may not know what that is. A knowledge panel is a specialized area of the search results that displays a summary and key facts about the specific entity you searched for. Here is the knowledge panel that appears when I search for Google using Google.

GoogleKnowledgePanelHighlighted

The first important thing to understand is there are multiple types of knowledge panels. I don’t know all of the potential types, but here are three main ones:

  • Brand – This one shown above for Google is a brand knowledge panel.
  • Person – This is very similar to a brand knowledge panel, but for a person, and appears a little differently.
  • Local Business – This is for a local store or restaurant and displays a map, reviews, hours of operation, etc.

What I’m going to be talking about are brand knowledge panels and it turns out they are much more difficult to achieve than some SEO blogs make them out to be, especially if you are a relatively new startup company trying to build your presence. I believe everything will also apply to person knowledge panels, but local business knowledge panels appear to be entirely different in the rules for whether they are displayed (and good news, if you want one for your local business, it seems to be much easier to obtain a local business knowledge panel than a brand knowledge panel).

Structured Data Markup

According to Google, using structured data markup on your public website can influence their decision about which social media profiles to display in your brand’s knowledge panel. The wording on their site about using structured data markup seems at first to imply that having this markup will tell them what they need to know to create a knowledge panel, but this does not seem to be the case and does not seem to have any bearing on whether Google chooses to display a knowledge panel in the first place or not. If it is a factor, then it alone is not enough to prompt the display of a knowledge panel by Google.

My conclusion is that having structured data markup in your public website can’t hurt, and might help fill out an incomplete knowledge panel, but don’t expect this to help you very much.

WikiData

Some of the advice I read about getting a brand knowledge panel said it was just a matter of creating an entry for your company in Freebase. However, in 2015, Freebase was shut down and is now only a read-only repository for historical purposes. The existing data (some or all, I’m not sure) has been migrated to Wikidata, which like Freebase, is also a publicly-editable repository of structured data. But Wikidata is much more restrictive about which entries it accepts into its database, and limits itself to only containing data for people and companies that meet its “notability” requirement. Without being considered notable, expect Wikidata editors to remove your entry within a matter of days.

So what criteria does Wikidata use to determine notability? They publish notability guidelines which essentially say that you have to have at least one valid sitelink to Wikipedia or other similar site that has editorial guidelines. Essentially they are deferring the job of determining notability over to the Wikipedia editors.

My conclusion for Wikidata is that it is impossible to get a Wikidata entry unless you first have a Wikipedia entry first. If you have a valid Wikipedia entry, and are considered notable by Wikipedia editors, then having a Wikidata entry can’t hurt and might even help fill in some missing data in the knowledge panel.

Wikipedia

So this brings me to Wikipedia. From looking at numerous knowledge panels for companies of various sizes, my determination is that Wikipedia is just about the only thing that matters in determining whether you can get a knowledge panel or not. I can’t say whether having a Wikipedia it is a sure-fire way to trigger a knowledge panel to be created for your brand, I can say that I have NEVER seen a brand knowledge panel that existed for something that did not also have a Wikipedia entry.

The rules around what makes an acceptable Wikipedia page are beyond what I’m going to cover, and besides, I have never authored a brand new Wikipedia page. I will leave that to someone else to cover, but I do know that your entry needs to be written in a factual manner, backed up by references to reputable news sources. With that in mind, if you are new startup company, your biggest barrier to being able to create a Wikipedia page for your business is to getting enough reputable third-party sources to write about you so that you can use them to eventually create your Wikipedia page. My suggestion would be to think about what your Wikipedia page might look like by checking out similar companies who have done it already, and then look at your group of reference sources and see what gaps you have and focus on trying to get coverage in those areas so that you will have enough sources to eventually build your Wikipedia page. Don’t expect this to be an overnight thing, but if you start early with this strategy then by the time you want to have a Wikipedia page, you will have everything you need.

My conclusion for Wikipedia is that it is critical to have a Wikipedia entry for your company if you want a brand knowledge panel to appear for you in the search results. If you do only one thing to try to get a knowledge panel, do this.

Summary

1. Create a Wikipedia page for your company.

That is probably all you really need to do, but if you want to go further, it can’t hurt to:

2. Create a Wikidata entry (must reference your Wikipedia entry) and fill in details about your business.
3. Add structured data markup to your public website

4 Comments

  • Knowledge Graph Panels exist without Wikipedia Pages, which are extremely hard to create, especially for a business – every time I tried I got a negative answer, saying that it is spam, and publicity, and got my page deleted. If you want to see KGP without Wiki pages, make a google search for kazenokodomo, or “micropack automatizari”…

    • Iulian, I did not see a Knowledge Panel when I Google searched for kazenokodomo, but I did see one when I searched for “micropack automatizari”. However, it was what I referred to as a local business knowledge panel, and not a brand knowledge panel.

      I agree that a local business knowledge panel does not require a Wikipedia entry and they are much easier to get. I still believe that in order to get a brand knowledge panel, like Google or Microsoft, or smaller companies like Xamarin or Luxottica, you have to have a Wikipedia entry first and foremost, and then having a complete Wikidata entry can help fill in more of the details.

      The hardest part, as you mentioned, is to be considered relevant and worthy of a Wikipedia entry by the Wikipedia editors, to have an informative entry based on third-party facts, and not marketing content.

  • I used to have my knowledge panel when I googled my business. A couple of weeks ago it no longer comes up, only when you type in the name and add “maps.”

    • Hi Jessica,

      It looks like Rock Candy Media has done everything right to get a Knowledge Panel… Wikipedia, Wikidata, and structured data.

      One thing I noticed when checking your structured data is you have your Google+ page linked to the posts URL and not directly to your Google+ profile.

      <a itemprop="sameAs" href="https://plus.google.com/105795183329849578220/posts" target="_blank">google+</a>

      I think it should be this to point directly to your Google+ profile, not the posts page…

      <a itemprop="sameAs" href="https://plus.google.com/+Rockcandymedia" target="_blank">google+</a>

      I’m not sure if that would affect it or not though. I notice you do seem to have a Knowledge Panel on Bing, so it makes me think it is possible that it is something Google-specific.

      Other than that, I would say to double-check your SEO. Try using Google’s search console, and page speed insights to see what it doesn’t like about your site.

      https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/?hl=en&utm_source=wmx&utm_campaign=wmx_otherlinks&url=http%3A%2F%2Frockcandymedia.com%2F

      I hope these ideas help. Best of luck

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