By Sam Hollingsworth
Google’s Knowledge Graph—an information base that enhances the search experience with semantic-search information collected from a wide variety of sources—continues to evolve and expand.
So does Bing’s version of its similar search feature, known as Snapshot or Satori. So how might these offerings impact traffic to for-profit websites from which information is being collected? It’s too early to tell but well worth examining.
Most recently, Google’s Knowledge Graph added hotel booking information directly on the SERP (search engine results page), and soon after that added cocktail recipes as well. That’s right: type in your favorite alcoholic beverage, let Knowledge Graph supply you with the recipe.
This is pretty useful, and is certainly enhancing the search experience for most users. If I’m looking for a basic recipe for a common mixed drink, but I’m not sure which website to click, nor which will offer me the recipe without being drowned out by advertisements or inconsistencies, Knowledge Graph’s quick and easy delivery should be a helpful tool.
The same can be said for the new hotel-booking feature. Similar to Google’s “Flights” feature, Google offers top deals on hotels through vendors like Orbitz, Booking.com, Priceline, right on the SERP for fast and easy price monitoring and booking.
This is convenient but, personally, I opt to only check prices this way and then book the hotel of my choice through the official hotel website.
Assuming most users don’t use the same tactics as me, we have to consider the increased number of hotel bookings that will be generated via Google Search to providers like Orbitz, Booking.com, and Priceline with the latest travel-related Knowledge Graph update. Not to mention the plethora of Google Ads for hotels once the “View hotels” link is clicked in the Knowledge Graph, generating your hotel search via Google Hotel Finder.
But what does this mean for the overall search experience, and what does the future look like?
While Google and some of its competition (like Bing) are working to enhance the overall search experience for its users, we have to also consider “what’s in it for them?” And just like many of the Knowledge Graph updates since its inception in May 2012, this is clear: more information on the SERP, but also more ads on the SERP, and most importantly, fewer clicks off the SERP, which means more time spent on the SERP. And less time—or no time at all—spent visiting the websites that offer the information.
Yes, we are still not at the point that this happening to the extent that it effects traffic and conversions drastically for for-profit websites, but it’s already happening to the websites that Knowledge Graph depends on the most, like Wikipedia.
Since Knowledge Graph’s U.S. launch in 2012, Wikipedia traffic has decreased in unprecedented fashion after increasing year-over-year for about a decade, in English versions as well as other languages. Despite these stats, Wikipedia has openly welcomed the use of its data by Google’s Knowledge Graph, Wikipedia’s only real competition in the space, since no direct correlation has been proven yet. But other sites may not be as accepting.
In February 2015, Google announced it would be serving trusted medical advice on its SERP as part of a Knowledge Graph update. It claims the medical information it serves was created “with a team of medical doctors (led by our own Dr. Kapil Parakh, M.D., MPH, Ph.D.) to carefully compile, curate, and review this information. All of the gathered facts represent real-life clinical knowledge from these doctors and high-quality medical sources across the web, and the information has been checked by medical doctors at Google and the Mayo Clinic for accuracy.”
However, the “gathered facts” come from a variety of sources. “First, our algorithms find and analyze health-related information from high-quality sites across the web,” Google says. It will also be interesting to see how traffic data is affected for those high-quality sources, which include: ScienceDirect, Medscape, Nature, Mayo Clinic, and WebMD, as well as a number of government websites like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Library of Medicine (NLM), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Cancer Institute (NCI), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and ClinicalTrials.gov.
Are these medical websites next to endure a decline in site visits? And just how severe with the decline be if there is one? And who/what industry is next?
While it’s obvious the direction Google is headed with its Knowledge Graph and the overall search experience, it will be interesting to see how this enhanced search capability renders for websites and businesses across the Web.
Sam Hollingsworth is an SEO Manager at Acronym with an emphasis on Content Marketing and Social Media. Originally from Upstate New York, he now resides in Manhattan and enjoys watching his New York Rangers and New York Knicks just a few of blocks away from work at the Empire State Building. You may also find Sam watching horse racing at Belmont Park or Aqueduct Racetrack throughout the year, or at Saratoga Race course near his hometown in Saratoga Springs during summer. Sam can be reached via Twitter at @SearchMasterGen