You know how sometimes you google something and an info box on the right immediately catches your eye with a large image and a big, bold title? And how sometimes that box has the information you want, so you don’t even need to click through the list of top results?
Those are Google’s nifty Knowledge Panels. For clued-in digital marketers, they are coveted real estate, but they’re not one of Google’s well-known products.
How do they get there? That, my friend, is not entirely clear. The ways of Google are often inscrutable, but those clued-in marketers have been figuring it out. And if you figure it out for your business, your brand, or even your band, you can give your visibility a big booster shot.
Got questions? We’ve got answers.
What is a Knowledge Panel?
In short, Knowledge Panels are a big shortcut into your online information.
A Knowledge Panel is a box of information that sometimes appears on a search engine results page (SERP). They’re on the right side on desktop or at the top on mobile. (FYI: Paid ads always get the top spot because money.)
Google automatically generates panels by crawling through the web to grab information from multiple sources and producing a concise list of information it thinks is the most relevant.
What you see depends on what type of information you seek. Typically, you’ll see an image or several photos, a title, and a short description, which is often pulled from the first few lines of a Wikipedia page. You’ll also get website and social links. Then may come a few relevant facts, contact information for businesses, or products for sale.
Thomas Jefferson’s panel gives you his birth and death dates, term as president, spouse, and vice presidents. Adele’s panel links to music services such as Spotify, songs on YouTube, and her social profiles.
For REI, the panel leads with handy links to the website, customer service chat, and a phone number. Also handy: The cost of a membership is followed by a link to an article on whether the membership fee is worth the money. (Fortunately for REI, the answer is yes.) There’s also a question and answer section, reviews, and specific product listings.
Local businesses can display photos, directions, hours, and inventory. (Google explains how they source information for local listings, which can also include user-generated content like reviews.)
If you want more of the nuts and bolts, check out Google’s blog post, “A reintroduction to our Knowledge Graph and knowledge panels.”
Who can get one?
Knowledge panels aren’t just for the big players. Startups and small local businesses can get them just like Starbucks or IBM. Even local bands can get the same treatment as Adele. The key is to show Google you’re worthy by demonstrating relevance and authority through your digital presence.
If you’re a thought leader or entrepreneur who’s wondering if you can make the grade, having a Wikipedia page is a good indicator that shows you’ve already been deemed worthy by the internet.
Do I really need one?
No, but the benefits to businesses are big enough that it makes sense to shoot for that brass ring. Knowledge panels can:
- Boost SEO and bring in more of those sweet organic search results.
- Get potential customers into your sales funnel quickly and efficiently.
- Make it easier for customers to find you with one click to directions or your phone number.
- Support your brand identity.
Note that, while you can’t shape the initial information, you can request edits to add information.
Sounds awesome! How do I create one?
You can’t. Only Google can bestow this gift upon you. Its algorithms are judging you, your relevance, and your authority. If you pass muster, one day a Knowledge Panel could magically appear. Or not. (Try to have a healthy ego when you start this quest.)
But I want one. Is Google being unfair?
Is anything in life really fair? Does it matter? You can’t blame Google for wanting to make sure you’re legit. But you can do some things that may increase your chances.
OK, whatever. What can I do to increase my chances?
Be everywhere. Take inventory and assess your online assets. Good places to start: Your website is findable, clean, and explains what you do. You’re on as many social platforms as make sense for your business. Maybe you have some videos up on YouTube. You have a Wikipedia page if you’re eligible. (Creating one is a process, but Hubspot lays it all out for you.)
Make sure you’ve linked all your platforms to one another – your website to your Facebook to your YouTube channel and so on.
Google looks at both the quantity and quality of your online presence, so make sure your content is strong.
Open a free Google My Business account if you don’t have one. GMB is a directory that lets smaller local businesses connect with customers and increase their visibility based on geolocation. If you have an account, make sure it’s complete and up to date. (Hootsuite has a beautiful, comprehensive step-by-step guide to setting up and optimizing GMB.)
You’ll need to verify that you’re the owner via postcard, phone, or email. Once you’re verified, you can add and edit information such as your address and opening hours, which should appear in your Knowledge Panel.
The Knowledge Panel fairy visited me! What happens next?
At the bottom of the panel you should see this button:
Click it and claim it! This will allow you to request edits. Make sure all info is accurate. (Take a look at ReviewTrackers.com for more info.)
This part of the process seems to be something that isn’t well known. As of this writing, business leaders like Simon Sinek and Warren Buffet, the Spanx brand, and even Starbucks do not appear to have claimed their Knowledge Panels. You can do better!
Be consistent with your wording. Take your mission statement, branding guidelines, value proposition, elevator pitch – all of it, and distill it into one clear and simple sentence that you use across platforms in bios or descriptions of your business. Google likes it when you do that.
Finally, ignore companies that promise they can get you a knowledge panel. They can’t.
The Knowledge Panel quest is something you can DIY with research and persistence. But if you work with a digital marketing agency, now you’ll know to ask them how they’re questing for you.
Just remember: There are no guarantees, but you should still go for the Google gold.