Geo 101: What Is The Knowledge Graph?

Today, search is intelligent. Here's what that means for marketers.

From geo-targeting to voice search, technology is opening up a world of possibilities for marketers. But it’s also complicated, as new capabilities and use cases seem to emerge every day.

With the goal of breaking down some of the most important concepts to provide a better understanding of the basics — and a jumping off point for exploring how far the power of location may take us — we introduce the next installment of our GeoMarketing 101 series: what marketers need to know about the knowledge graph.

What Is The Knowledge Graph?

The concept of the knowledge graph was popularized by Google, which launched the Google Knowledge Graph back in 2012 in a bid to provide users with structured answers to their queries — not just blue links. Essentially, the Knowledge Graph “understands” facts about places, people, and things, and it uses this information to give more relevant information to searchers.

This Google Knowledge Graph is usually what people are talking about when they use the term “knowledge graph” to refer to getting structured answers on the web that, through algorithms, become smarter over time.

But as more tech entities explore the process of applying AI to to information to improve insights, researchers at the Johannes Kepler University Linz in Austria decided to finally come up with a formal definition, TechCrunch reported: “A knowledge graph acquires and integrates information into an ontology and applies a reasoner to derive new knowledge.”

Why Does It Matter For Marketers?

As we wrote earlier this year, for every online purchase resulting from a search, Google sees multi-channel retailers receive an additional 400 in-store visits — a statistic that reinforces how crucial search is to brick-and-mortar businesses.

But with the Google Knowledge Graph, search has changed since the (relatively recent) days in which a query would result in a list of webpages. Today, “search is intelligent — and when you search for things, you get direct, structured answers,” explained Howard Lerman, CEO at Yext (full disclosure: Yext is GeoMarketing’s parent company. More details on that relationship here), in a Retail Week Live session earlier this year.

Essentially, if a consumer searches for “new car,” they don’t simply see links — they see the knowledge card, with prices, configurations, features of cars for sale, and more, all seamlessly. Similarly, if someone Googles groceries or banks, they get maps back; Google now assumes someone is looking for a place if they search for something present in the physical world.

If businesses fail to present their information accurately and comprehensively such that they show up in the knowledge graph, consumers — approximately 80 percent of who prefer to turn to a search engine to look up information about local businesses — they risk missing out on customers and sales. Below, Lerman’s intelligent search tips for marketers:

  • Think about the entities fundamental to your business. “You need to be in the knowledge graph,” Lerman said. This means that a restaurant, for example, needs to list its menu and locations — so that that Google will then know its menu items and the eatery will shows up in the results if a consumer searches for “pancakes.” Similarly, for a bank, the fundamental entities might be branches and ATM locations. It’s about being listed comprehensively and accurately in all of the relevant categories so as to be discoverable.
  • Think about ‘deep knowledge.’ Consider all of the attributes that drive intelligent search. It’s not enough to show up in a search for “Tesco;” a supermarket needs to show up if a consumer makes a voice search for “groceries,” for example. Think about all the paths that consumers take when searching on mobile, with voice search, and more in order to show up in “unbranded” situations.
  • Think about where your consumers are in terms of services and platforms. Do they search on Google? Do they use Snapchat, or are they more likely to be on Instagram — or both? Alexa? Are they using Uber? Businesses today need to push their information to all of these digital services; it’s not enough to just put it on the web.

And the importance of the knowledge graph — the structured answers provided to users making voice searches with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are skyrocketing — isn’t changing anytime soon. As GeoMarketing‘s David Kaplan wrote, in a larger sense, even Snapchat’s introduction of Context Cards to give users more information about images and locations shows the expansion of the “Knowledge Graph” concept — aiming to meet consumers’ demand for specific answers and information instead of a list of links from a search.

Read more about the knowledge graph and intelligent search:

Snapchat’s Context Cards Extend Digital Presence Information From Outside Apps

Geo 101: What Marketers Should Know About The Future Of Search

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.