Contextual Knowledge Panels at Google

by Posted @ Sep 09 2019

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Just What is a Contextual Knowledge Panel?

SEO doesn’t come with an instruction manual – it would be easier if it did. But for some things we just don’t know all the rules about how they work, such as knowledge panels. We do sometimes get some hints from places like patents, and one that was granted at the start of this month added to some information I experienced about knowledge panels in the past.

All knowledge panels may be contextual knowledge panels, depending upon context-based words that might accompany a query with an entity named in it.

Ideally, when someone performs a query that includes the name of an entity, a knowledge panel should show up. A client of ours had two different locations, in two different towns, and when you searched on their name (just the name), no knowledge panel appeared. If you searched on the name and then the name of the town the first one was in, a knowledge panel would show up for that business at that location. If you searched for the name of the business, and the town the second one was in, a knowledge panel would appear for that business at that location. Adding that context information made a difference, in the contextual knowledge panels that appeared for me in SERPs.

Between that experience and the patent, it made me think about other queries I could try to see what type of results I received.

First, a screenshot from the patent, showing two contextual knowledge panels in results on queries for “Ronnie Wood” and another for “Ronnie Wood the Rolling Stones”:

Contextual knowledge panel for Ronnie Wood Patent Flowchart

If you search for my name, a knowledge panel appears for me:

Contextual knowledge panel bill slawski

If you search for my name and add “Go Fish, [Bill Go Fish] ” what I have been calling a disambiguation panel shows instead of a contextual knowledge panel:

disambiguation panel bill go fish

If you search for [bill the seo], a knowledge panel for SEO by the Sea shows up:

Contextual Knowledge Panel bill the SEO

Definition of a knowledge Panel

A knowledge panel is sometimes referred to as a knowledge panel and sometimes as a knowledge card in a few different patents from Google. I’ve seen some bloggers refer to it as a knowledge graph, even though a knowledge graph is a much bigger collection of information about many entities and relationships between those entities, and properties of entities that knowledge panel information is showing us information about (See my post at Knowledge Graph Reconciliation) The patent gives us this definition:

A knowledge panel is a user interface element that provides information, e.g., known facts, related to a particular entity referenced by a search query. The system can determine the information to include in the knowledge panel by identifying the one or more context terms that are associated with the entity identified by the search query.

A knowledge panel also includes other informaton, as well as content from Google’s Knowledge graph. It can include:

  • Busiest Hours information
  • Reviews for the Web and from Critical Reviewers information
  • Links to streaming content, downloadable content
  • Events information
  • Other Entities people also search for

Depending upon the type of entity that the knowledge panel is about, it could include specific information related to that type of entity. I wrote a more detailed post about knowledge cards and what they contain at: Google Knowledge Cards Improve Search Engine Experiences. Some processes at Google are built into the user interface of knowledge panels, like the one I wrote about in Popular Times for Businesses Learned by Looking at Location History

This new patent tells us that context terms added to an entity in a query are anticipated, and this patent is aimed at modifying knowledge panels to make them relevant for those queries:

The subject matter of this patent may include methods that cover:

  1. Receiving a request that includes an entity identifier of an entity that is referenced by a search query submitted by a user and one or more context terms that are referenced by the search query
  2. Identifying a number of knowledge elements related to the entity
  3. Identifying one or more context terms that are associated with the entity that is referenced by the search query
  4. Assigning rank scores to the knowledge elements, based at least on identifying the one or more context terms that are associated with the entity that is referenced by the search query
  5. Selecting one or more of the knowledge elements from among the knowledge elements based at least on the rank scores assigned to the knowledge elements
  6. Providing information associated with the entity and the one or more selected knowledge elements

That “known fact” referred to in that process is one that might be related to the context term in the query.

This patent tells us that the knowledge elements that may show up in a knowledge panel may change based upon the score associated with the context items referenced in a query, resulting in contextual knowledge panels that potentially are slightly different from each other. I’m not seeing drastic changes from one knowledge panel to another with different context terms, and I suspect that we may see more variation in the future.

The patent also tells us that some text in a knowledge panel may be highlighted regarding one or more of the knowledge elements in a knowledge panel. That would fit in well with the highlighting that we see in search results for the query terms that we searched for, or possibly for synonyms or substitutes of those query terms.

In addition to the highlighting, we may see some titles or subtitles appear in the knowledge panel that is related to the knowledge elements appearing in those panels. (see the screenshot above for the knowledge panels for “Ronnie Wood.”

The Contextual Knowledge Panel patent can be found at:

Contextualizing knowledge panels
Inventors: Amit Behal, Randolph G. Brown, Akash Nanavati and Bharat Kalyanpur
Assignee: Google LLC
US Patent: 10,402,410
Granted: September 3, 2019
Filed: December 16, 2015

Abstract

Methods, systems, and apparatus for receiving a request that includes an entity identifier of an entity that is referenced by a search query submitted by a user and one or more context terms that are referenced by the search query; identifying a plurality of knowledge elements that are related to the entity; identifying one or more context terms that are associated with the entity that is referenced by the search query; assigning, by one or more computers, rank scores to the plurality of knowledge elements, based at least on identifying the one or more context terms that are associated with the entity that is referenced by the search query; selecting one or more of the knowledge elements from among the knowledge elements based at least on the rank scores assigned to the knowledge elements; and providing, in response to the request, information associated with the entity and the one or more selected knowledge elements.

Contextual Knowledge Panels Takeaways

The patent also points out that when there is more than one entity with the same name, adding a context term may determine the contextual knowledge panel that might be shown. They point out Salman Khan, who is a well-known actor in India, and there is a Salman Khan who is a well-known educator in the United States.

If you worked with a site or business or person who might have a knowledge panel in search results at Google, you should consider searching for them and adding contextual terms in queries to see if there are any surprises in contextual knowledge panels.

Because Knowledge Panels don’t come with instruction manuals.

Action Items

If your business doesn’t have a knowledge panel, we’ve written How to Create a Knowledge Panel for Your Organization, which may help you earn one for your site.

Once you have a knowledge panel, make sure it is correct and shows off everything you want it to. We had one client who expected to earn a knowledge panel for their main business, but the panel they received focused upon one of the services that they offered instead of their main business. We suggested that they have a person who had been assigned control over the property in Google My Business to edit it, and they were able to change it over to their main business within a week or so. Google does have a Support Page about how to Update your Google knowledge panel.

Once you have a knowledge panel, see if it shows up on a search for your business name, or if it requires additional information, such as the name of the town it is located in. See if it will show up differently when different context terms are added – Knowledge panels don’t come with instructions, so it’s good trying different searches out, and seeing what comes up. Have fun with it.

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