Knowledge Panels are the blocks of information you see on Google search pages for a variety of queries. They are also called Knowledge Graph Cards, because they show results from Google’s Knowledge Graph.
The Knowledge Graph is like a giant warehouse of information that is used by Google to augment it search engine’s results. Specifically, it is a database of information around keywords that people frequently search for, as well as the intent behind those keywords. In particular, Google looks at the relevance of the entire page to people’s search terms. For general searches about people, facts, animals, history, and other topics it will use sources like Wikipedia. On desktop searches it shows on the right side of the screen and will often contain results from Wikipedia for general searches. Depending on the topic, Google may show Knowledge Graph results as a Knowledge Panel, or at the top of the search page as an image carousel, or as a Rich Snippet information box.
For companies, and especially for local business results, the profile shown in these results depends on how well the company did their SEO work.
Lets dive into how you do this. There are a few steps involved.
- Knowledge Graph Optimization and Google My Business Listings
- What You Need to Claim and Set Up Your Google My Business Account
- Steps to improve Local SEO
- On-Page and On-Site Elements
- Page and Content Optimization
- Optimize for Voice Search
- Technical Search Optimization and Site Structure
- Citations and Off Page Elements
- Google My Business, Bing, and Yahoo
- Social Media, Review Sites, & Industry Directories
- Additional Resources
Knowledge Graph Optimization is how you help search engines understand what your web page is about and thereby influence what Google shows for your website and business.
I’ve included below information on Google Knowledge Panels and the on-page and off-page updates businesses can implement to improve their Local SEO and influence both their SERPs and what Google shows in the panel for their business. Short version: create a Google My Business listing for each location, optimize the website for search, and build the social media presence and authoritative backlinks.
I did a walkthrough and set up a Google My Business (GMB) account. Tt took a little over an hour for a basic setup with no photos, no posts, and nothing beyond the minimum requirements. The postcard with the verification number arrived one week later. Once it arrived, it took less than ten minutes to log in and verify the account. Once the account is verified you are free to make any additional needed or desired updates to further boost the business presence, including adding news updates, events, special offers, and so on.
Before you get started, gather the following information and resources. This list is created from my GMB walkthrough.
- A business email address or an existing Google account that you want to use with your business.
- Another good thing to have before you get started is a Google Analytics account for the business website. This will be used to set up the GMB account.
- A mailing address that will be used to verify ownership for the Google My Business setup. This should be the associated business mailing address. Google sends a postcard with a verification code by snail-mail. Depending on the business, you may be able to verify ownership via an alternative message such as email.
- Business Name
- Business Address. Needed for Bricks and Mortar businesses. If two or more businesses work out of the same address, they will need different suite numbers. (By way of example, I’ve seen this with multiple independent hair salon owners sharing a building).
- Phone Number
- Website URL
- Date company opened at that location (Month/Year)
- Service area (optional): Can be a list of cities (and what state the cities are in) or a general region like “Northeast Ohio”
- Mailing address to verify (Google sends a postcard with a verification code).
- Optional attributes to include (specify which if any to add):
- LGBTQ friendly
- Transgender safe space
- “From the Business” Description: Brief description of business: up to 750 characters.
- Images (size and content specifications below)
- Logo photo – the logo for your business.
- Cover photo – your business’ preferred photo. Though it’s preferred, it doesn’t guarantee that this image will populate as the first image on your listing.
- At work and team: team members at work, interior and exterior photos of your business
- Size specifications:
- Images: jpg or png, between 10kb and 5mb, 720×720 pixels minimum, photos should be in focus, well lit, and good quality. Landscape photos do better than portrait photos and should be about twice as wide as they are high.
- Video (optional): Up to 30 seconds long, Up to 100 MB. Resolution: 720 pixels or higher
- If the business has multiple locations, then besides the above information for EACH location, you will also need the following “Advanced Information”:
- Store code (A store code is a unique ID for each business in your account. You can make this up if you don’t already have one).
- Labels (This helps to organize the business locations. Anyone who manages a location on Google can see its labels.)
- If you use Google Ads: the Google Ads location extensions phone number.
- Does the business want to verify their phone number for Messaging? Questions will go to their phone without revealing the phone number. What this means: Google asks if you want to verify your business phone number to receive and respond to text messages, using the GMB app. They route it through a Google phone number, so it keeps your phone number and the customer’s phone number hidden for texting. The text messages will come through the Google phone line and the business owner (or whoever) receives it on their cell phone. Recently added as a feature (around summer 2019 I think), and a thing that could help improve rankings, as Google now considers customer engagement when ranking a business listing in SERPS.
- For reviews: you can reply to reviews from within Google My Business.
While you cannot control what Google chooses to use for the top results for Knowledge Panels and featured snippets, you may be able to influence what Google shows in the panel for your local business results.
Optimizing for Local SEO includes both on-page and off-page factors.
Note that Local SEO will not benefit every business. It is best for businesses with physical locations and addresses or with local delivery services. It will be less helpful if your business is online only or if you don’t want to share your business’s physical location (maybe you work out of your home or have some other reason to keep your information private). In that case you will still want to optimize your business for search in general but can safely omit targeting for location focused searches.
Optimize your page title tags to include your targeted keywords. Optimize your meta-descriptions to include what you would want people to see in rich snippet results.
More specifically, your title tag and description for each page should be targeted for industry specific search terms and should inspire people to click on your link as it looks like the best fit for their needs and interests.
Don’t just copy the editorial off of your company brochure; think about what words would people type in when searching for a business that provides your services? What copy would make people want to click on that link?
Take a look at this “motivational” title tag and meta-description. It’s based on what I actually found on a website. (Product type and company named changed to protect the innocent. I made up the name and descriptions).
Title: “The World’s Best Cupcake Company | Tasty Treats Bakery”
Meta-description: “Tasty Treats is the best cupcake bakery that was built on the traditional values and work ethic of the owner, whose leadership continues to guide and inspire the company to do the right thing while we bake cupcakes.”
Um…Don’t do that. It may all be perfectly true, but…
NOBODY is searching “work ethic”, “do the right thing”, or “leadership that guides and inspires” as search terms when they need to find a nearby shop so they can pick up cupcakes for a birthday party.
Now look at Version B:
Title: “The World’s Best Handmade Cupcakes | Tasty Treats Bakery”
Meta-description: “Tasty Treats is a family owned bakery in Hometown, Ohio. We have a wide variety of award-winning cupcakes, cookies, and pastries. Everything we sell is made by hand and from scratch in our kitchen.”
Are you more likely to click on a snippet with the Version A: “motivational-poster” description or on Version B?
- Use short URLs that are SEO-friendly and include your keywords
- Optimize images and add strong alt-tag descriptions
- Ensure that the Contact Us page is complete with information for all the business locations, including contact information for each location.
- Create Location-Based Web Pages. Include the City and State in the page titles and copy to boost local SEO. Consider adding a page for each location to improve optimization and results: having a single page for all locations is not doing anybody any favors. (It is perfectly fine to have a single page: “locations” that contains links to the pages for each location). Give each location a unique description on its individual page.
Quaker Steak and Lube does a good job with this, with each franchise locations having its own page including local promotions, a photo gallery, and a descriptive paragraph referencing local attractions. Two examples from their location pages:
“MOTOR-THEMED RESTAURANT IN CLEVELAND’S FIRSTENERGY STADIUM
This Quaker Steak & Lube® Cleveland restaurant is located in FirstEnergy Stadium, a multi-purpose stadium and home of the National Football League’s (NFL) Cleveland Browns, in downtown Cleveland, OH. The Cleveland FirstEnergy location offers the best wings in Cleveland with a variety of different wing sauces. Come visit our Cleveland FirstEnergy restaurant if you are looking for something to eat during a Cleveland Browns game or any event. There is always something happening at The Lube®.”
“MOTOR-THEMED RESTAURANT IN SANDUSKY, OH
The Quaker Steak & Lube® Sandusky restaurant is located just outside the gates of Cedar Point amusement park. This Sandusky, OH restaurant opened in May 2015. The Sandusky location offers award winning ribs & burgers, tempting street foods plus the best wings in Sandusky, OH with your choice of 25 signature sauces. Featuring patio seating with full bar service in a fun atmosphere. Come visit our Sandusky restaurant if you are looking for something to do in Sandusky, OH. The Sandusky restaurant is attached to the Castaway Bay Indoor Waterpark & Hotel.”
Voice Search is steadily increasing as a factor in Local SEO. People search differently when using voice than when using desktop / keyboard search; they use longer phrases and are more likely to use natural language and questions.
Voice Search results can be significantly different than traditional SERPS and can vary considerably across devices. Having a well optimized GMB listing is a big off-site help for improving rankings for voice. Onsite optimization utilizes under the hood (schema) setup as well as some on-page optimization that is somewhat different than what is done with traditional SEO techniques. This can include elements such as using more descriptive language and an emphasis on bullet lists for content. Answer engine checkers like Answer the Public can help with identifying voice search phrases. https://answerthepublic.com/
- Ensure the site is mobile-friendly so as to rank higher for mobile searches.
- Optimize the navigation menu and ensure it is indexable.
- Ensure that the xml sitemap is up to date, accessible to Google and submitted to Google.
- Use 301 redirects as needed to direct traffic with new URLs or domain updates.
- Add a geo-sitemap to enhance Google Maps results
- Add Schema Markup with Structured Data.
- This can be done using a plugin on WordPress sites.
- Schema markup is technical for “adding detailed information under the hood that tells Google how to organize your content in its database”. It helps immensely with organizing information about your business or content so it can best include it in search results, including Local SEO.
Citations are an important factor in local SEO.
Citations are references to a business that include at minimum the business’ name, address, and phone number. These include individual business listings on various sites, including online business directories. They may or may not be linked to your site. Note: this is not the same as link building, where you acquire relevant inbound links from other sites relevant to your industry. Search engine algorithms can tell the difference.
The most important for citations are Google My Business, Bing, Facebook, and Yelp.
Setting up and maintaining a Google My Business listing should be the first step in optimizing your business presence for local search. Google is continually adding features and tools to make this resource more sophisticated and interactive. This is not a “set-up and forget” resource; instead consider it as something to monitor, build out, and maintain on a continual basis. Be aware that GMB includes information about your business in it’s results from a variety of sources in addition to what you add. You can find more information from their help center guide. https://support.google.com/business/answer/2721884?hl=en&ref_topic=4854193
- Create a Google My Business listing for each location.
- This allows each local location to show up in search results.
- Verify and update the information on your GMB listing on the knowledge panel.
- This allows you to manage the listing and suggest edits. IMPORTANT: some elements such as the description cannot be manually updated; they are pulled from the company website and other sources.
- Verify the business categories are correct to rank for more search terms and keyword phrases. Ensure that each location uses the same categories.
- Add unique photos for each location.
- Verify that the Contact Information for your business, including Business Name, Address & Phone number (NAP) are correct and consistent across your website, social media accounts, and internet presence. For multiple locations, make sure these look the same throughout and for each location. The name should not be location based (e.g. Toyota of North Olmsted), as this represents an inconsistency. Some places to check:
- Sign up and get verified for Google My Business Posts to help boost the business presence. New posts appear immediately on your search results page for your business. https://posts.withgoogle.com/
If you have not already done so, this is a good time to set up a Google Webmaster and Google Analytics account and link them to you GMB Account. This is not so much for optimization per se; this is a resource that helps to monitor and gain insights into search performance and data for the site.
Claim the business in Bing to enhance results on both search engines. Bing makes this easy by supporting the import of your existing GMB information.
- Build a presence on all relevant social media platforms. (This is its own separate topic).
- Claim the business on Yelp and other review sites to improve your presence.
- Yelp: https://biz.yelp.com/support/claiming
- Angie’s List: http://www.angieslistbusinesscenter.com/
- Glassdoor: https://www.glassdoor.com/employers/what-we-do/how-it-works/
- Better Business Bureau: https://www.bbb.org/get-listed
- Facebook Ratings and Reviews: https://www.facebook.com/help/434605260012677/
- Depending on your industry you may also want to list on additional review sites such as
- Ensure the business is listed and linked on industry-specific directories where possible. Moz provides some lists of directories by major categories and cities to help get started:
- Claim and add the business to online directories.
- Consider adding select testimonials and reviews to the website.
- Build backlinks from authoritative sites. This can include local resources like the Chamber of Commerce, business partners, sponsorships, local event participations, and so on.
There are many excellent SEO resources on the web. This is by no means a complete or even comprehensive list.
For keyword research, I like these tools:
BrightLocal has a collection of excellent blog posts and resources:
Search Engine Journal is a great resource, period.
Can’t forget Google documentation. This is by no means a comprehensive list of their relevant answer pages.
Hubspot is another favorite resource for SEO and marketing information.
Moz has good information and some useful tools
More good resources: