The Google Knowledge Graph was launched in May 2012. It’s essentially a system designed by Google to understand how facts about people, places, and “things” are all connected to one another.
Depending on the search query, the Knowledge Graph displays information in various different ways. For branded search queries within local search, Google more often than not returns useful information about a business in the SERPs, with the Local Knowledge Panel dominating a large amount of space above the fold.
When you search “Hallam” on Google, our company’s local knowledge panel does indeed trigger:
However, it took a great deal of effort on our part to make this so. In this post I will run through the steps we took to finally ensure that our local knowledge panel was triggered by a branded search query.
Just to be clear, there was no “process” involved. Extensive trial and error was necessary, but we now have a better understanding of what is required to achieve the same results for our clients.
How We Got Our Local Knowledge Panel to Show
Having moved business premises three times within the space of 5-6 years, our first step was to update all of the business directories on which we were listed, ensuring that our business name, address, and phone number was consistent across all citations throughout the web.
We prioritised the major directory sites, before running a citation campaign using Bright Local’s Citation Tracker. In this way, we extracted a comprehensive list of all the sites on which our business was mentioned. We then set about sorting the information available, further prioritising the sites that needed updating.
Google My Business
Carrying out a citation updating campaign isn’t a quick job, so whilst this took place we focused our attention on various other key areas. Our first port of call was to revisit Hallam’s Google My Business profile to ensure that it was fully optimised.
Without going into all the gory details of best practice optimisation for this platform, we essentially ensured that the profile was 100% complete. We checked that our page was verified, that the correct business name was listed, and that our address, map location pin, and phone number details were all up to date. Finally, we checked that our Google My Business Page was linked to our website.
Whilst undertaking this exercise I found one potential issue: the phone number field had our 0800 number as the primary number, followed by our mobile number, and finally our main local land line number. I stripped this right down, removing the first two numbers and leaving our local land line number as the primary number.
The majority of local business citations include this number as the primary phone number, and the knowledge graph works on the basis of connected entities. I therefore wanted to make it clear to Google that our local number is our primary number, to ensure consistency across our wider online presence.
Our next step was to check our site was making correct use of structured data. We wanted to ensure that we were giving the search engines clear information about our business – who we are, and where we are located.
We noticed a couple of errors in our mark-up, so we decided to remove and replace it with some refreshed JSON linked data, also highlighting and specifying our social profiles to the search engines.
We gave the changes we made some time to settle in whilst continuing with our citation campaign. However, the local knowledge panel was still nowhere to be seen.
The only sensible thing to do was what I always do when I have an issue at work: I turned to Google Search for help.
This is where I stumbled across a great post by Mike Blumenthal, which acted as a bit of a checklist. The only problem was that we had already ticked most of the boxes. In Mike’s post he references several focus areas:
1. Undertake a citation campaign; this was the top of our agenda and already well underway.
2. Ensure you have a freebase entry; this is something we set out to achieve some time ago.
3. Become active on Google+ and gain over 100 followers; we love social media, so not a problem!
4. Receive reviews of your business; we have a decent amount of reviews. Not loads, but a decent amount.
5. Make sure you have a good amount of branded links and mentions of your business; this wasn’t an issue and our branded links are ever increasing. They are a natural bi-product of our business’s marketing efforts. A search using ahrefs link explorer confirmed this.
We ticked all but one of the boxes, and that was to gain an entry on Wikipedia, which is easier said than done. We didn’t seek to get a listing on Wikipedia, and this wasn’t the golden ticket that solved our problem.
So What Tipped the Balance?
Because we tried such a wide variety of things throughout the project, it is difficult to pinpoint what it was that actually tipped the balance, eventually enabling our local knowledge panel to show for brand name searches.
Throughout the whole project I frequently returned to our Google My Business profile, thinking that the devil had to be in the details. What wasn’t I seeing?
One day I decided to dig a bit deeper into Google’s guidelines for listing local businesses on their platform, and I stumbled across two key pieces of information.
The first was that you should add a profile photo for your business that is NOT a logo. Logos can be added, and then specified as a logo. Seems logical, but in our case this was simply overlooked.
The second key piece of information I found was related to business categories. Prior to reading this it was my understanding that adding your business to a few additional related categories was a good idea. I was wrong.
According to Google, when listing a business, “you should use as few categories as possible to describe your overall core business”. Google specifically advises against using categories “solely as keywords”.
Based on these two pieces of advice, I re-jigged our business images, and stripped back the number of categories we were listed in to just one super relevant category.
What happened next stunned me. I returned to Google and punched in the words “Hallam”, only to see this:
This had to be a one off, right? I Googled it again, in three different browsers, logged out of my Google account, searched in Incognito mode, and repeated the same process using several of my colleagues’ computers.
I genuinely couldn’t believe it. It seemed that after all our efforts, a couple of simple tweaks to our Google My Business account triggered the local knowledge panel for Hallam.
It could have been any one of the factors highlighted in this post that fixed the issues, it could have been the amendments to the Google My Business profile, or it could have been a culmination of all of those efforts combined. In any case, our efforts ultimately paid off.
Having gone through this process, I have learnt that it pays to be thorough and accurate from the outset, and that it pays to follow best practice guidelines. Also, even if you believe that you’ve been clued up from the start, it’s worth double checking your initial efforts. Who knows what mistakes you might have made?
If you’ve had issues getting your local knowledge panel to display in the search results, or if you’re still having problems, then get in touch. I’d be happy to discuss.