Google search works pretty well, right? We can all agree on that. When researching a particular topic, we might instinctively head to a well-known news source or online encyclopaedia, such as Wikipedia – a couple of clicks and you have a wealth of information.
Well, now Google is aiming to change all that and present encyclopaedic results without the need to click on any other sites.
Using the right margin that’s generally blank in Google results, save for some occasional PPC and Google+ results, Google will begin to display detailed information on the searched topic. The Google Knowledge Graph “panel” will only appear when Google has relevant results to display, and will be based around enties such as people, places, movies, cities etc.
Say you were searching for information on comedian Eddie Izzard for example; you’d naturally search ‘Eddie Izzard’ in Google and be greeted with this page of results.
This page is seen when searching google.com without being signed in to a Google account. The first result is relevant, and the following entries will likely tell me everything I need to know after some quick reading; however there is a large amount of white space on the right that could be put to better use.
After signing in, we can see the Google Knowledge Graph in action…
The organic results are exactly the same; however we can now see a profile on the right hand page, informing us of Eddie’s birth date, height, education, awards, parents, media he’s appeared in and related comedians. Whilst I cannot deny that this is an impressive addition to the traditional search results, you have to wonder just how useful the panel can be.
It’s likely that you’re going to desire more information so whilst quickly glancing over the provided details, you will still inevitably navigate to the respective pages to find out more.
However, the introduction of this feature is a signifier that Google is working towards understanding search results, using approximately 3.5 billion different attributes to organise what is shown. Vice-president of engineering at Google and head of search, Amit Singhal, said, “Over the years, as search has improved, people expect more. We see this as the next big improvement in search relevance… We’re proud of our first baby step—the Knowledge Graph—which will enable us to make search more intelligent”.
The technology itself is not an unknown however and has been used by Wolfram-Alpha since 2009 – receiving a large boost by integration with Apple’s Siri software and a partnership with rival search engine, Bing. Whilst the technology is similar, Wolfram Alpha tends to offer more in-depth answers to questions, whilst Google’s Knowledge Graph aims to show more popular results.
With clear shifts toward personalised search results and keeping users on the results pages as long as possible, Google is clearly growing into a smarter service and aiming to become all things to all people.
I’m already preparing for a HAL-9000 situation.