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Jason Barnard: Masterclass on Google Knowledge Panels – The ABM Conversations Podcast – for B2B Marketing Professionals

In this episode, Jason Barnard, whom you might know as The Brand SERP Guy, takes us through a real masterclass on one of the very important tools that helps you in building online trust and reputation, i.e., “Knowledge Panels”.
Listen in, to go deep into:
–> What are knowledge panels?
–> How to get into it? Can it be built or can it only be claimed?
–> What is its monetary impact on business or brand?
–> Can you use knowledge panels to position yourself against your competition, and a lot more…

Introducing Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy) as the founder and CEO of Kalicube, a Contributor on Digital Marketing Publications, and a Speaker on Conferences

[00:00:00] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: Hello, and welcome to another brand new episode of The ABM Conversations Podcast. And this is me, your host Yaag. In today’s episode, we are going to have a masterclass on one of the very important tools that helps you in building online trust and reputation. That is Knowledge Panels. And we have the amazing Jason Barnard with us today who will take us through what are Knowledge Panels, how to get into it, why are they important, so on and so forth.

[00:00:25] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: Jason is the founder and CEO of Kalicube, and you probably know him as The Brand SERP Guy, one of the biggest authorities in the world on Brand SERPs and Knowledge Panels. He is a regular contributor on top digital marketing publications, such as Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Land, and is a regular guest on the panels of Semrush, Trustpilot, Search Engine Watch, et cetera. He has over two decades of experience in digital marketing and pre-COVID, of course, you must have seen him on almost all major digital marketing conferences, such as SMX series, PubCon, YoastCon, et cetera. Jason, welcome to the show. I’m super pumped to have you here. 

[00:01:00] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah. Thank you for having me. That was a lovely introduction. And I’m really pleased to be here because what you’re talking about is incredibly interesting, and I’m pleased to be exchanging with you about my favourite topic.

The Difference Between a Knowledge Panel and Google My Business 

[00:01:14] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: Absolutely. Thank you so much for being here and, Jason, let’s dive straight in. Knowledge Panel is not, at least to me, Knowledge Panel is not as niche as it used to be back in the day. And if I may call it so, it’s become very universal right now. By the way, majority of our listeners are B2B SaaS marketers and sales folks with at least five plus years of experience. And the reason I’m saying this is that this might not be the people who are walking on Knowledge Panels day in and day out. So for starters, let’s talk about what a Knowledge Panel is, how is it different from say, Google My Business panel in terms of utility, how does it help a brand or a person. 

[00:01:54] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Right. That’s a really lovely question because Google My Business is a business listing. Basically, you provide information to Google. And you say, this is who I am, this is the times I’m open, this is my category, this is a photo, and this is what I want to say to my potential clients. So, it’s information that is provided by the business themselves, and Google just shows what you give them. The Knowledge Panel, which is backed up by the Knowledge Graph, is Google’s machine understanding of who you are and what you do. So, it’s the machine equivalent of the Google My Business. And the Google My Business tends to be local, whereas the Knowledge Panel is international.

How Do Knowledge Panels Help a Brand or a Person? 

[00:02:32] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: Right. That makes sense. And how does it typically help a brand or a person? 

[00:02:36] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): There are multiple ways. The first way is if you search somebody’s name or a brand name, if there is a Knowledge Panel on the right hand side, it’s Google showing facts. It’s what Google has understood to be fact about that entity, that person, or that brand. And as Google users, I think we tend to forget we’re marketers and we’re also Google users. And as marketers, we forget that as users we trust Google. If Google shows us facts in that right rail, we tend to believe it. So from that perspective, it’s Google showing what it has understood about you as fact. And that carries a lot of weight in the modern world.

[00:03:19] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): The second advantage is if you’re talking about search, I like to represent search. And back in the day when I was an SEO at the beginning of the noughties, it was all about counting words and counting links. That was it. That was the whole game. And it seemed terribly interesting and complicated and exciting at the time. And now, it just seems so childish and babyish and simple. And now, Google is saying, I actually understand the world or I’m starting to understand the world in much the same manner that a human being understands it. So when you type in, for example, Jason Barnard or Yaagneshwaran Ganesh, which I find very difficult to say so I’ll just call you Yaag.

[00:04:07] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: Even Indians find it difficult.

Google Understands Brands and People as Entities and Not Just as String of Characters

[00:04:08] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Brilliant. Google is no longer looking at the string of characters and seeing how many times that is matched within a page, is it the right weighting of the right number of these mentions within the page. It’s saying I understand that this is a person, and it’s this specific person. And I will produce pages that represent the person, the entity, and not just the string of characters. And that is a fundamental difference that since the Hummingbird in 2015, it’s a fundamental difference that has meant that our jobs as SEO, as digital marketers, anybody trying to interact with Google in terms of marketing, we have to take this seriously. We don’t necessarily feel the full weight of it today.

[00:04:57] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): But over the next few years, as Google rolls out Discover and the different Rich Elements, the SERP features, we’re going to feel the weight. And the people and the brands and the entities in general, who have not been understood by Google as an entity and not just as a string of characters, anybody who isn’t understood as an entity is dead in the water.

Comparing a Featured Snippet From a Knowledge Panel 

[00:05:21] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: Right. That I totally agree with that. And here’s an observation. Feel free to correct me if I’m missing something. When I compare something like a featured snippet versus a Knowledge Panel, here’s what I make of it. A featured snippet, as I understand, is more like Google telling you that this is the best result that I found for something right now. Whereas, the Knowledge Panel is more like saying, this is a verified fact and I’m going to go out and stick out my neck for it. Now, I know that you, Jason, have about more than 500 ongoing experiments on Knowledge Panels and a database of maybe more than 5 million of them. So can you talk to, how does having a Knowledge Panel have a monetary impact on any business?

[00:05:59] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Right. I’ll come back really quickly. The featured snippet, it’s a beautiful way of describing. You just said it incredibly well. That left rail is Google’s recommendations, the best result I have found for the moment. And the featured snippet would be, this is the best answer I have found to your question or the best solution I have found to your problem. It’s the one I recommend, but I don’t stand by it. I’m not sticking my neck on the line. Whereas on the right rail, it’s saying, I’m sticking my neck on the line. This is a fact, and you got to believe me. And that’s a phenomenally important difference.

[00:06:32] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): A featured snippet is perhaps a step on the way to a Knowledge Panel, but it isn’t the same thing. So, we can use featured snippets as a way to imagine that we might be on the way to a Knowledge Panel. The relationship isn’t direct because it’s different algorithms, but it’s definitely a very strong signal, a very positive signal.

The Monetary Value to a Business of Having a Knowledge Panel

[00:06:52] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Now in terms of actually the monetary value to a business of that Knowledge Panel is difficult to evaluate in a way that clicks from a search would be to evaluate in terms of the fact that you’re saying, I’m converting because I’m ranking for buy red shoes or the best red shoes or whatever it might be.

[00:07:12] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): The Knowledge Panel comes into play on multiple levels. The first level and the most obvious level and probably the easiest level to sell it to your CEO or the person who controls the budget for what you’re actually doing day to day is to say that when somebody searches my brand name, I look convincing, and what they see is accurate, and what they see is positive.

[00:07:36] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And that’s The Brand SERP Guy thing is basically saying everything on the left rail needs to be positive, accurate, and convincing. And that rail needs to a) not be empty, b) not be a Google My Business. If it’s not a local business search, it needs to be a Knowledge Panel if you’re to look convincing. And it needs to be accurate, obviously. Positive is difficult because that once you start talking about fact, the positive aspect is simply saying it needs to be not negative. It needs to be factual.

The Appearance of the People Also Ask on the Knowledge Panel Can Have a Negative Impact in Keeping Your Clients

[00:08:05] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And a typical example of the fact that it can actually become negative very quickly is that People Also Ask is now appearing in the Knowledge Panel. And if you don’t own the questions around your brand in that Knowledge Panel, it can quickly become negative. It could potentially be your competitors. So, that’s the visible side that you can just show to somebody and say, when our prospects and importantly also our clients, who navigate to our site by searching for us in Google, search our brand name, this is what they see. Is it positive, accurate, and convincing? If it isn’t, make it that way.

[00:08:43] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So, the monetary value there would be keeping your clients, because if they see rubbish, they’re going to jump ship, and converting more prospects. If they see something great, they’re more likely to convert when they’re on the way to your site to actually buy. If they’re searching your brand, they’re ready to buy. These are the top level people that you want to do business with. So, what they see on the way to your site is phenomenally important. If it’s positive, they’re more likely to buy.

Entity-Based Search Is More Than Being Present When Google Comes up With a Solution for Its Users

[00:09:12] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): It’s difficult to measure, perhaps impossible to measure, but certainly something you want to be focusing on. That’s a visible aspect. And the less visible aspect is more long-term and less easy to identify for anybody who’s actually investing money in this. But entity based search is a fact.

[00:09:33] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: Right.

[00:09:33] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And although you can’t directly say I’ve been recognised an entity, therefore I have ranked better. It’s starting to happen, and you’re starting to see with the SERP features more and more entity based SERP features.

[00:09:46] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): For example, the entity boxes you see, the carousels you see, People Also Ask arguably is also entity based. If you’re not in there, your competitors will be. You want to be present. You want to get that SERP real estate, as we say. It’s not just ranking in the blue links. It’s being present every single time Google comes up with some kind of recommended solution or fact for its users. And in entity based search, it actually goes further than that.

The Idea of Google Discover and How It Works

[00:10:13] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): If you start thinking about Google Discover, then your mind starts to blow because Google is pushing things to people through Google Discover that they didn’t even know they want. And that’s what they started by saying, Sergey Brin was saying, right at the start, we want to be the star tech machine that not only answers the questions you ask it, but also answers them before you’ve even asked.

[00:10:35] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So, the idea of Google Discover is to say, I’m interested in digital marketing. It will push digital marketing resources to me in a social media way, which is what Jes Scholz talks about. If it hasn’t understood that your company offers a specific type of service or specific topic, it cannot possibly push it to its users. So that understanding of who you are, what you do, and who your audience is becomes the fundamental base of everything in Google Discover. And Google Discover is going to be big.

Creating a Knowledge Panel and Controlling It

[00:11:13] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: Right, right. And one of the questions that I’ve always had on my mind is that can we really control what Google understands about us as a person or about our company for that matter. And then I realised that it’s going to boil down to you going out and creating a home for your entity on the web and making it meaningful enough. And the point is if I don’t take control of what Google understands about me, as you very clearly said, I’m going to be lost as one of the cogs in the machine. So, help me understand this. How does one go and create a Knowledge Panel lake? Is it at all possible to create it or can you only claim a Knowledge Panel and then go onto just changes?

[00:11:52] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Right. Great question. The first thing is yes, you can create a Knowledge Panel. Google, I think people get confused between Wikipedia and Knowledge Panels. Wikipedia is the initial source that Google trained it’s machine on. There was what I call the Budapest update a year and a half ago. And that’s when Google let off those safety wheels, if you like, and let the machine just go out and find the information itself, and Wikipedia is no longer the only source of information that you will see in Knowledge Panels.

[00:12:23] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So since that day, the control you have is incredibly strong if you make the effort. And a lot of people tend to think, I can’t really control it. So, they sit back, and they hope for the best. And that’s a really bad idea. And when you want to control it, you said very correctly, you need to create an entity, a home for your entity. We could call it for SEO is the canonical. It’s the basic source of information, the fundamental source of information about your entity. It needs to be something you own, your own site. And from there, you simply go and corroborate the information. You get confirmation on multiple trusted third-party sources. And if you can do that, you can a) trigger and Knowledge Panel, but b) you can control what Google actually shoves. Control, I think actually now I say it, is a strong word. You can heavily influence to the point of control, if you’ve really got your hand on it.

Wikipedia’s Notability Aspect and How It Differs From Google

[00:13:18] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And one thing I would say about Wikipedia, we weren’t on the topic, but I’m going to bring it in, is that a) Wikipedia has a notability aspect to it. You have to be notable to be in Wikipedia. Wikipedia, the aim is that it’s a human encyclopedia where human beings find interesting information or useful information for human beings.

[00:13:39] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Google doesn’t have that notability aspect, i.e. people are spontaneously interested in this topic. It just wants to understand. So whoever you are, whatever brand you are, however small you are, however big you are, Google doesn’t care. It just wants to understand. And all it needs is to know where the source of information is, where the reliable source of information about the entity is or the Entity Home, as we said, the canonical, if you like. And it wants to be convinced. It wants to be educated by corroborative information from trusted third-party sources.

How Do You Tell Google Which Is Your Entity Home?

[00:14:19] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: Right. So, how do you tell Google that this particular website is the home? Is it the backlinks? Is it domain authority? Is it structured data? How does it work? 

[00:14:28] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Domain authority, forget it. Domain authority is a measurement that’s invented by these machines, like Moz and Ahrefs. They’ve all got them, and none of them matter. That isn’t actually interesting. I think Majestic is possibly the closest because they actually have a categorisation system, but even so. Double-guessing Google seems to me to be quite a foolish approach, simply in the sense that what they’re doing is giving you a measurement of what that authority to be.

[00:14:59] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): What we’re interested in is what does Google see as authoritative. And what Google sees as authoritative is both industry-based and geo-based. But even more, it’s based on your individual case. These machines are so powerful. They’re learning all of this stuff themselves. They don’t need human beings. And they can do calculations that we can’t possibly imagine.

[00:15:23] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So, it isn’t a question of, oh, my industry and my georegion has these trusted sources. Therefore, that’s where I need to go. The machines are looking at on a case-by-case basis. Whereas when the machine, when the algorithms were written by human beings, that simply wasn’t possible. The machines are doing this on a case-by-case basis. And if I may say so, a minute-by-minute basis. In the sense that if you think about, for example, a sports star, a cricket player, what is that cricket player’s batting average up to now? If there’s a match on today, he just hit a six or four or a run or he got bowled out or whatever, it changes minute to minute, and we expect Google to show us that information in real time. So, the machine is actually looking at all of this information, updating the Knowledge Panel potentially in real time.

Identifying the Entity Home by Using Schema Markup and Backlinks

[00:16:16] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So, we were getting into domain authority. So, we’ve thrown that out the window. And now we’re going to say Schema Markup and backlinks. Yes and yes is the answer. You need to identify in your own mind what the home is, and it’s not your website. It’s a page on your website, and that’s really important. If you say the home of this entity is the homepage of my website, you create multiple problems for yourselves.

[00:16:40] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): One of which is that there are multiple entities that could potentially have that home. For example, you could have the person and the company and the product, but it’s also a web page. It’s also a website. So, that’s five entities already that I’ve identified that could potentially have that homepage as the Entity Home. So, you would do much better creating an about us page and saying, that’s the Entity Home for my company, about my software, for example, that’s the Entity Home for the software, about the CEO, that’s the Entity Home for the CEO, and so on and so forth.

[00:17:12] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And that brings two great advantages. One of which is that you know where the Entity Home is. Google knows where to look, and there’s no confusion. Google doesn’t like trying to understand multiple entities on one individual page. Jono Alderson from Yoast is very vocal about that, and I agree with him. And number two is Google wants facts. So on that Entity Home, about me, about us, about the product, about the software, or whatever it might be, you can say fact, fact, fact, fact, fact, fact, fact. It’s a boring page, boring. It’s informative, but it’s boring.

Representing to Google the Facts About Your Brand While Also Presenting Your Homepage as Sexy and Exciting

[00:17:47] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And the Schema Markup needs to represent what is actually in the page. So in that case, you’ll represent it to Google the facts, the boring facts about your company, your person, or your product. On the homepage, you have to try to please the visitor. It was just search your brand name and come to the page. And if you just tell them the facts about your company and your product and you see a) you’re confusing Google, but b) you’re going to bore them senseless, and they’re never going to buy from you.

[00:18:12] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So, you’re restricting yourself in what you can present. You want that homepage to be sexy and exciting and direct them to the right place that they want to go on the site because that whole page isn’t final destination. It’s a way for them to hop onto another destination, be it pricing, be it log-in, be it buy from you, be it find out more about you, be it your blog, whatever it might be. It’s a stepping stone somewhere else in your site.

The Role of the Homepage Is to Help Your Users Find Where They Want to Go On Your Site

[00:18:35] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And if you’re having to be incredibly factual, you’re going to blow the socks off everybody, and you’re not going to be helpful. That home page will not fulfill its role. That homepage’s role is to help your users find where they want to go on your site. It isn’t to describe who you are and what you do. Whereas the about us page, the about me page is exactly that.

[00:18:54] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So, you add the Schema Markup, you identify your home, you add the Schema Markup, and then you go around, and you get those inbound links that you mentioned, but they’re not inbound links in the sense we think traditionally in SEO. They’re inbound links from trusted third-party independent sources that point back to that page that identify that page as the canonical for your entity, i.e. the reference for your entity. And if you can do that and you can do it consistently across the web, Google recognise that home.

Associating Yourself With Your Competitors and Subsidiaries on the Knowledge Panel 

[00:19:23] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: Right. Actually, that makes so much sense. Now, let’s also dive in and talk a little about positioning or rather comparable positioning using the Knowledge Panel. For instance, when you search for HubSpot, you see a Knowledge Panel on the right side of your search results, and the bottom most section of the panel is People Also Search For, and then it lists companies, like Marketo, Salesforce, Mailchimp are the set of companies that Google thinks that HubSpot is competing with or lookalike companies. So my question is, can someone position themselves using the Knowledge Panel? Can you suggest to Google or maybe influence Google to say that you’re competing with A, B, or C entities? 

[00:20:03] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yes, you can is the answer, but the question is not necessarily competing with. It’s associated with.

[00:20:10] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: Right, right.

[00:20:12] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So, it could potentially be a competitor, but it could also be a subsidiary. It could be anything that is closely related. It tends to be, as you rightly say, competitors or associated entities for people like us, the people, our peers. So, you will tend to see that. But my example that we discussed beforehand was that eight months ago, those People Also Search For for my personal brand, Jason Barnard, was my mother and a friend of mine and my sister and the guy I made cartoons within the noughties. And fair enough, they’re very close relationships. And interesting enough, it says, People Also Search For. It doesn’t mean that people also search for this other entity in the same breadth as they search for your entity. It just means these are entities that we have recognised that people search for that happened to be related to you.

Working on Triggering More Digital Marketing People to Be Associated on Jason’s Own Knowledge Panel Rather Than His Mother or His Sister

[00:21:08] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And the example that I give is my mother, for example, who is an entity in the Google Knowledge Graph, but nobody ever searches for her and me in the same breath or in the same session or even in the same month or the same year because we have completely different names and nobody knows she’s my mother. So, Google isn’t saying we actually searched for these two entities in tandem. It’s saying this is an entity I recognise that people are searching for in a very general manner that I associate very closely with the entity you just searched for. And that’s a subtle but very important difference.

[00:21:42] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And then, I worked on that, and I managed to trigger more digital marketing people. And that’s all to do with the entity based content model that I’ve been building with Wordlift, which is basically saying I have a podcast. That’s an entity. The podcast series is an entity. The series has episodes. Each episode is an entity. Within the episode, we have a person who is a guest who is an entity. That guest talks about a topic, which is an entity. Very importantly, the topic layer came in November of last year. That’s going to be incredibly important that topics are entities. Economics, which is what I studied at university, is an entity. It’s a concept. Concepts are entities.

[00:22:25] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And then, we build all that together in a graph. And we say, if Joost de Valk was in a podcast episode with Jason Barnard, then we come down. Bill Slawski was in an episode with Jason Barnard. Andrea Volpini from Wordlift was in an episode with Jason Barnard. It makes those links, and it will associate because what has happened over time is that it now associates my entity, Jason Barnard, with Joost de Valk, Andrea Volpini, Cindy Krum, and Rand Fishkin. And that’s a pretty good list of people.

[00:22:56] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And what I’ve done is simply build up the understanding that I have close relationships with these people and that the existing current relationship with them is actually stronger in terms of what my audience is looking for than my mother, my sister, my friend, or the cartoon characters I created in the noughties. And that’s very important is that I have managed to communicate to Google which entities are important to my audience today, as opposed to my audience of 30 years ago.

Using HubSpot as an Example in Which You Want to Increase the Rank of Its Competitors

[00:23:29] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So yes, you can, as a brand, as a company. We’re looking at HubSpot. I’ve actually brought that result up, Salesforce, MailChimp, LinkedIn, Hootsuite, Pipedrive. That may or may not be accurate for HubSpot. They might want different things in there. You can influence it, and it’s a big job. It’s not something you just say to Google, oh, I want to change that, or you create a page that says, this is my competitor, whatever. You have to go about building, basically, a Knowledge Graph that you communicate to Google, that Google can understand, that indicates, proves to Google, educates Google to the fact that, for example, rather than Pipedrive, a closer competitor for HubSpot would be, let’s say, I’ve got no idea who HubSpot are.

[00:24:22] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: Marketo. Marketo.

[00:24:23] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah. Marketo. Oh, right. Marketo. Just off the radar. That 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Pipedrive is number five. You want to move Marketo up to number five so it actually appears on the Brand SERP in that Knowledge Panel. You would need to step-by-step demonstrate to Google by A plus B and the backing up proof from third-party trusted sources that Marketo is a closer relationship than Pipedrive.

Looking at the Host’s Knowledge Panel and Analysing How It Can Be Improved

[00:24:51] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: Right. That makes sense. And now, let’s do something that we have never done before in the show. I’m going to ask you to do a tear down if you can. This is about, just search for my name, Yaagneshwaran Ganesh, and you will see a Knowledge Panel that says author. So, can you tell me what am I missing? How can this be improved? The idea of doing this is in order to make this a case study for the listeners so that they get an idea as to how they can make their Knowledge Panels more effective.

[00:25:19] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Right. Okay. There are multiple things about your Knowledge Panel. I’ve just searched your name, and we can see author. And the reason it says author is because it’s associated you with the books that it has in Google Books.

[00:25:31] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: Right.

[00:25:33] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): What’s incredibly important to understand there is Google Books is a direct feed, obviously, into Google. So, Google knows that the data is reliable. So, it will tend to show that much more easily, because what Google doesn’t want to do is show something that’s untrue. And with Google Books, because Google themselves have filled up with all these books and all this information, they are very confident that the information is accurate. So, Google Books as an author is a great way in. And if you’re in Google Books, you will tend to get that subtitle of author.

Using Kalicube Pro in Learning What the Knowledge Graph Confidence Score Is

[00:26:09] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Once you get into the Knowledge Graph, what I call the Knowledge Graph proper, that’s something else indeed. If you look up your name in the Knowledge Graph API, and on Kalicube.Pro, we have an interface where you can look up people’s names, your book, the revenue marketing book comes up with a confidence score of 1. So it means that when I type in your name, Google’s Knowledge Graph has a confidence of 1 that that book has something to do with you. How to Growth Hack Your Presence on LinkedIn, Let’s Discuss Some Interesting Facets of Product Management are the three things that has found that it associates with you, but aren’t you. What it doesn’t have is it’s an entry for you as an entity, you, the person in the Knowledge Graph proper.

[00:27:00] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: Right.

[00:27:01] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And I have seen recently that multiple authors have disappeared from or they’ve lost their Knowledge Panels because they haven’t nailed their place in the Knowledge Graph proper. What those Knowledge Panels actually show are not necessarily what’s in the Knowledge Graph that the Knowledge Graph will return. It’s multiple of the sources, for example, Google Books is a great example.

The Need for More Corroboration and Pointing It From the Entity Home for Google to Understand

[00:27:22] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Now, I had an example of somebody, who I won’t name, who lost his Knowledge Panel, very upset. He was just an author, and he hadn’t bothered to make the effort to nail his place in the Knowledge Graph proper. And that means Entity Home plus corroboration, as we were saying earlier on, and that’s where you’re falling down right now is that you do have the Entity Home. It’s recognised that, excuse me for the pronunciation, is the home of the entity. You can see it by the little world icon next to the URL, which indicates that Google has seen that as the home, but it hasn’t transferred into the Knowledge Graph because the only source of information it has that is truly confident is Google Books. You need more corroboration, and you need to point to it from the Entity Home to indicate to Google that what it has understood from Google Books is in fact true, is in fact reliable, and is in fact worth putting in the Knowledge Graph full-time as it were.

[00:28:23] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So, the thing about that is my sister, Josie Barnard, by chance, is also a writer, an author. And she didn’t lose her Knowledge Panel because she has now gotten to the Knowledge Graph because we worked on that. My Entity Home links out or points out to the corroboration that links back to this canonical Entity Home. And it nails it, and it’s so simple. You just have to do it.

More About Knowledge Graph Confidence Scores

[00:28:48] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): I just looked in the Knowledge Graph API again, and I looked up the name of your book, The Revenue Marketing Book, and the confidence score shoots 254 from 1. That means it’s understood your book. That means you’ve got a chance. That means you need to link yourself to that book or multiple other sources than Google Books. Google Books on its own is not enough. You need those other sources to confirm it, and you need to make sure that your Entity Home points that out to Google in a very explicit manner using notably Schema Markup. And that’s incredibly interesting.

[00:29:18] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And just one more point about that confidence score is on the Knowledge Graph API, you can see it’s not confidence scores of 10,000, 15,000. So, you start at 1, and you can go to 15,000, 20,000, 30,000, 100,000. It goes on limitlessly. And that’s the question of the confidence that the string of characters I have entered represents this specific entity. So, I do advise you to look into that and dig into it. And it’s not you personally, obviously, the audience as well, because it’s a really good measure of how much Google has understood, how it sees those relationships, and how confident it is in that understanding.

Answering a Round of Lightning Questions

[00:29:56] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: Right, right. Thank you so much for that. That made a lot of sense, and I would love to get offline in touch with you and understand this a little more. And now that we are hitting towards the 30-minute mark, we are racing towards that part of the show, which we call it as the rapid fire section. So, are you ready for a round of lightning questions at you?

[00:30:17] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): I am very nervous for the quickfire questions because you didn’t tell me what they might be. 

[00:30:22] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: All right. So, the idea of this is to ask you pointed questions, but I know the questions may be short, but your answers need not be. You can just go with the flow.

[00:30:30] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): I’ll try and keep it short because I’ve talked enough already, I think. 

[00:30:34] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: No, but you’ve been amazing so far.

What Is the Most Common Mistake in the Way People Handle Knowledge Panels?

[00:30:40] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: So, here’s question number one. What is the most common mistake that you’ve come across in the way people handle the Knowledge Panels?

[00:30:48] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): They think that just Schema Markup on their site is going to be enough, and it isn’t. It’s so not enough. It’s untrue. And I find it astonishing that experienced digital marketers think that just putting his Schema Markup on your site is going to trigger a Knowledge Panel. That’s like saying, I put the keyword in my page, and I’m going to rank number one. It’s naive. But, sorry, I just got a bit upset there, but you know what I mean. It’s that naivety that people don’t see in what they’re trying to do today, and they will see it in what other people are doing. And that example of saying, I will put the keyword 15 times in my page, I will rank number one is a similar kind of naivety to saying, I will put structure data, and that is enough because it’s certainly isn’t. 

[00:31:34] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: Right. So true. And it’s okay. You can feel free to go on a rant because that’s the whole point of a rapid fire section.

[00:31:40] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): I thought I’m ranting. I like it. Nice. I’m a carefully, carefully nice human being.

Are Knowledge Panels Here to Stay?

[00:31:46] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: All right. So, here’s question number two. You’ve seen several Google products rise up quickly and then also sunset over a short span. So according to you, do you think Knowledge Panels are here to stay? 

[00:31:57] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yes, definitely. There are multiple reasons for that. One of which is that Google wants to provide the information we’re looking for as quickly as possible. If you look at it from Google’s point of view, it’s trying to serve its users with the answer to their question or the solution to their problem as efficiently as possible. I did a series of interviews with the people at Bing, and they go on about it as well. Bing and Google function more or less in the same manner.

[00:32:22] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So, that idea of bringing their users, and we should never forget that we’re talking about their users, not ours. Our audience is a subset of Google’s users. And there was an enormous chunk of people out there who aren’t part of our audience, and there, our audience doesn’t belong to us until Google actually recommends us to their users as it were.

[00:32:45] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So, number one is that if their users are looking for a fact about a company or a brand or a person, the Knowledge Panel is the best way for Google to do that. So, yes, it’s going to stick for that reason. Number two is for products. What’s happening with products is they’re showing a Knowledge Panel that shows the facts about the product but also Google ads. So, that’s a monetary reason that Google are going to keep it, because it’s a way for Google to present a product as a fact, with reviews, independent reviews, independent articles, but also Google has it as it upsell.

The Effect of Amazon and Google Ads on Google’s Future

[00:33:21] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And so it becomes, let’s say, slightly close to what Amazon would be doing. So, Google obviously have a big problem with Amazon. People go to Amazon and search directly for the product. If they can get people to search on Google for the product with these independent reviews that aren’t influenced by the self-serving algorithm that is Amazon, perhaps they can grab some of that space back from Amazon. So, it’s phenomenally important.

[00:33:44] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And as the ads, Google ads, within the blue links, they will show a billion results without ads to be able to show a million with ads because that’s why they make the money. So, the billion without ads, i.e. the Knowledge Panels that tell you where Morocco is in the world, are the last litters that allow the men to show the Knowledge Panels for the products that will then make the money.

Are There Some Updates to Be Expected on the Knowledge Graph API? 

[00:34:11] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: Right, right. That makes a lot of sense. All right. So, here’s a question number three. Recently, you had tweeted saying things have been rather quiet on the Knowledge Graph API for too long. And you also mentioned that it’s silence before the storm. So, what are you expecting? 

[00:34:29] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Something’s going to happen. This is me projecting. I’m being a bit of a soothsayer. And I’m slightly creeped out that you were stalking me like that. But the factors a year and a half ago, we had the Budapest update, and literally, the Budapest update was Google letting go of Wikipedia as its safety wheels. And my Kalicube.Pro, I’m tracking 75,000 brands. And Kalicube.Pro, as a system, that the whole database was shaking through July and August 2019. And it was stunning for me. I was watching it, and I was feeling my own database shaking and shuddering. And it’s been a long time.

[00:35:15] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Gary Illyes from Google has said that the topic layer came into play in November. I’ve seen that that’s had an effect on what you were talking about earlier on those associated entities in People Also Ask. And we’re building up to something. They didn’t just introduce the topic layer to say, let’s just introduce it because it might be fun, and we’re not going to do anything with it. Something is going to happen. And I’m literally, I wake up every morning, I think, is it today?

How Do You Interpret Hockey Stick Organic Growth? 

[00:35:41] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: Right, right. I’m loving this conversation. All right. I’m going to quickly move to question number four. I personally hate it when somebody tells me, Yaag, we’re going to have a hockey stick organic growth, because it sounds ridiculous to me. And the moment you hear hockey stick and organic in the same sentence, it sounds really oxymoronic. So, how do you react when people come and ask you that, I’m expecting quick results, why not help me?

[00:36:06] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah. Those hockey stick results, how can you put this? It’s not that they’re manipulated, but Gary Illyes, actually no. I’m going to come back to something Gary Illyes has said, which was really interesting. He explained to a room full of people, and I happened to be in the room. If I’d asked the question that inspired him to answer and what he did was explain how the algorithm functions. I asked him, does the featured snippet have a different algorithm to the rest of it? And he laughed in that sardonic way he has and said no. And the truth of the matter is it builds on the blue link algorithm that all based basically on the blue link algorithm. It all grows out from there, obviously more complex than that.

[00:36:50] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And then I did the series of articles with Bing with product leads from Bing, including Ali Alvi, who’s the featured snippets person at Bing, and Nathan Chalmers, who’s the whole page algorithm at Bing, and Meenaz Merchant, who’s the video and images person at Bing, and Fabrice Canel, who is the Bingbot guy. And I loved them all. And Frederic Dubut, who’s a delightful chap who runs the blue link algorithm. And because they’ve got nothing to lose, in inverted commas, they explained it all to me really simply.

Understanding the Ranking Factors and What Affects Them

[00:37:23] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And it matches with what Gary Illyes was saying. And it comes down to a Darwinistic approach. And if you look up Darwinism in Search, you’ll find an article I wrote about that and a series of articles with these Bing interviews that really makes sense. And what Gary Illyes was saying was that you have, you don’t have ranking factors in the sense that we often talk about, but you definitely have columns of influence that the machines are looking at. And it can be structured data. It can be inbound links. Sorry. Inbound links will be part of that EAT thing we’re all talking about, expertise, authority, and trust, credibility, if you like, if you want to say it more simply. And the content of the page and the technical aspects and the speed of the site. And these all come together. And he was saying, basically, if you have, the way the algorithm works, if you have one of these pillars that is phenomenally weak, it will collapse the entire lot, and you will not rank. So, it’s better to be a straight C student than three A’s and an F because the F will kill your ranking.

[00:38:44] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So, basically, those hockey sticks from what I would guess, and this is obviously a gross generalisation that wouldn’t stand the test of everything and anyone wants to throw out me, but it’s worth thinking about. Those hockey sticks are going to be somebody taking that F and making it a C, because that’s what triggers those big lifts, I believe, is that we’ve got almost all of it right, but we’ve got one bit phenomenally wrong. We repaired the phenomenally wrong bit, and all of a sudden, our hockey stick happens. And it would be like saying, I’ve got a table with three legs that are the same length and one leg that’s really short. My table is leaning very, very heavily to one corner. If I put a big brick underneath, that one leg, it will suddenly be a straight table, and it will work much better as a table and be a much better solution to my problem at once to eat my dinner in a decent manner. Sorry. 

[00:39:40] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: No. It’s not super fun. You really make some powerful statements. So, that is why rapid fire is real fun with you. And for question number five, again, I did some research.

[00:39:51] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Oh, no.

People Also Ask and Entity Statements Are Both Distractions and Opportunities to Lose Audience

[00:39:52] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: Yeah. There’s one last question. So, here’s something that you said that caught my eye. You spoke about PAA. That is a People Also Ask and entity statements are both distractions and opportunities for you to lose audience searching for your brand. So, can you explain this to me in layman’s terms? 

[00:40:11] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Right. The People Also Ask, this is specifically within the Brand SERP when somebody searches your exact match brand name, and those PAA are incredibly insightful. Because if you have them on your, sorry, first, if you don’t have them on your Brand SERP, it means that the Brand SERP, which is the result for the exact match brand search on your name, if you don’t have them, it means that Google hasn’t understood who you are, what you offer, and what your topics are, which is the topic layer. So, we’re coming back to that again.

[00:40:41] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And if it does, then it’s going to show the questions that it thinks the most important to your users, your audience, rather, are your users, your existing users, and your prospects. And that’s incredibly insightful. And what you will see, and the data from Kalicube Pro indicates that 9% of brands own any of those People Also Ask on their own Brand SERP. 9%, that’s pathetic. That means that 90% of brands aren’t even starting to ask, answer the questions around their own brand. So, that’s point number one. That’s the more left rail. That’s the recommendations.

[00:41:18] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And entity statements, that’s what I’m calling them. It’s basically People Also Ask on the right rail, i.e. in the Knowledge Panel. And the reason I call them entity statements and not People Also Ask is because they’re not questions. They’re not presented as questions. They’re presented as statements.

The Idea of Fact in the Right Rail and Advice in the Left Rail

[00:41:34] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So if you take the Yoast Premium pricing of Yoast mission statement, it doesn’t say what is Yoast Premium, which would be in the left rail. That’s a question. And if you then click on them, they’re like People Also Ask in that they give the answer, but they give an answer to a statement. And that comes back to the idea of fact in the right rail and advice in the left rail is that if it’s saying, for example, Yoast pricing, you click on that and it gives the pricing, and you expect that to be true as a user, as a Google user, obviously not as the brand itself.

[00:42:08] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And if you don’t own that, who owns it? Is it a forum? Is it one of your competitors? That’s scary. So, you want to own those entity statements. You also want to own the People Also Ask. And the biggest crime that most brands commit is they don’t own them because they’re simply not answering the questions and the statements or giving answers to statements that their users are interested in. It’s so simple.

[00:42:38] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): I love to say, why pay a marketing firm to do market research on your audience? Why don’t you just ask Google? Search your own brand name. Google will tell you what people are interested in or what it thinks people are interested in. And if it’s not what you think they should be interested in, then it’s up to you to correct Google’s opinion and those entity statements and People Also Ask. It’s Google telling you these are the important questions around your brand, the important information that people are looking for around your brand. Answer it. It really isn’t complicated.

A Parting Message From The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard) 

[00:43:09] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: Wow. That’s amazing, 45 minutes of absolute golden nuggets. I’ve absolutely loved this conversation. And I think when I go back to edit and relisten, I’m going to find it really, really useful. And maybe even when I convert this into a blog, it’s going to be really an amazing read. So, thank you so much for everything that you shared. It’s been an amazing conversation. And before I let you go, one thing I would like to ask you is if you were to share a parting message to our audience, what would that be? 

[00:43:41] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): I think the parting message is I started looking at my own Brand SERP and my company’s Brand SERP seven years ago. I triggered my own Knowledge Panel six years ago. It took me a year to try and trigger it because I had to learn how to do it. I thought this is going to take me a couple of months, and then I’ll move on to something else because I’m a brilliant genius SEO digital expert. Obviously, that was slightly ironic. But the idea that this is a very shallow question is terribly common, and it was my initial impression.

[00:44:15] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Don’t be fooled. This is the single most important thing for your brand and yourself as a personal brand. It’s the single most important thing that you haven’t been looking at that you should be looking at. And it’s the fundamental base of everything you will be doing in terms of Google. But what more widely, once you do this right for Google, you will do it right for every digital platform because you control the data, you control the message, and you can push that out in the way that you want. It’s an internal Knowledge Graph that you control, and you give the shattering or not to these platforms that we all rely on.

Get in Touch With Jason on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Kalicube Pro 

[00:44:58] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: Right. And for the amount of information that you’ve shared today, I’m sure a lot of people are going to wanting to get back in touch with you and explore this further. So if people want to get in touch, what is the best place to connect with you? 

[00:45:10] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Well, if you search my name, the results should be pretty good basically. Twitter comes up, so you can connect me on Twitter. I love Twitter. LinkedIn comes up second or third. So, LinkedIn is a good one as well because I’m B2B. Twitter and LinkedIn are my favourite platforms. I’m not a fan of Facebook for multiple reasons. Contact me through Kalicube.Pro. I do encourage people to go to Kalicube.Pro and start tracking their Brand SERP. That’s what Kalicube.Pro does. It tracks your Brand SERP, and it gives you information as to how to improve your Brand SERP, your Knowledge Panel, and make sure that the message that your audience sees when they google your brand name is positive, accurate, and convincing, and exactly what you want them to see and not what luck might allow them to see.

[00:45:58] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: Wow. That’s a nice place to end this episode. And thank you so much, Jason, for spending time to learn today with us and sharing everything that I asked for. And I think we’ve just scratched the surface. There is so much deeper than we can get into, but yeah. And for the listeners of the podcast, that’s that from this episode and until we connect with you the next time. This is bye from me, Yaag. Take care. 

[00:46:24] Yaagneshwaran Ganesh: Thanks for listening to The ABM Conversations Podcast. Make sure you subscribe and share your comments with us. We’re constantly looking for your feedback, thoughts, and suggestions to make the show more relevant to you.

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