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Knowledge Panels For People vs Companies with Jason Barnard

Jason Barnard, The Brand SERP Guy at Kalicube, discusses the importance of brand SERPs and online reputation management. Google wants to understand who you are, what you do, and who your audience is. When Google has that understanding, it can represent you incredibly well to users. Today, Jason talks about knowledge panels for people versus companies.

[00:00:00] Benjamin Shapiro: Welcome to the Voices of Search Podcast. Today, we’re going to discuss the importance of Brand Search Engine Results Pages and Online Reputation Management. Joining us is Jason Barnard who is The Brand SERP Guy at Kalicube, which is a digital marketing agency that is pioneering the concept of Brand Search Optimisation and Knowledge Panel Management.

[00:00:19] Benjamin Shapiro: Jason is also the author of the recently launched Fundamentals of Brand Search for Business book, which is coming hot off the presses. I think it’s the New York Times number one seller, maybe at least in the search category. And today, Jason and I are going to talk about Knowledge Panels for People versus Companies. All right. Here’s the first part of my conversation with Jason Barnard, The Brand SERP Guy at Kalicube. Jason welcome back to the Voices of Search Podcast. 

[00:00:45] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Absolutely brilliant. I’m delighted to be here. And I do wish this was number one top seller on the New York Times Bestseller list. It was, as he said, number one in search engines, but only on Amazon, which is a bit of a come down.

[00:00:59] Benjamin Shapiro: If the most popular book called Fundamentals of Brand SERP in the New York Times list, at least. So more of the story is, Jason you’ve launched a new book and it’s a reason for you to come back on the podcast. So, I don’t care what it’s ranked. I’m excited. 

[00:01:15] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): I love the twist you gave it and absolutely perfect. I’m happy to be number one on the New York Times Bestseller list for books called The Fundamentals of Brand SERPs for Business. 

[00:01:26] Benjamin Shapiro: I don’t think you could do any better. 

[00:01:29] Jason Barnard: No, definitely not.

What are Knowledge Panels? 

[00:01:31] Benjamin Shapiro: So look, you’ve been doing this for a while. The last time we had you on the podcast, we went over the basic blocking and tackling of what brand search is. Let’s go a little bit back over that. You’re focused on Knowledge Panels and Brand SERP Online Reputation. You wrote the book. So, let’s tell people a little bit about it. Let’s go with some Knowledge Panels. What’s the difference between Knowledge Panels for people and for companies? That seems like it is a key component of brand search for a business.

[00:02:01] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah. A hundred percent. The Knowledge Panel is the informational panel. Google actually calls them in their page as information panels. We call them Knowledge Panels because the idea is Google has knowledge and it’s showing understanding of knowledge about a person or a company. And it’s phenomenally important.

[00:02:19] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): If you look on desktop, you’ll see on the left-hand side the blue links, the Video Boxes, the images and so on and so forth. That’s Google’s recommendation of what it thinks a good answer to your question might be. On the right hand side, it’s showing what it feels are the facts. So, it’s phenomenally important because whether we realise it or not as human beings, we trust Google. And we see on the right-hand side, something we perceive to be fact. So, managing that and getting Google to present the correct facts about our company or ourselves is fundamentally important to our own brand image and also to our SEO.

Resolving a Problem of Having Two Entities With The Same Name

[00:03:00] Benjamin Shapiro: So, I have this problem. There’s a political podcaster who stole my name. I’m two years older than him. His name’s Ben Shapiro. My name’s Ben Shapiro. And when somebody searches for the term Ben Shapiro, in theory, that is a person, but we both have our own independent businesses. His is journalism business. I will stay out of political preferences here. But basically what he does for a living shows up before what I show up for a living and it’s in the placement that is listed as a fact. Is it fact or fiction that he is Ben Shapiro and I am not? And what do you do when you run into this problem of Google is presenting a fact that you might not think is accurate? 

[00:03:43] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Right. And it’s a really good question from the perspective of you and here both entities. An entity is a thing. It’s something we can identify, a person, a business, a place, a road, a music album or film, or even in fact topic, but we’ll come back to the simplest of a person.

[00:04:03] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Now, what we have here is two named entities with exactly the same name. So, Google is saying, I have two entities, two things, two people, and they both have the same name. I need to distinguish between both of them, which is something we need to do as human beings as well. If Google has managed to understand both you and your hononym is it called your namesake, then it needs to decide who is the dominant entity. And the dominant identity is a combination of multiple things. There’s combination of Google’s understanding of that named entity. Google’s confidence in its understanding of that named entity and the probability that the person is searching for that specific named entity. 

[00:04:47] Benjamin Shapiro: And here I am sitting here saying I’m older, so I should have a more established online reputation. I’m taller, so you can say that I’m a bigger entity. I think I outweigh him by probably 30 or 40 pounds. Why is he getting ranked ahead of me? Okay. So big deal. He was mentioned in the New York Times and probably 200 different writing publications. But I publish a podcast. That’s got to count for something. Why is his entity being weighted over mine? 

[00:05:18] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): That is almost certainly a crash in probability. Google’s looking at the probability that somebody is looking for him as opposed to you, and you mentioned the New York Times. You mentioned the multiple platforms on which he is published, where he is recognised. That would suggest to Google that the probability is that somebody is looking for him but not for you which doesn’t mean to say you’re less notable, less important, less interesting. It just means Google is saying, I think the probability is probably more towards the other Ben Shapiro than this one. And the trick, or there are multiple tricks you can play, number one is if you can build Google’s confidence in its understanding of you, Google would present you underneath as an alternative solution in the same results band. The other trick is to dominate in terms of online visibility, which is going to be really difficult especially if that other person is famous. Another trick is to add an initial so Ben B. Shapiro. I don’t know what your middle name is. 

[00:06:25] Benjamin Shapiro: D. Yeah. Darryl. 

[00:06:26] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): That’s another alternative. 

[00:06:28] Benjamin Shapiro: But everybody thinks it’s J cause my brand name is Ben J Shap. It’s actually just the fourth letter in Benjamin. 

[00:06:35] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): All right. And that’s a great way to do it. If you communicate to people to search for you on Ben J Shapiro, then you can build a search volume around that which will disambiguate for Google, have Google to better understand, and what can potentially happen in the years to come is Google will show you when the person is relevant or is in the audience that you might represent. And I think that’s going to be the trick moving forward is saying, if I can explain to Google who I am, what I do and who my audience is, Google will show me when the audience seems more relevant and the other guy, when the audience is relevant to his topics, his approach, and when they might be interested in him, rather than myself.

What to Do When Your Knowledge Panel for Your Company Has Competition

[00:07:23] Benjamin Shapiro: Truth is what my tactic was putting everything in my name under Benjamin Shapiro. And he puts everything in his under Ben Shapiro. So, Benjamin Shapiro, at least when I search in an incognito window, shows up as the top result. That’s my LinkedIn page. But Ben Shapiro, which is his Knowledge Panel, shows up first. It’s a very confusing experience. But enough about my problem. This isn’t just something that’s specific to people that have names that are similar. It also happens with brands. I run the MarTech Podcast. There’s martech.org. I’m sure lots of other companies are in places where their brand has a similar company, maybe even in a different industry. What do you do when your Knowledge Panel for your company has competition? 

[00:08:10] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Right. Ambiguity is whether it’s for Google or for ourselves as human beings, it’s a phenomenally big problem. If you say to me, yellow door, I don’t know, as a human being, if you mean the yellow door which is a door that is yellow or Yellow Door, the cafe which is just down the street from me or Yellow Door, the kids toy manufacturer. So, from a human perspective, it’s ambiguous. It’s a problem. And what Google then does is say, I will present a SERP for the term yellow door that allows the user to then choose between those ambiguities, which is the one they’re actually looking for. And that’s never going to go away. You will never beat the ambiguity. And the ambiguity that Google has is the ambiguity that we have as human beings.

[00:08:58] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So, perhaps the first step for us all is to take a step back and say, is this ambiguous? How can I make it less ambiguous? If I can make it less ambiguous for human beings, I will make it less ambiguous for Google. And if I actually ended up making it less ambiguous for Google, I’ll probably serve my business better in a human being perspective.

The Difference Between Knowledge Panels for People as Opposed to Companies

[00:09:19] Benjamin Shapiro: So, talk to me about the difference between Knowledge Panels for people as opposed to companies. Is it always the same strategies when you’re trying to optimise and get Google to understand what is fact about your entity’s name or is it different based on people and organizations? 

[00:09:36] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): It’s fundamentally different. And I think a lot of us, especially me started out thinking it’s more or less the same idea, it’s the same approach. And the tips and tricks are actually fairly similar, the way we deal with it is very similar, but the problems are very different. If you look at a company, you have a question of trademark within a given georegion for a given industry, there is a trademark that you have probably protected. So, you’re likely to be the less ambiguous within your industry, at least, and probably within your country because generally speaking, companies don’t tread on each other’s toes with the trademark. But with people, you’re immediately looking at dozens, if not hundreds, maybe thousands of people with exactly the same name, so that ambiguity is immediately problem with no trademark protection.

[00:10:32] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So, there is always this ambiguity. And people talk to me about my name, Jason Barnard, and say that’s quite an unusual name, which it is. Yet, there are 250, maybe 300 Jason Barnards in the world who are more or less famous who could potentially be on my Brand SERP. And I’ll give you some examples. I actually found one this afternoon, a golfer, hundreds and 16 thousands in the world, but still a golfer. 

[00:10:59] Benjamin Shapiro: Which is dramatically better than you and I. 

[00:11:02] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Definitely a hundred percent. But definitely, he’s still on the school cards, he’s still on the sites, he’s still mentioned, he still has profiles. We have an ice hockey player in Canada. We have a footballer in South Africa. We have a university professor in San Francisco. And we have a podcaster, ironically, who talks about music in the UK.

[00:11:24] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So from my perspective, I have all this ambiguity around my name in different georegions. If I were to start working on my own brand name, my personal brand, I would start in the place, the town where I have most relevance which would be in my case leads where I was born, Liverpool, where I went to university, or Paris, where I lived most of my life. So, you start where you’re most relevant and you build out from there if you want to build up that kind of personal brand present.

Optimising a Knowledge Panel for a Company 

[00:11:56] Benjamin Shapiro: And on the flip side, when you’re optimising for a Knowledge Panel for an organisation, is your, and you’re, I’m assuming that the tactic is not think about local SEO first to brand yourself and differentiate. So, what’s the strategy for optimising a Knowledge Panel for a company? 

[00:12:14] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): For a company, the first most important thing is that Google understands. And I think people make the mistake of thinking, oh, if I go to Wikipedia, I will immediately get a Knowledge Panel, which is probably true. But Wikipedia is based on a concept of notability. You have to be either industry leader or industry changer, and most of us are not in that situation. So, as a company, we need to get Google to understand without that concept of notability and Google doesn’t have a concept of notability for understanding. It says, I want to understand everything whether or not you’re notable is the side issue for me.

For the Knowledge Graph, Google doesn’t care about notability. It cares about understanding.

Jason barnard (the brand serp guy)

[00:12:54] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So, communicating to Google who you are, what you’re doing, who your audience is, is a foundational strategy for any business online today, and that, in my opinion, means any business. You need to educate Google. Google is a child who wants to understand. It doesn’t care about notability. It cares about understanding who you are, what you do, who your audience is. And if you look at this child and say, how can I educate this child about my little corner of the internet? I’m always going to be onto a winner because once the child understands who I am, it can a) represent me incredibly well on my Brand SERP when my audience search my brand name and b) they can understand when I might be a great solution for its users when they’re searching for a solution to their problem.

An Example Where Facebook’s Knowledge Panel Changed Due To Rebranding

[00:13:42] Benjamin Shapiro: Yeah. The first thing that comes to mind for me when we think about the complexity of Knowledge Panels for companies is Meta. I used to be called Facebook recently rebranded. And so now, that was a term. It was a word. Maybe it was the Miriam Webster dictionary would show up. And now all of a sudden, it’s about Facebook. The Knowledge Panel shows basically the Facebook slash Meta company description. And that’s one where Facebook training Google relatively quickly to understand that it was called Meta. Obviously, there was a fair amount of publications that linked back with the Meta name linking Facebook. So, that probably wasn’t a huge departure for Google, but if you’re at a smaller scale, that type of rebranding where it can be really confusing for a search engine.

[00:14:31] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): A hundred percent. At Kalicube, we have a platform that helps people with this as that we need to identify all the different places where the company is referenced. And we need to update them all because Google is looking at this and it’s saying around the web, I’ve got these references to this specific company. If all of the references change at the same time to the new reference, Google will understand very quickly.

[00:14:56] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And you picked an amazingly good example, Facebook Meta. I was actually tracking that and Facebook changed the matter in the Knowledge Panel and in the results within hours of them announcing it. And it wasn’t that Google was phenomenally intelligent; it’s that Facebook prepared this incredibly meticulously. They had it all ready and they press the button and it changed. Obviously, all of the references took them around the web didn’t change, but they changed the key points that Google was looking at. And that’s what it’s all about. And what was intriguing about that switch, and this is probably going beyond what we’re actually talking about, is that they bought a company called Meta Incorporated six years ago. So, this has been planned for the last six years at least. Meta Incorporated is actually sunsetting it’s services only in March this year. So, what Facebook did was…

[00:15:59] Benjamin Shapiro: So, Facebook basically bought this company, kept it alive to keep the domain around, and then inherited basically the domain equity. 

[00:16:08] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): A hundred percent. And they also moved it forward because if they were sunsetting in March, why did they change the name in December or January when it was. So, what they actually did was manage to prepare the entire situation for themselves so that when the time did come, they could switch it. And I don’t think very many companies actually make that forward planning happen.

Conversation Takeaway Message and Jason Barnard’s Book 

[00:16:34] Benjamin Shapiro: My takeaway from this conversation is that there is a difference between how you show up at Knowledge Panels, not only based on the entity that you are, whether you’re a person, whether you’re an organisation, but these are things where you can essentially feed the right data to a search engine to make your Knowledge Panel update relatively quickly.

[00:16:51] Benjamin Shapiro: That’s one of the topics that Jason covers in his new book, The Fundamentals of Brand SERP for Business. So if you haven’t got it, it’s the number one book in the New York Times for books called Brand SERP for Business. And that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search Podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Jason Barnard, The Brand SERP Guy at Kalicube. 

[00:17:11] Benjamin Shapiro: Join us again tomorrow when Jason and I continue the conversation talking about Brand SERP and Online Reputation Management. If you can’t wait until our next episode, and you’d like to hear more about Jason, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our shownotes, you can contact him on Twitter where his handle is @jasonmbarnard or you can visit his website which is https://jasonbarnard.com/. And if you’re interested in reading Jason’s book, you can find the link to it from https://thebrandserpguy.com/. Just one more link in our shownotes I’d like to tell you about, if you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to https://voicesofsearch.com, where we have summaries of all of our episodes and contact information for our guests.

[00:17:53] Benjamin Shapiro: You can also send us your topic suggestions. You can ask us your SEO questions and you can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search Podcast. Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is Voices of Search on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook pretty much everywhere. And my personal handle is Ben J Shap.

[00:18:09] Benjamin Shapiro: And if you haven’t subscribed yet, and you want a daily stream of SEO and Content Marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish an episode every day during the work week. So hit the subscribe button in your podcast app, and we’ll be back in your feed in the next business day. All right that’s it for today. But until next time, remember the answers are always in the data.

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