In 2011, Google issued a patent describing Knowledge Cards. In 2015, we are already starting to see them appear in search results.
In short, a knowledge cards is the feature image you find appearing at the top of your search results. They give users the general overview of the subject matter they are searching. For example, the “Knowledge Card” for Queen Elizabeth II turns up this:
The url that typically earns the knowledge card is the top ranking site that answers the users search term in conjunction with the most popular answers on the web.
The Knowledge Card seems to be designed for mobile users and is determined by a series of Google metrics, the primary ones being: The domain authority, number of inbound links received by the host site, quality of structured content and rich snippets.
How Knowledge Cards can improve search?
For browsers looking for an overview of a subject for discovery purposes, Knowledge Cards provide instant results. But they only give the basic information so if you want specific data, they are useless.
If it is a person, their date and place of birth, occupation and date of death (if deceased) is given together with relevant links. This allows users to navigate to related content, thus is could have its uses for researchers.
For small businesses, address, contact details and specialist products can be listed in connection with the search terms. This gives users immediate information quicker and will increase click-through rate.
But there are disadvantages to Knowledge Card’s as well and it could make the user-experience worse for both small businesses and end-users.
Is content creating popular culture on the internet?
Given that Google only turns up the most basic and common information related to search terms, researchers looking for specific information may have difficulty finding the right information.
It is not unheard of for so-called facts to become part of mainstream thinking, only for someone to prove popular belief is incorrect. The TV program QI is a good example of how much common knowledge is misguided.
Websites that have a higher domain authority and inbound links are also given priority, meaning it will be more difficult for small businesses to compete with recognised brands that already have a swathe of followers.
Could Knowledge Cards therefore be another nail in the coffin of online marketing for small businesses?
How will knowledge cards affect small businesses?
According to Google, the Knowledge Card will not disrupt the actual search terms and businesses will still rank as they would ordinarily. The card is merely a distraction for the end-user.
Therefore, knowledge cards should not pose too much of a threat to the visibility of small businesses if they are on the first two or three pages of Google.
There is also the question of whether Knowledge Cards will become a nuisance for browsers? How often do you think the most common opinion on the internet will satisfy your needs?
Knowledge Cards seem like they could be a good idea, but are there too many flaws in the idea for it to become a permanent fixture?
Furthermore, it will encourage marketers to regurgitate popular views to get better rankings, whilst alternative views slip down page rank and are buried under a pile of rubbish.
What is your view of Google Knowledge Cards? Do you think they will help small businesses, or will they just be another annoying distraction for digital users?