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Google's Knowledge Panel – The Complete Guide

Knowledge Panel... just the name itself sounds smart. Although it doesn't appear in a monstrous number of Page One results (our SERP Features tool shows it appearing in roughly 10% of Page One results in the US), Google's Knowledge Panel is in fact a monster! This slender box hosts anything from general information, images, reviews, social profiles, associated search topics, etc., making it a powerful search ally. Join me then as we explore what this Google SERP feature does, how it functions on both desktop and mobile, as well as how it has recently evolved to offer an in-depth Google experience. 

Knowledge is Power

What is Google's Knowledge Panel? 


Google's Knowledge Panel offers broad information on entities such as corporations, local establishments, people (more famous than you and I of course), movies, etc. The feature essentially gives you a solid overview of information related to a given entity while pointing you towards additional and related content. What's interesting about the feature is that it is dynamic in its content and functionality depending upon the circumstances. Since at its root, a Knowledge Panel is a method of offering an outline of relevant information, the outline changes depending on the entity. Simply put, what would be relevant to know about Macy's would not be relevant when trying to get a gist of who Thomas Jefferson was, no matter how stylish his attire.

Macy's is actually a great example to highlight this point. What you see in the Knowledge Panel related to the corporation per se, is not what appears within a Knowledge Panel associated with a specific Macy's store. The former is generally filled with basic corporate information and links to various corporate social profiles, which for the average shopaholic is boring and irrelevant!  

Macy's Corporate Knowledge Panel
Corporate information for Macy's conveniently laid out in a Knowledge Panel 

In contradistinction, a Knowledge Panel related to a specific Macy's store is far more prolific. Goodbye names of founders and hello to all the information a shopper might really be interested in. This form of Knowledge Panel, sometimes referred to as a Local Knowledge Panel, has a much longer information reach than its corporate counterpart. In it includes store reviews, photos, hours of operation, popular shopping times, as well as a link to the store's site, etc.

Macy's Local Knowledge Panel

All the information a shopper could need, including the recent ability to see a store's inventory (select stores only)

Compare this Knowledge Panel to one about famed actor, William H. Macy, and the "Macy" related information gets another customized shift that includes awards the actor has won along with a listing of some of his more notable movies. The nature of the images has also changed. To the disappointment of the star's stalkers, gone is the map and photos of a location. Instead we are presented with a series of photos of the actor as he appears in reality. Note how accurate this result is. There are no images of the actor in character (even when redirected to Google Image results).... since we did not search for one of his movies, we searched for the person, not the role. As such, we were given results of the person as he actually is and not within the context of any acting roles. 

Knowledge Panel Relating to a Specific Person
A Knowledge Panel related to a specific person brings up a slew of alternative information when compared to other forms of Knowledge Panels

In developing its Knowledge Panel, Google has very wisely kept the needs of the end-user in mind by forgoing a set template for each and every Knowledge Panel result. By adapting the feature to show information related to the specific type of entity presented, Google has developed a highly relevant and helpful tool in the quest to obtain knowledge – hence KNOWLEDGE Panel.

Knowledge Panel's Functionality 


The Knowledge Panel feature has some interesting functionality that is worth discussing. Note, the more varied the information within the panel, the more intricate the functionality. In other words, our Knowledge Panel related to the Macy's corporation is not going to have functionality that is as nifty as the panel related to its flagship store. So here we go...  

Functionally on Desktop 


A Knowledge Panel on desktop, depending on its content, can take up considerable SERP real estate on the right-hand side of the page, but it's often worth it. Every Knowledge Panel will have some sort of short summary that acts as the feature's lead content. This summarizing snippet is often supplied by Wikipedia. Clicking the blue "Wikipedia" link will bring you to Wikipedia's page on the entity displayed in the Knowledge Panel. In fact, any blue link directly related to the entity's information (i.e., not reviews, etc.) will bring you to a new SERP (unless the link is to a specific information source, such as Wikipedia, or a social profile). This holds true when clicking on the links or images within the People also search for section. In this way, a Knowledge Panel does not just act as a source of information but is also a related search gateway to extending the knowledge acquired within the panel itself. 

Should a Knowledge Panel contain images and/or maps, clicking on any of these will also redirect you. Clicking on an image will take you to Google's Image Search page, while clicking on a map will justifiably result in you being transferred to Google Maps. Further, should a Knowledge Panel contain social media profiles, clicking on any of associated icons will redirect you to entity's corresponding social media page (in plain English, clicking on the "Twitter" icon will bring to the entity's Twitter page... Facebook to its Facebook page... you get the idea). 

How Google Knowledge Panel Functions
Knowledge Panel on desktop has a broad range of functionality for a variety of knowledge purposes 

Some Knowledge Panels contain so much information that Google won't display it all unless you expand the box via a grey-scale arrow at the panel's bottom. Expanding the box will bring up new information that does not necessarily appear at the bottom where you might expect it to show up. 

Point of order, notice in the above image how Google customized the information for the end-user by offering the schedule of upcoming games even though this information does not relate to understanding what Yankee Stadium is directly. 

Mobile Knowledge Panel Functionality  


Not to put down desktop functionality, but the mobile version of Knowledge Panel is where it's at! Again, the available content within the panel is dependent on the nature of the entity. Corporations, as we saw earlier with Macy's tend to display in a straightforward manner. It's when we get to more complex material, such as movies, that the Knowledge Panel on mobile obtains an added degree of depth and complexity. 

Movie Within Mobile Knowledge Panel

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial makes an earthy landing in Google's Knowledge Panel for mobile 

Let's work with the example of Spielberg's classic E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Unlike its desktop counterpart a Knowledge Panel on mobile does not appear to the right of the results, mainly because there is nothing to the right of the results on mobile! Generally speaking, a Knowledge Panel on mobile displays above the organic results, but can also appear in the midst of the results as well. Like on desktop, the mobile version offers a general summary with various ancillary information. Again, tapping on a link or an image will direct you to another site,  SERP, or "overlay page" (more on that shortly). 

The fun begins when you either tap on the categories that often appear under the main heading (in this case they are Overview, Cast, and Reviews. See below) or expand the box. Knowledge Panel on mobile has a problem... space... or the lack thereof. To circumvent this conundrum, Google has ingeniously designed the mobile Knowledge Panel with an overlay of sorts. When you either tap a category or expand the box, etc., you're brought to a page within Google that in effect is superimposed over the original SERP. As such, you will notice that this "overlay" has increased top/bottom margins as the Google Search Bar and subsequent search categories (i.e. All, Images, Videos, etc.) are not present, nor is the bottom footer which indicates your location, account information, settings, etc.  To return to the actual SERP, you need to hit the back button.      

Content Categories Mobile Knowledge Panel
Content categories displaying for a mobile Knowledge Panel 

This overlay page is where things get interesting. Let's go with our example here and tap on the Cast header category. 

Overlay Page for Cast Category

Now that we see the cast of E.T., let's go ahead and tap on Henry Thomas who starred in the film. Below we see what seems like another Knowledge Panel, but with a twist. Notice what the panel's bottom card says.... See web results... we are not in Kansas anymore... i.e., this is not a SERP... it's another overlay page. 

Google Mobile Knowledge Panel via Overlay Page

While this may look like a Knowledge Panel on a SERP, it is in fact yet another overlay page

If we were to keep playing this game we could tap on one of Mr. Thomas' other films, a personal favorite of mine, Legends of the Fall, which would bring up yet another overlay page dedicated to the Brad Pitt blockbuster. We could actually do this all day long and obtain an obscene amount of information all while never leaving the Google ecosystem and landing on a single website! 

Knowledge Panel and the Future of the Web 


Something funny happened to me a few weeks back. I was doing a desktop search related to the recent Olympic Games in Rio and something like this popped up:

Google Olympic Games Feature

The desktop feature Google ran in conjunction with the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio

Look familiar? Sure it does, it looks like a Knowledge Panel on mobile. Let's conduct the same experiment we did just a moment ago with our "E.T. Knowledge Panel" and click on the Sports category:

Category on Olympic Knowledge Panel

Now let's try Athletics

Knowledge Panel In-Depth Information

How about the Men's 5,000m

Mobile Knowledge Panel Overlay Functionality on Desktop

Within Athletics let's switch categories to Athletes

Olympic Athletes on Special Google Knowledge Panel Feature

Want to learn more about Abbey D'Agostino

Expansive Information Special Google Knowledge Panel

Take note that you have not left Google, you have not passed Go, you have not collected $200, and you have not landed on a single website other than Google this entire time. A sports junkie could be here for days and never leave Google. Look on top of the athlete's name in the image above, did you notice the new categories that would allow for a brand new deep information dive? By the way, if you keep playing around like this, Google will pick up on your search patterns and offer you what you're interested in just like they do on the SERP. For example, if we kept hitting athletes from the USA and then wanted to see every athlete who competed in Rio, Google would offer the American athletes first.

This begs the question, is this where Google is heading? Does Google mean to use its mobile Knowledge Panel functionality to serve as a website of sorts? Think about the enormity of what that would mean... a website that is smart enough to offer you the content you want without you having to dig through the site just to get it... a smart site. With its Olympics Knowledge Panel did Google just give us a glimpse into what website functionality should be like down the line? 

Knowledge Panel - A Matter of Perspective 


Google's Knowledge Panel is meant to act as a hub for information and that is exactly what it does. The question though is who benefits the most from the feature? Certainly users looking to have quick and broad access to pertinently dynamic information will find the SERP feature more than useful. Outlets such as eateries or major department stores I'm sure are more than happy to appear within a feature that occupies a large portion of the SERP. When we look however at the new functionality displayed during the 2016 Olympics, the question perhaps becomes slightly murkier. While users such as myself were enthralled with the special feature, were other sites related to the Games as enthusiastic? To be perfectly honest, I perhaps visited the official Rio Olympics site once, maybe twice (as opposed to my thrice daily visits to Google's feature). If the special functionality we saw as the Games went on in Rio expands, what will the impact be on "competing" sites, and how will they feel about the feature?  

For more on the different Google SERP Features and their functions be sure to check out our Visual Guide to Google SERP Features

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