For the past year or so, Google has been reworking its search platform to incorporate smarter-search options, or what they now refer to as the Knowledge Graph.
Google has stated that this knowledge graph will make research quicker and more efficient by recognizing a word’s intent and correlating it to associated content and logical matches. Along with this, Google will compile previous user searches and sites that were successful in locating answers for related topics, and it will make them easily accessible.
This has resulted in a complete reworking of the look of the Google results page. The latest addition to this Knowledge Graph is the Google Carousel feature, which is shaking up the organic and paid listings system that the SEO world knew so well. This has left people confused and unsure of what to think about this new black banner across the top of their pages.
I personally did not even notice this carousel until my second or third time encountering it because I am fairly immune to banner advertisements and link headers that clutter the top of so many sites. I think many users will have a similar reaction to this banner-looking carousel, and I will be anxious to see what effect it has.
It is also important to note that the carousel feature does not appear for all queries. It started appearing for localized searches this past June, but has since begun to include larger searches such as listings of books by authors, actors in a film, or albums by a band. Apparantly Google creates a carousel only when a search query has five or more options as I have yet to find one with less, at least for now.
This carousel feature is also far from fully-instated and conducting broad searches for topics such as “members of bands” will lead you to results pages where some bands have a carousel and others do not.
Classic Rock and older reputable bands seem to have the best chance at already having a carousel, although my search for “Members of Led Zeppelin” did not bring one up, and neither did my searches of Coldplay, Muse, or Cream which are all bands with four or less members. So, it seems that Google is definitely staying true to the five or more carousel decision.
Now, let’s Breakdown each section of the Knowledge Graph:
The Google Knowledge bar is meant to be a one-stop shop for researching your query. Google compiles all relevant information for particular searches, and then inserts what they view as the most important pieces into their knowledge bar. For bands this information includes:
1. A short bio taken from Wikipedia as well as some snippets of information (date of formation, awards, etc.) The largest, top picture comes from the band’s Google+ page, and the rest from Google Images.
2. A collection of their most popular or searched songs. Clicking on this link will take you to another search page with Youtube results and lyrics pages.
3. Upcoming events. Google provides a listing of the top 3-4 shows that the band has coming up. Clicking on one of the show links takes you to another SERP that looks like this at the top:
There are links at the bottom left of this box that will take you to sites where tickets can be purchased.
4. The recent posts section includes the most recent posting from the band’s Google + page. While clicking on other pictures on this page will redirect you to another Google search results page clicking this image will take you directly to Google +.
5. The album section includes a listing for the band’s most popular albums. If you click on any of these albums, then you will be redirected to a new carousel that has a complete band album listing as well as a set of organic search results relating to that particular album.
6. The “people also searched for” section lists recommendations for things that relate to your topic and will further your research. In this case, it lists other bands you may like.
Though I am a big fan of the Knowledge Panel in Google results, The Carousel is something that I am having a tough time acclimating to, and I don’t think I am alone. Webmasters have been talking about the negative aspects of carousels for quite some time now, but evidentially Google feels like they are wrong.
The Google Carousel utilizes a right to left scrolling method with pictures and minimal text. Studies have already shown that users tend to click the most on the farthest left result, so it is important for businesses to do what they can to secure that top spot.
If this is not possible, then companies need to make sure they have a solid Google + page and that their profile picture on Google+ is eye-catching. For businesses (e.g. Restaurants) Google pulls photos directly from these Google+ pages, and if a company does not have a page, then Google uses a generic map thumbnail in its place.
Google also posts the number of reviews your company has and a five-star scale right below your picture, so If a company wants people to click on their picture (and then go through the multiple other clicks they must do to get to the site) they must have the reviews that show their quality.
The origin of pictures for musicians in bands or actors in movies is a little vaguer. If you look at the pictures above of the members of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, none of them are on the band’s Google+ page, and very few of them (except for Kiedis’) show up in the top half of their respective Google images page.
Also, the supposed photo of Josh Klinghoffer is not even really him; it’s another picture of Anthony Kiedis. I experienced a similar flaw when I did a search for the members of The Black Keys where I discovered this picture for drummer Patrick Carney:
Now, I’m no diehard Bieber follower, but I think I know enough about the Biebs to know that he has not joined the Black Keys. I also don’t think that Pat Carney spontaneously grew a Bieber head out of his shoulder, so what is going on?
It seems pretty clear that Google uses a popularity or trend ranker in its photo algorithm because Bieber and Carney have been publicized a ton lately for their overly-dramatic Twitter war. This is the only reason I can justify for why Google would have them in a picture together, and it also makes sense for the Klinghoffer photo above. It could be that the most popular or trending pictures of Klinghoffer have Anthony Kiedis in them, and though this makes sense, it is a major flaw in the field of online research.
Google needs to remedy this problem immediately, or they could potentially start feeding false information to the world at large. Had I not known either of these stars, I would have assumed Justin Bieber was Patrick Carney because he is much more visible in the picture whereas Carney’s face is half cut off.
What happens when high school or college students start turning in research reports with inaccurate photo content? Will teachers or bosses cut these people a break because Google got it wrong? Absolutely not, so if Google wants to keep its reputation, it must address this issue.
It is also interesting to note that in the Red Hot Chili Peppers section, it lists Balzary as a piano player when he is really the bass player of the band; yet another glitch that needs to be looked at.
beliebe believe the carousel can be a mildly effective tool for search, and I like sifting through visual data more than text, but if Google is going to make their search engine more photo-based, then they must guarantee accurate photo results and content.