How to Claim and Optimize Your Google Knowledge Panel | Entrepreneur
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You care about your online reputation, so you did what every diligent entrepreneur has done, including me: You created a personal website. But just like LinkedIn made business cards obsolete, a powerful feature from Google could soon do the same for our personal websites.
Meet the Google Knowledge Panel. Compiled by Google’s proprietary algorithm, this robust infobox displays the most relevant, credible information about a topic next to its search results. These topics can be places or businesses — or even entrepreneurs like you and me. If you claim and own your knowledge panel, it’s akin to owning personal real estate on Google Search Results.
As someone who claimed my Google Knowledge Panel, lost it to another Scott Duffy, then reclaimed and optimized it, I can attest to the instant impact it provides when my audience Googles me. It creates a strong first impression, helps me stand out from others and legitimizes my position as a thought leader. Choosing to focus on my Google Knowledge Panel over my personal website is the most important branding decision I’ve made in the last five years.
If you want to take control of your brand narrative online, then it’s time to make the Google Knowledge Panel — not your personal website — the hub of your digital presence. How do you do it? By following three simple steps, which worked for me when I was launching and optimizing my panel.
Related: How to Win the Personal Branding Game With Google Knowledge Panels
From personal websites to Wikipedia pages
Since Google was incorporated in 1998, entrepreneurs like you and I have witnessed many evolutions in how we represent ourselves online. In the late 1990s, personal websites were still reserved mostly for people with tech savvy. This trend persisted even with the launch of WordPress in 2003.
At the time, WordPress was a blogging site, and it lacked the easy web-building tools it’s known for today (I can attest to how far the platform has come because I was one of the early adopters who launched a personal blog on WordPress back in 2003). Given its limitations, it’s not entirely surprising that many people chose to represent themselves online via Myspace, which launched in the same year. By 2006, Myspace was the most visited website in the U.S. — outranking both Google and Yahoo! Mail.
Myspace may have lost the social media wars, but WordPress now powers nearly 40% of all websites. The popularity of personal websites has boomed right along with the platform. By 2013, WordPress already powered more than 13% of the web, including many personal brand websites.
Since 2010, the personal website has been continually positioned as the key to a strong online brand. Entrepreneur has published hundreds of articles about the value of personal websites. Although my own site has experienced numerous redesigns, messaging overhauls and rebrands in the decade to follow, it remained my most important branding tool for years.
There’s no denying that a personal website can be an important tool. However, it typically lacks credibility. And in today’s noisy Internet landscape, credibility matters more than ever.
The limitations of Wikipedia
Enter Wikipedia. Since its launch two decades ago, Wikipedia has been a critical tool for building credibility online. But given its notability requirement, Wikipedia is far from a sure bet.
As someone who went through my own ordeal with Wikipedia, only to never get my page published, I can attest to the complexity of the site’s editorial system — and the inherent politics at play. To this day, I have never been able to crack the code.
If you’re famous enough to get a Wikipedia page, it will bring you credibility. But if a person isn’t sufficiently notable, they don’t get a place on Wikipedia.
Related: 4 Simple Tips That Will Get Big Results for Your Business on Google Search
The rise of the Google Knowledge Panel
When Google launched its knowledge panel in 2012, you had to have a Wikipedia page to get one. Google would simply pull information from Wikipedia and present it in an infobox that appeared to the right of a person’s search results on desktop. But behind the scenes, the search giant had already identified Wikipedia’s limitations.
Wikipedia contains more than 50 million pages, and that might seem like a lot. But when you consider there are 7.8 billion people on Earth — and more than 333 million registered companies — you quickly start realizing how much data isn’t on Wikipedia.
Google’s solution? The Google Knowledge Graph. This graph finds information on the web, uses algorithms to separate fact from fiction and adds the factual information to your Google Knowledge Panel.
The result is a powerful tool that has given entrepreneurs like me the best of both worlds: All the brand control you have on your personal website, plus the kind of instant credibility that was once reserved for people lucky enough to get Wikipedia pages.
Taking control of your Google Knowledge Panel
Think of your Google Knowledge Panel as your website on Google. If you optimize it properly, people will be able to find everything they need to gauge your credibility without ever having to go to your personal website. Think about it like this: On your personal website, you say something about yourself. On your knowledge panel, Google says it’s fact.
The more you optimize your knowledge panel, the more dynamic it will become. And at every stage, you’re in control. With the right strategy, you can equip your panel with “filter pills,” or tabs that provide quick reference points for things like your name, company and social media — almost like the navigation of your mini Google website.
On my profile, for instance, I’ve added a filter pill for my books. When visitors select that filter pill, all three titles are displayed with clickable thumbnails, and purchase links for sites like Amazon are listed below. And your ability to customize doesn’t stop there. Your filter pill colors are based on the primary color in the photos that come up when people search you. So you can influence that, too.
How do you get a Google Knowledge Panel? Wikipedia is still one way. But the most effective way is by educating the algorithm about who you are, what you do and what audience you serve. That strategy doesn’t require Wikipedia at all.
Related: Do Entrepreneurs Need a Wikipedia Page?
How to get started today
When you Google someone, it’s immediately clear whether they’ve put time into optimizing their Google Knowledge Panel. What’s not clear is how to get started on that path. After losing my Knowledge Panel to someone with the same name and finding little helpful information online, I reached out to Jason Barnard, founder and CEO of Kalikube.
Using a three-step process, I not only claimed my panel but customized it so that it accurately reflects my brand online. Here’s what I learned and how you can do the same.
1. Create a personal website (if you don’t have one already):
When properly optimized, the Google Knowledge Panel can provide the kind of “at a glance” credibility that’s impossible to achieve on your personal website. But that doesn’t mean you should do away with your site altogether.
Your website is no longer the primary destination. Instead, it’s a tool that feeds information to Google to build credibility for your knowledge panel.
Start with a single page, not 50. Draft a bio that clearly states who you are and what audience you serve. Use the photos that you want to appear in your Google Knowledge Panel. Then, indicate all the corroborative sources that prove what you’re saying is true, whether it’s CrunchBase, IMDB or even your company website.
Your website should accomplish two tasks: Establish the narrative you want on your Google Knowledge Panel and provide Google’s algorithm with all the sources it needs to verify your information.
2. Do a spring cleaning around the web:
Now that you’ve created a one-page website, make sure the information there is consistent with what you’ve posted across the web. If you use 20 different cover photos and bios, Google’s algorithm gets confused. The result? Less control over what appears on your knowledge panel.
Find all the references to your name online. Then, make sure your bio and image are the same on all of them. The copy should match what’s on your website and be what you want to appear on your Google Knowledge Panel.
With more Web 2.0 profiles and media sites than ever before, finding every reference will take more digging than you realize. To put yourself on the fast track to a strong Google Knowledge Panel, try leveraging an SaaS platform that automates the process of finding and updating references.
3. Create links from your website to each corroborative source (and vice versa):
Building a Google Knowledge Panel is all about feeding the algorithm the information it wants, and robots learn by repetition. After you’ve created links from your website to each credible source, link those sources back to your website. This creates a loop of self-corroboration that Google’s algorithm loves.
Bonus: Go claim your knowledge panel
Some knowledge panels are claimable, and some aren’t (if yours is claimable, you’ll see a button that says “Claim This Knowledge Panel.”) Although it might be tempting, make sure you complete the three steps above before you claim your Google Knowledge Panel. By following these steps in order, you can actively frame your narrative before Google associates it with your brand online.
If you see something amiss on your Google Knowledge Panel, you can also send feedback directly to Google employees. However, only suggest a change that’s factual in nature; they’re unlikely to change your main image simply because you don’t like how you look.
With the recession looming, entrepreneurs are being more strategic than ever about where to spend their time and energy in 2023. If you invest in one brand-building tactic, make it your Google Knowledge Panel. By doing so, you can control how your brand is displayed online by the world’s most credible source.