Knowledge Graph Advances From Google

Query Sequences and the Knowledge Graph

Recently we showed that Google is ahead of the competition when it comes to showing answer boxes in search. Google is not one to rest on its laurels, and they continuously work on improving their Knowledge Graph capabilities. In today’s post, I will explore a number of the more novel variants that they have implemented.

Stephen Colbert

Google recently became the target of an attack by Stephen Colbert when he noticed that Google was showing his height as 5’10”. He went on air to mount a Satirical attack on Google, “threatening” to sue them if they did not adjust his height to 5’11”. He also specifically called out Larry Page. Google responded with an adjustment, as follows:
Stephen Colbert Height
I thought this was hilarious! As you can see, Google made 3 changes to the result:

  1. They adjusted Stephen Colbert’s Height to 5’10.5″
  2. They included Larry Page in the related results bar – because he’s taller
  3. They noted that Jon Stewart is shorter

While this shows that Google has a sense of humor, it actually also shows something much more significant: Google can, and will, manually tweak knowledge panel results. I don’t believe there has ever been a prior instance of this happening before. Correction: As Amit Sheth points out below, Google did this for Apple, related to their iPhone 6 and Apple Watch releases. Since the beginning of Google they have steadfastly maintained that they do not have the ability to manually tweak their results, and here we can see it happening in living color. Note: there are cases where Google tweaks presentation of their results. Try the query “barrel roll” or “recursion” for a couple of fun examples of this.
To be fair, the prior statements from Google were focused on regular web search results, but here we can see that the knowledge panels are a different beast.
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Also of interest, is what happens when you click on the Conan O’Brien link shown. When you click through on this you see a similar knowledge box, but above it you get a carousel showing the height of many other popular television personalities.
Conan O'Brien Height Carousel
This carousel only comes up if you click through on this related result picture. If you go to Google and manually enter in the search “conan obrien height”, you don’t get it, as shown here:
Conan O'Brien Height

Another Carousel Example

This carousel behavior is not limited to the height of entertainment personalities. You can also trigger it as follows:
Eiffel Tower Height
If you now follow this query by clicking on the burj khalifa link:
Burj Khalifa Height Carousel
As with the Conan O’Brien example we showed earlier, this does not come up if you manually search on “burj kahlifa height”:
Burj Khalifa Height

Movies and Menus

Another interesting example is show if you search on your local movie theater by name. Here is an example showing the local theater here in Framingham Massachusetts:
AMC Framingham
Notice how you get the entire list of movies currently showing along with date tabs on the top. The only thing that is a little disappointing here is that you don’t get the number for the movie theater right there with it, which would make a ton of sense for Google to add there.
However, if you click on “The Book of Life” you also get a further interesting result.
The Book of Life
This shows information on where the movie is playing in your area. This result also comes up if you simply search on “the book of life” in Google directly.
This new type of result comes up if you search on the name of a local restaurant as well:
These types of results are fantastic for local businesses, however, as I noted before, would be greatly enhanced if the phone number was also included.
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Query Sequences

One last sequence to show for today, which is an extended query sequence. This shows how Google can maintain the context of a conversation, and also how it can understand the context of a response. First, we start by asking the height ot the empire state building:
Where is the Empire State Building
Then we request “pictures”
Empire State Building Pictures
Next, we ask for the name of the person who built it:
Who Build the Empire State Building
While we are there, we might want something to eat:
Restaurants near Empire State Buiilding
Throughout this sequence, we see that I mentioned the Empire State Building only once, so Google remembered that context during “the dialog”. This concept of a dialog is an important one.
Note that I have also tested query sequences using sports stars, such as Tom Brady. You can easily test a sequence for yourself using Tom Brady, his spouse, children, what football team he plays for, when his next game is, etc.
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Google is continuing to find ways to extract structured data from web sites and present that information in the SERPs. In this post, I have shown four important areas of exploration:

  1. The movie and menu examples above show how they are extracting structured data from web sites. These examples bring significant value to the business owners.
  2. The query sequences involving height show how they are mining related search query data to see what users might request next. Then, if you do select a second person or building, Google recognizes the possibility that you want a lot of related data and shows you a carousel.
  3. The Empire State Building example shows how Google can maintain conversational context in two ways.
  4. Lastly, with my first example, we see how Google can and will actually go in and manually tweak the data set when they choose. Presumably, they have this in place for certain classes of facts, so that they can correct factual errors in the structured data sources they use (although they used it for humor here).

You can expect these types of advances to keep on coming!

Thoughts on “Knowledge Graph Advances From Google”

  1. Amit – great example, thanks for sharing that! Heading out now, but will add this to the post later tonight.

  2. Want to add this too: Interesting and entertaining ….You gave some interesting examples of context (e.g., the context in which they present carousel on specific property). This can be taken quite far (context can be built in many ways capturing User’s profile, his/her actions, query pattern, etc.). So after going from “strings” to “things” to “relationships”, the next frontier is that of context!

  3. Hello Eric,
    Loved this piece. The revelation that Google could manually tweak search results is interesting and loved the sense of humor.
    As a user I am delighted with all the advances being made with knowledge graph and Hummingbird. As a marketer, not so much!

  4. Hi Eric,
    Great post, as per usual. 🙂
    One thing I’ve never been able to recreate on my machine are the examples of query sequences. I’ve tried recreating a bunch you and others have pointed out, and it never seems to operate the same way. Are there any profile settings that would interfere with Google’s ability to provide these sequences? I’ve tried different browsers, incognito, and other measures, but nothing seems to work.

  5. I got an interesting result for the query “where is the Empire State Building”, see .
    In the quick answer box, the showtime for the movie “This is Where I Leave You” is shown instead of the address for the Empire State Building.
    Apparently quick answer favours information that is more recent (e.g. movie showtimes) over information that is more static in nature (e.g. addresses).

  6. I have been using a Chromebook pixel for over a year and a half. Since then I was always amazed at the accuracy of the voice recognition especially on the pixel it must be no mistakes within an hour. But through this however it made it extremely easy for me to ask etymology of words from where they originated and what they really mean and I’ve investigated and learned I think a four-year degrees with of information just from talking and asking questions. Now I did some experiments with Goog.Google to make a long story short I will not tell you the steps I went through but I caught on a screencast me talking gibberish and Google saying I don’t know perhaps this is the first ascent in the condition that the Googleplex computer has for a self-aware machine

  7. I had no idea that the Google interface had become so sophisticated. Do we know what type of software is powering it? It looks like some sort of natural language algorithm, but I’d love to know the details and whether it is unique to Google or part of a growing trend within the tech world.

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Eric Enge

Eric Enge is part of the Digital Marketing practice at Perficient. He designs studies and produces industry-related research to help prove, debunk, or evolve assumptions about digital marketing practices and their value. Eric is a writer, blogger, researcher, teacher, and keynote speaker and panelist at major industry conferences. Partnering with several other experts, Eric served as the lead author of The Art of SEO.

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