Understanding Google My Business & Local Search
10 Reasons that the Google Knowledge Graph Sucks More than the Local Graph
The Knowledge Panel sucks much more than Google Local these days. Its like “Déjà vue all over again” (for those Googlers and other readers too young to know the reference go here).
With the Knowledge Graph, like local, Google is attempting to reflect real information about the real world in their search results and, like in local, the disconnect between the real world and Google’s understanding of it can lead to erroneous results and bad outcomes.
Here is how Google described the Knowledge Graph upon its release in May of last year:
It’s not just a catalog of objects; it also models all these inter-relationships. It’s the intelligence between these different entities that’s the key.
The Knowledge Graph enables you to search for things, people or places that Google knows about—landmarks, celebrities, cities, sports teams, buildings, geographical features, movies, celestial objects, works of art and more—and instantly get information that’s relevant to your query
Knowledge results seem to suffer from many of the same fates as local listings such as merging and duplicates. And like Local in the days of old, there are very limited support mechanisms, no support team and no dedicated UI to feed trusted info. I suppose if the Grand Canyon has a wrong fact no one is likely to be hugely impacted but a certain percentage of Knowledge Graph entities are also real world businesses and brands and misinformation can be costly for them.
Typically the Knowledge Graph Panels seem to have different content than a local listing and it is more based on the structured data of Freebase, Wikipedia entries, the CIA Factbook and other sources that are NOT clearly identified. However if an entity already has a local listing then the Knowledge Graph Panel will draw some information (address, phone, reviews) from the canonical local data as well. It is at this intersection of landmarks and local where the impact of mistakes are obvious and the lack of full fledged support options become problematic for a business. And it is at this intersection of a business as cultural icon and local where the search volume is very high and the implications of even a few errors can impact a huge number of searchers and have a significant economic effect on the business.
The process for repair of a Knowledge Graph panel is simple enough. Perhaps too simple so as to be not very obvious. One only has to click on the small, grey “Feedback/More Info” link at the bottom of the panel to report bad information. The panel then offers the opportunity to flag any field of information as wrong.
Why is this problematic?
- First and foremost a business has to understand that there is a difference between a Knowledge Graph Panel result and a purely Local Panel result. Right. They have trouble understanding how Google handles a local listing so this level of knowledge seems unlikely.
- A business then needs to learn another new interface to report erroneous information to Google. Keeping up an accurate local listing given Google’s propensity to insert unwanted or old information is hard enough. But now some of them have to worry about a new way that Google can misrepresent them and a new way to fix it.
- The repair process does not allow for the input of the correct information so subtle errors can not be explained. It just allows you to mark something as wrong.
- The report process is slow if there is more than one field in error. You need to keep clicking on the feedback link for each error of the possibly several errors on the panel that you wish to report. And there is no way to fix an erroneously selected field once you have done so.
- There is no end-user feedback after fields have been marked as erroneous. Not an acknowledgment nor an indication that Google
gives a rat’s asscares. Like in the early days of “Report a Problem” it feels like the report is going into a deep, dark and silent well. It would seem that an email or response from Google that they are looking at the data would provide some comfort.
- No “time to fix” is indicated. Again a business that needs the high volume of potential visitors to view correct information in the main search results is clueless whether it will be a day, a week or never before Google gets around to a fix.
- The repair process is distinct from the local repair process. What business really needs a totally new way to interact with Google?
- There is no support team to call and explain the nuances to. If you call the Local team for support about a local Knowledge Graph result with problems you are told, variously, that Local support doesn’t handle “front page results”, that it will need to be referred to an engineer or that you should go to Wikipedia and correct the information yourself (hello?).
- Some of the data clearly comes from local, some from Wikipedia and the like but some data comes from sources unknown and there is no obvious way to even track that down even if you did want correct it yourself.
- With results that are also local, the Knowledge Graph panel shows up in an arbitrary way and only on certain searches. Very similar searches for the same entity might result in the Knowledge graph result or pure Local Panel results.
How are businesses supposed to know or appreciate the difference between one panel type and the other? And then deal with a totally different set of rules for fixing it? A daunting task becomes even more so for most businesses desirous of showing accurate information and helping Google show that accurate information.
Here is a recent case study in a Local Knowledge Panel hybrid and the problems that I have encountered in attempting to get it correct:
The search Busch Gardens Tampa brings up a prototypical local Knowledge Graph Panel that has elements of both the Knowledge Graph and of a Local Result and one that has wrong information that appears to be the result of a merge of two entities, Busch Gardens and Adventure Park. (On a related side note, the Adventure Island pinned result not the Busch Garden pinned result shows in the organic results).
Even slight variations in the search phrases brought up both the Busch Gardens local panel and the Adventure Island local panel. For example the search Busch Gardens near Tampa brought up a “pure” Local Panel with no Knowledge Graph fields. Adventure Park and Busch Gardens Tampa both have non merged Local pages that showed properly in both Plus and Mapmaker.
Here is the Panel as I first saw it on July 11th. I called support and was told “We will have to refer to engineering” and they said that they “have no easy fix as the info is generated automatically”. Subsequent to that call, on July 15th, I “discovered” the Feedback link and made a report.
Items marked in red were wrong and items marked in black were correct. The Wikipedia article as well as the area, opened dates and rides fields are indicative that it is a Knowledge Panel rather than a Local Panel (click to see full screen shot):
Today, only 6 days later, I see that some of the errors have been corrected but not all. The remaining errors were reported again on 7/20. We’ll see how long it takes to get fixed.
However when a search is done on Busch Gardens Tampa in Maps, the Adventure Island result is shown so some form of merging beyond the specific erroneous data fields is still occurring. Nothing was visible in MapMaker that would provide insight into this thus another call to Google’s local support by the business will be necessary. Aargh.
The good news in all of this? It would appear from the fact that some of the fields were repaired within a week that it is likely to be human curated and that there must be (despite what I was told by support) internal tools to fix the data. Unfortunately those tools are apparently not available to the Local support team. Human support is something that came to Local very late in the game. But given Google’s learning in local it seems that it could be doing so much better with repairing Knowledge Graph data. There is no reason that the local support team is not given the tools to fix these as well.
If Google has learned one thing in Local it should be that ground truth, not just truthiness (ie relevance), matters. The other lessons should be that human curation is critical and real support is important. Sending, what to a business, is critical feedback into the black hole of Google is hardly adequate. The same standards currently in place for Local should be set for the Knowledge Panel and we shouldn’t have to wait for 6 years for them to be implemented in a cohesive, and understandable methodology to get (mostly) accurate data and to have a way to fix it quickly when it does go wrong.
Google, you can do better.
© Copyright 2023 - MIKE BLUMENTHAL, ALL RIGHT RESERVED.
Thanks Mike for the article. It helped with answering some of my same problems. Not exactly what I wanted to hear but certainly what I expected.
I would love to see your example either publicly (here) or privately to email@example.com
What I find interesting is that the coordinates listed via Wikipedia for Busch Gardens Tampa is the correct address. I was hoping perhaps they were wrong and that might be hack for getting the right address. But that’s not the case which underscores the data source issues for putting together these results.
Great idea! It hadn’t occurred to me that Wikipedia might be the source for the bad geo data… but alas not to be. It appears that the Knowledge Graph cluster for the two entities have merged… Not sure how one gets that fixed.
So I had another thought Mike. You might try Freebase.
And it doesn’t look like it has a geolocation set here. So maybe if you took the geolocation from Wikipedia and dropped it into Freebase that might help set things in motion.
I think the repositories for the Knowledge Graph are areas to be investigating. That means Wikipedia and Freebase for the most part. Editing and contributing to these areas might become the more efficient way to get changes into the system.
I am afraid you are all too right… seems like a job security plan for geeks eh?
I resemble that remark 😉
From a “big picture” standpoint, Google is pushing to figure out who the “authorities” are, but is unwilling to acknowledge “local authorities” when it comes to local information.
Anybody else see inconsistency here?
Certainly Google doesn’t “trust” most businesses as authorities, that’s for sure.
Address: Try to correct using Map Maker or call support again.
Branded Name Issue: Call support again, use report a problem. I have found that persistance pays. One person will say there is not easy fix and then you call back and someone else fixes it. This info maybe auto gen, but the system has the Wiki’s messed up and Google needs to figure it out.
Good luck! I have had some problems take 4 months to resolve 🙂
The data IS correct in MapMaker. The data does not seem to be coming from there. The issue is that the Knowledge Graph seems to have a different cluster of data that relates to the local graph but is distinct from it. The problem seems to be deeper in the bowels of Google and not addressable with the tools (either support or Mapmaker or the Dashboard or Report a Problem) available to fix the local cluster.
And so begins another quest for quality (and the option to speak to a real human being regarding errors) for something that is still new, but will have big impact in the future. Does Google really think it can release something like this with these gaps going unnoticed? Surely they’ve learned their lesson after the debacle with Local listings. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait 6 years (was it really that long?).
Does Google realize how much it needs you, Mike?
It will be 7 that I have been blogging come this September. I don’t recall my first critique of quality issues but it was somewhere back in that range.
Great write-up, Mike. I agree wholeheartedly that the KG sucks, but I’m not sure that’s a big problem for most local SMBs. In my experience, very few appear outside the local graph. Would you say that for the “little guy” the messy KG info and problem-report system is a bigger problem than I’m giving it credit for?
That is totally bizarre. There seems to be some authority given to a Hub Page here as well, where Google grabbed the main image in the knowledge graph.
Here is the link http://cgr80.hubpages.com/hub/tampatourists.
The page references both Busch Gardens and Adventure Island, and obviously they are both owned by the same company. Not sure if that could be the cause of the slight merge of data.
PS – Busch Gardens in Tampa is even yielding a different result then the other two.
It is going to affect very large brands with a local presence (think Cabela’s) and touristy type attractions. Any query like “things to do in Niagara Falls“. When you scan those results you see that at least half of them fall into the KG+Local mix.
If they are in Wikepedia then it could happen to them.
So is that the typical small bricks and mortar? No but this type of display is seen (or something like it) with a “Things to do + Most Towns with at least some tourism” type query. It could also affect colleges, universities, museums and any site that is a national registered site.
PS This post isn’t so much about whether KG sucks but whether their support for it sucks… that if the product includes critical data for businesses for which Google is critical then the support mechanisms should be up to the task. They are not.
They are too early, and the algo’s too immature to have this work correctly. I do suspect they will “get it” – but many SMB’s suffer in the interim.
I agree that the KG itself doesn’t suck. Certainly not in theory. I’ve always kinda liked it. My poorly-articulated point is that it’s hard to separate quality-control from an area of the search results whose sole purpose is to deliver quick facts that make a deeper dig unnecessary on the part of the searcher.
I agree that it is early in the development of KG and that it is an immature product. That doesn’t mean that Google needs to behave immaturely in terms of how they support businesses that are affected by the product does it?
Well its implementation may just suck, I am not sure yet. It is certainly inconsistent and erratic in its display attributes and since a business has not way for trusted inputs may or may not reflect the brand well.
I do however like the idea as well and as Andy points out, it is early in its evolution.
I just wish that Google would learn that immature products should not be burdened with immature support and feedback structures.
Great review Mike. I have to say though that I’m beginning to get confused by all of the new avenues that Google keeps coming up with.
We have pharma brand searches that are showing the wrong formula and brand in the knowledge graph. Exactly how many different gmail users have to click ‘wrong?’ before this stuff is fixed?
The formula displayed is similar, but still wrong. Tried asking the AdWords reps, but they are pretty useless. Maybe if I threaten to pull Google budget into Bing if I don’t get an answer…
When you google my name a knowledge graph panel appears with a different name and shows that fellow as the author of five of my books, which have their covers prominently displayed. I have been sending Google online feedback to correct their errors but so far nothing has been done. I have sent Eric Schmidt a certified letter detailing my problem, which if it is not fixed may turn into my suing Google.
The wikipedia connection is suppressing “See inside” link for one of my projects. The “See inside” link is connected to the local page of “Dorchester Abbey” but when searched on Google, it shows the Wikipedia panel with no “see inside” link. Now shouldn’t Google’s own products (Google Business Photos in this case) get preference over non Google? The power of navigating the interiors of buildings (using Street View) comes mainly from the fact that it is available straight from the local panel that gets displayed on Google search. Otherwise it is just another 360 virtual tour!
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