4 years ago

What hotels need to know as Google expands Knowledge Graph

NB: This is a viewpoint from Brandon M. Dennis, technical marketing manager of Buuteeq.

For the past few days you might have noticed a new black bar appearing at the top of some Google search results.

This is called Google’s Knowledge Graph and, while it is over a year old, it has kept a low profile up till now, appearing for only a few select queries.

This week, Google broadened the scope of Knowledge Graph to appear for more queries, including many hotel queries.

What it means:

Knowledge Graph pushes everything else on the page down, including all ads. This makes it the highest ranking organic result on the page, giving featured hotels a huge advantage over standard organic results, Adwords ads, and Hotel Finder ads.

The Knowledge Graph is populated by Google+ Local Pages, and includes the hotel’s Google review and address thus, hotels that don’t have Google+ Local Pages won’t appear in it.

When you click on a result in the Knowledge Graph, the search refreshes with the hotel’s website on top (below any related SEM ads) and, for some properties, a detailed information box to the right with driving direction and contact information.

This is great news for hotels, which now have less search engine competition from OTAs and directories, which historically dominated both organic searches and ads.

How does a hotel rank in Knowledge Graph?

Knowledge Graph appears to have replaced the block of local results that used to appear beneath the first two or so organic results for many queries. Knowledge Graph results rank in much the same way local block results used to rank, combining website authority and Google+ Local Page quality to rank properties highest to lowest from left to right.

For guests browsing Google from large monitors and a large resolution, Google will roll results right off the screen, giving hotels that didn’t rank in the local block before some much-needed exposure.

Other observations:

Knowledge Graph appears for certain versions of the same query, and not for others. For example, when I Google “san diego hotels” from Seattle, the Knowledge Graph is missing. But when I change it to “hotels in san diego”, it appears.

This makes little sense, because Google’s keyword tool reports that the former is searched over 24,000 times a month, whereas the latter, only 14,800. Wouldn’t Google want to show the Knowledge Graph to more users for relevant queries?

On the other hand, this makes complete sense. What are the first results for “san diego hotels”? Ads. Loads of ads—Adwords ads at the top, Hotel Finder ads directly below, and Adwords ads to the right (see image).

It’s quite possible that Google removed the Knowledge Graph for the version of the query that gets more hits so they can rank their ads higher—but then, why introduce the Knowledge Graph in the first place?

Or, maybe the algorithm is just not as sophisticated as we’d hope just yet.

Knowledge Graph doesn’t appear for some users outside the US. A colleague of mine in Santiago Chile tried “hotels in paris france” but the knowledge graph wasn’t there. Upon switching to a US IP address using a VPN (virtual private network), he saw the Knowledge Graph.

It also doesn’t appear for some international queries. I got it to appear for “sao paulo hotels” and “hotels in rio”, but it doesn’t appear for any variation of “santiago hotels”.

Google will probably get better at identifying travel related queries in the future. I think Knowledge Graph has great potential to direct more guests to actual hotel websites instead of OTAs.

Does Knowledge Graph appear for hotel queries in your country? Share your results in the comments—I’m curious.

NB: This is a viewpoint from Brandon M. Dennis, technical marketing manager of Buuteeq.

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A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries.



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  1. Eamon Moriarty

    This is probably good for individual hotels who implement their Google+ presence properly but bad for smaller booking services and affiliates (like myself)

  2. Schmidt-Lauff, SEO-Beratung

    Hi Brandon,
    thx for the comprehensive information.
    In Germany ther’s currently no Knowledge Graph, so I was very surprised when I saw it for the first time. In your article, I found the first important information now 🙂
    When I google “guest house provincetown” or “provincetown guest house” with US settings in both examples the Knowledge Graph appears …
    Best regards from Germany

    • Brandon Dennis

      Interesting, so did you just change the browser language and location, or did you have to do something more drastic?

      • Schmidt-Lauff, SEO-Beratung

        Hi, thanx for your answer.
        I did it in private mode with the search strings

        • Brandon Dennis

          Good to know, thanks a bunch!

          • Miles

            We’ve still not seen knowledge graph in UK SERPs either. Only when searching with a US filter. Does make me suspect that they’re still tinkering with it.

            Would be interesting to know if anyone’s noticed any traffic spikes as a result. I think you’d expect a spike in bookings but not necessarily in hits to your website – this seems fairly hidden in the new features.

  3. Quentin Richard

    Impressive … I got it once but I can’t remember the search key words. It’s not actually implemented in France, but I can see US googlers results for “Hotels Paris” with some tuning. I not able to figure out how the knowledge bar does it’s relevance yet for Paris, but it’s clearly not on reviews or photos. The chosen hotels seem to be placed in various touristic places around the city however.

  4. Oman

    Hi Brandon,
    Thanks for the update.
    To answer your question , i can confirm that for the moment it is not present abroad (Google mention that it was available only in the US and in english here : https://plus.google.com/+google/posts/KpsbyvHUotN )
    So, its not available in France yet. However, we could imagine that it won’t be too long as we get already the same caroussel for a request like “Visit Paris” ( in french). The caroussel shows all sorts of touristic places in Paris.
    As far as i remember, GHF was inclued in the SERP in the US in November. We had it in France in March (it actually started a bit earlier but they played a kind of ON / OFF game).
    I surelly leave article on my blog as soon as we get it in France

    • Brandon Dennis

      Interesting, thanks Oman, it’s as I suspected–the local (and knowledge graph) carousels are not fully implemented internationally yet. I hope they turn them on quickly! Let us know when you start to see them in France.

  5. Scott Thomas

    Actually, the knowledge graph is the data which feeds the area, known as the carousel. That carousel is to be distinguished from the local carousel – this post actually is looking at both as if they were the same. The data comes from different places, displays slightly differently, and appears based on different criteria. There is a great discussion of the differences here: http://blumenthals.com/blog/2013/06/24/distinguishing-the-local-carousel-from-the-knowledge-graph-carousel/

    The part that “makes no sense” about which appears when is partly resolved by understanding the difference between the two carousels. In addition, this is still being rolled out, and changes are being observed, depending on specific searches, the locality searched, etc. One of the biggest factors is the number of local listings which would be included in the results. If it is less than 5, there will be no carousel. See this article for more details: http://blumenthals.com/blog/2013/06/20/how-many-results-are-required-for-the-new-local-carousel-to-display-at-least-5/

    An even bigger factor to impact lodging-specific results is that, unlike most other local searches, for lodging searches, Google has its own Hotel Finder, which alters the playing field.

    Finally, presence in the local carousel is determined in part by prominence in local search, but with the carousel pushing down organic results, paid ads (PPC) and being in the carousel are vitally important. Even more so, since Google now sends a click on the result to the Google+ Local page instead of to the property’s website. http://blumenthals.com/blog/2013/06/25/googles-local-carousel-trapped-in-googles-world/

    The takeaways for local travel businesses are: (1) make sure your Google+ Local page is complete, attractive and current, and (2) seriously consider PPC ads.

    • Brandon Dennis

      Excellent comment Scott, thanks for sharing those links. I know what I’ll be reading during lunch 🙂

      So the Local Carousel is not powered by the Knowledge Graph. Instead, Google has taken the “Local Block” that used to appear beneath the first 2 or 3 organic results, wrapped them in the skin of the knowledge graph carousel, and placed them at the top of the page.

      The Knowledge Graph works for non-hospitality and non-local business queries, but presents information in a visually similar manner, with a detail box to the right side and a carousel at the top.

      The take-home point for hoteliers, then, is that one ranks in the new local carousel in much the same way one ranked in the local block–by a combination of website domain authority, Google+ Local Page quality and completeness, and relevancy to user queries.

      The content is sourced from the hotel’s Google+ Local page–so, if a hotel wants to change the photos shown in the carousel, one must change the photos on the hotel’s Google+ Local Page.

  6. colinsito

    Very interesting… Nice to have some competition to TripAdvisor and OTAs dominating the landscape.

    • Brandon Dennis

      That was my thinking as well. While PPC is still very important, it’s nice to see some prominence given to organic results again. Of course, this isn’t to say that Google won’t make the very first 2 results in the local carousel paid placements like they currently do with SEM ads (in fact, I expect them top do this).

  7. Olery

    You might want to change Buuteeq’s link. Missing an U there.


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