How to Win the Personal Branding Game With Google Knowledge Panels
This versatile informational tool hovering on the right of most Google search results pages can be an indispensable PR and sales engine, but how do entrepreneurs get one?
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It's an undeniable fact that Google search results help shape our perception of the world. We use them to do nothing less than answer life's questions, big and small, and while most have internalized the age-old adage of "not believing everything you read on the Internet", we still trust Google to provide us with accurate and relevant information. This is especially true when the information comes directly from Google and not a third-party website. Upon viewing any SERP (search engine results page), it's now second nature to accept the presented information without hesitation. After all, Google's algorithm is designed to deliver facts.
What if I told you that there's a way to use that trust to further your own branding image? An up-and-coming tool for effective management, this method is, without a doubt, the future of online branding.
What is a Google knowledge panel?
A knowledge panel is the box that appears when you Google well-known entities (people, places, organizations, etc.). Displayed on the right-hand side of a search results page, it provides users with a "snapshot" of information about a topic, and only displays information that Google deems factual. Users employ search engines to discover quick, unbiased facts about a subject, and Google's knowledge panels are a reflection of that need.
Search engine algorithms work in many ways like a human brain: in forming a concise yet accurate knowledge panel, they gather significant details about a topic, then draw connections between those details to produce a cohesive "image". Basically, knowledge panels reflect Google's understanding of the world — and most importantly, its understanding of your brand — in one summary.
Take my personal SERP, for example. Under the "About" section, Google tells users everything they need to know about my brand. It includes noticeable keywords like "IT expert" and "entrepreneur", while also listing the companies I've worked for and founded. The best part? It even displays noticeable icons for the best places to contact me: my personal website, Twitter and LinkedIn.
I also control every part of how Google portrays my brand: what language it uses, what information it chooses and what links it showcases. After searching my name, the first thing users see is a picture of my face, followed by more information about my brand. This establishes trust between me and the audience (it's been repeatedly proven that people are more inclined to trust once they've connected information to a human face). So, my knowledge panel allows me to establish an immediate connection with an audience and potential consumer base.
This is just one example of how a knowledge panel can elevate you and your business. In fact, it can help you to achieve among the most pivotal of marketing goals: influencing 100% of your brand's message.
Related: 10 Steps to Future Proofing Your Personal Brand for 2022
Why you should have one
Employers, the media and prospective clients use personal brands to measure and sort human expertise. Given the competitive nature of business, you want to present an engaging and compelling argument for why your services are the obvious choice, and a knowledge panel can help do that.
Trust is an essential survival tactic. Primitive humans needed trust to find mates who would protect them, to form bonds with others and overcome unthinkable hardships.
This core brain function hasn't simply vanished with the invention of the Internet; I'd argue that it's only grown stronger. Think of all the scams you have to dodge: Most people can't go a day without receiving a deceptive phone call about their car's extended warranty or an email asking for their Social Security number. So, the way you present yourself online matters, and marketing yourself as a trustworthy and experienced industry leader is essential. That's why knowledge panels are such valuable assets in brand development. Google is viewed as an all-knowing and unbiased database that only showcases the most reliable sources. To win Google's trust is to win the Internet's trust.
Consumers are trained to associate knowledge panels with prominent figures on par with Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates, and that makes some sense. Always focused on user satisfaction, Google only wants to spend time creating them for entities that users will actually have questions about, but they are quickly expanding in scope and topic diversity.
These are knowledge panels' three basic benefits:
- They position you as a reliable, leading authority figure within your industry.
- They answer the fundamental questions a user searches for and provide links to supplemental information, all in one search. (No more visiting multiple websites for answers.)
- They neatly portray your brand's identity, message and products/services in a single, short blurb.
Related: What Google's Latest Update Reveals About the Most Important Ranking Factors
I'll admit that when I first learned about knowledge panels, my initial thought was of the classic Appeal to Authority fallacy, in which a person claims a fact is true simply because an authority figure supports it. Now I know that a knowledge panel doesn't exist to make you seem better than you are — it simply portrays basic knowledge that both increases a brand's visibility and emphasizes its unique message.
My own brand is a testament to this. Before creating a knowledge panel, reporters never approached me. I was successful, but simply not on their radar. However, the day after publishing Stop Getting Fu*cked by Technical Recruiters: A Nerd's Guide to Negotiating Salary And Benefits, which I wrote with Zoe Rose, Google's algorithm deemed me relevant and built a knowledge panel overnight. Reporters, prospective clients, industry peers — everyone began to take me more seriously, and I was presented with more opportunities… even landing a spot on national Turkish TV.
Related: What Do People Assume About You Based on Your Online Presence?
Getting hold of one
Whether you are new to the branding world or an established business mogul excited by these benefits, you're likely asking, "How do I get one?" I wish I could tell you to simply visit your Google account and apply, but the answer isn't so simple. The most straightforward approaches are to write a book or have a Wikipedia page — the less straightforward involve injecting schema markup into your personal blog's HTML, ensuring you include all of the information you want Google to know about you, then make as much noise as possible in the media and draw attention to your brand.
Neither of these options can be completed in a day. But regardless of the approach, it's irrefutable that you can use Google's knowledge panels to elevate a personal brand, maintain its messaging, and improve business exposure. Given Google's ever-evolving algorithms, it's clear that they will soon become vital branding necessities, no longer reserved for A-list celebrities and scientific notables. With this new option opening to you — and to competitors — it may be time to think about what a knowledge panel can accomplish.