What hotels need to know as Google expands Knowledge Graph

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.

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