Long standing examples:
* Seattle weather:
* Microsoft stock:
Yes, Google is showing several sites immediately below the information provided; thus an illusion of fairness persists. But for the person who simply wants a quick snapshot answer those sites will not be visited. And slowly search engine becomes answer engine.
Introducing the Knowledge Graph: things, not strings by Amit Singhal, SVP, Engineering, Google, 16-May-2012.
This announcement has been expected for months, however seeing the concept in production and reading that it is but a first step is quite fascinating. What it means is that increasingly no simple fact (remember that facts are not subject to copyright) search may ever leave Google. Let me ask you: what percentage of search traffic to your site(s) use a 'fact' term, i.e. an entity (Taj Mahal) or noun plus qualifier (Seattle weather).
Granted, such fact searchers may have lousy typical conversion value, however, if you never even get the opportunity to impress them with a simple answer and go... That Google is dishing up (someone's) scraped information is simply the scum of the jest.
What this will increasingly (as Google expands to include your niche(s)) mean to informational site webdevs is that facts, no matter how complex, are facing imminent commoditisation. As with DVD players: initially several $1000, then slowly fewer hundreds, now well under a $100 - even less than a DVD to play in it; and most critical - there is little difference one from another in quality, in brand.
So, what is an information site webdev to do? Take lessons from my initial examples. What transforms facts into value added, exceptional quality, brand-able information?
---forecasts, especially for specific needs subsets, i.e. pilots, mariners, commodity traders.
---historical records, trends, especially for specific contexts, i.e. climate change; details of discovery, i.e. tree rings, ice cores, contemporary writings.
---real time 'ticker' application.
---breaking news - with explanation, meaning, possible consequences.
---backstories from/with historical records.
---comparisons with competitors.
In other words, one will increasingly need to go beyond mere fact recitation. And in the fight for search traffic the longtail, the 'things' qualifiers will become more important than the 'things' themselves, not because the 'things' aren't search queries but because Google will be retaining more and more 'things' searches for themselves.
Google’s Knowledge Graph isn’t just rooted in public sources such as Freebase, Wikipedia and the CIA World Factbook. It’s also augmented at a much larger scale—because we’re focused on comprehensive breadth and depth. It currently contains more than 500 million objects, as well as more than 3.5 billion facts about and relationships between these different objects. And it’s tuned based on what people search for, and what we find out on the web.
Know your entities-objects and know how to add user contextual value; and then consider whether or within what limitations to allow Google the