Peter Hund, who we affectionately call Prof. Rabbit Hole, loves to explore the inner workings of Wikipedia. His latest journey led him behind the scenes of that image that a Google search generates to the right of the first search result. What he learned can have significant implications for the management of Wikipedia articles.
BY PETER HUND
One benefit to having a Wikipedia article about an organization or company is that online searches often will prominently display an excerpt from the article and provide a link to it.
Question: What is such an automatically generated infobox called?
Answer: A knowledge panel.
Knowledge panels are driven by something called the Google Knowledge Graph — a self-described “system that understands facts and information about entities from materials shared across the web, as well as from open-source and licensed databases” — which was launched in 2012.
For desktop searches, the knowledge panel is shown in the upper right of a search engine results page. On mobile devices, information from the Knowledge Graph might appear in multiple panels throughout the SERP.
Typical information found in panels includes a title and short summary for the entity; a longer description of the subject (which, for panels invoking Wikipedia, would be the first sentence of the Wikipedia article); a picture of the person, place or thing; and key facts, such as when a notable figure was born or where something is located.
Wikipedia is a commonly cited source for the information found in knowledge panels, but others such as the CIA World Factbook, LinkedIn, Facebook and Zoominfo might also be used.
Claiming the knowledge panel
The mere existence of a Wikipedia article and, in turn, a knowledge-graph presence on SERPs is not a no- or low-maintenance affair. Companies and organizations must take care to see that articles about them are kept accurate and up-to-date.
Also, there are ways for entities to “claim” their knowledge panels and exert control over them — even to the point of directly providing Google with feedback about potential changes, or suggesting preferred images to use.