Since Google launched Knowledge Graph back in 2012, it has continued to try to help users find information they need as quickly as possible. The idea is that Knowledge Graph helps you find a fast answer to a question by displaying it in a box above the traditional list of links. For example, if you ask Google, “How old is Barack Obama?” it will tell you “52” instead of just giving you a list of related websites.
Earlier this year, various Google-focused blogs pointed out the company started answering more and more complex questions in that box (for example, it could answer a question like “Who played Maleficent?” as well as something like “How many people in the U.S.?”).
Search Engine Land’s Barry Schwartz has also pointed out that Google has started offering more and more “how-to” search results as step-by-step instructions.
One of the examples that Schwartz highlights is what you’ll get if you’re trying to find out how to reset your iPhone. Google gives you instructions from PC Advisor so users don’t have to actually click on the link to quickly and easily find the info they need. Interestingly, the first organic link isn’t from PC Advisor though, it’s from Apple’s support forum:
It’s clear that Google is experimenting with this kind of result though, because different searches give you very different results. For example, if you try a similar search for a Galaxy phone, though, you don’t get the same steps:
Other searches will show you a truncated list. Unlike with the iPhone example, you really need to click on the Instructables link to be able to actually understand what the writer is trying to tell you to do. The step-by-step instructions don’t come from the first organic link:
In this example, you still need to click the link to get the full instructions, but they do come from Google’s first organic search result:
What does this mean for users?
Ideally, it makes your life easier. Instead of having to click a link, you might be able to get your question answered instantly. Or if your results are similar to those in the meatball example, you’ll have a good idea of the content of a recipe before clicking on it, so if it’s not what you’re looking for you can choose another one.
What’s not so clear how Google chooses which queries to list out step-by-step and how it picks the articles that it uses and their format. For example, in the the iPhone example, PC Advisor might not like it that people don’t have to click the link to its article to get the information they need.
Schwartz writes that he’s been noticing this kind of search result for several months, so while Google continues to tweak its system, it will be interesting to see how it develops.
Google hasn’t made a formal announcement about these changes, but it’s clear over time that its Knowledge Graph is evolving.