Google’s Knowledge Cards

In the Google patent “Providing Knowledge Panels With Search Results” is a reference to an earlier Google patent filing describing Knowledge Cards in depth. The patent provision is titled, “Apparatus and Method for Supplying Search Results with a knowledge Card”, and it is identified as being Patent Application No. 61/515,305, filed on Aug. 4, 2011.

This provisional patent is not linkable from the Web, otherwise I would provide a link to it.

It is supposedly “incorporated fully” into that later patent filing, but a lot of details about what a knowledge card is have been left out of the later patent filing. I wrote about that later patent in a post titled, How Google Decides What to Know in Knowledge Graph Results, but the patent specifically about knowledge cards contains information not in the later patent.

Knowledge Panel results are part of Google’s Semantic Web search results which include a mix of result types such as Direct Answers, Structured Snippets, Rich Snippets and are part of an evolution of search results happening at Google and Bing and Microsoft that go much beyond yesterday’s 10-Blue links. I’ll be following this post with one about the rich search results that show up in response to queries at Bing.

The Knowledge Card patent tells us that, “This invention relates generally to user interfaces for presenting search results.”

Search results tend to require a searcher to review a number of snippets of information “for different links and/or clicking through to several web sites.”

The purpose behind this patent involving knowledge cards is to provide a factual response to a query showing different aspects related to a “single conceptual entity.” It’s interesting that Google is using a Card type interface which seems to be more geared toward mobile search results than desktop results, like Google Now Cards are.

Query Answers that provide knowledge cards are different than a Direct Answers to a natural language question, because They focuses upon providing information about a specific entity
. rather than an answer to a particular question.

What is contained in a knowledge card?

The provisional patent tells us that it is comprised of “condensed factual information that is
frequently sought by a user in association with a given query.” The factual information relates
to different aspects of that single conceptual entity associated with a query. It may contain the following components:

  • name
  • description
  • image
  • facts and
  • related searches

For example, a knowledge card for Abraham Lincoln contains his height, because he was the tallest US President, and a lot of people query his height.

A knowledge Carld that appears on a query for Abraham Lincoln's name.
A knowledge Carld that appears on a query for Abraham Lincoln’s name.

The patent tells us that:

“The name is the most canonical descriptor of an entity. The name will usually be an alias for the entity that is mentioned most often as a title.” And it says that the name of an entity might be different than the name in a query The name will often be different than the name in a query, and provides and example of a the query “leonardo vinic” producing a knowledge card for “Leonardo da Vinci”. What is actually shown inn respoonse to that query is choice of two different entities: one for “Leonardo da Vinci” and one for “leonardo vinic”.

A disambiguation Knowledge Card that allows a searcher to choose which entity they are querying about.
A disambiguation Knowledge Card that allows a searcher to choose which entity they are querying about.

The patent tells us that the Knowledge card shouldn’t be distracting to searchers:

“The description should provide an adequate explanation of what the entity is without going into so much detail as to distract from the search results page.” Sources of Candidate descriptions might be chosen from “a variety of places, such as prefixes of text from trusted encyclopedia articles or top ranking web pages.”

Images shown for a knowledge panel might be taken from a “top ranking image for that entity from the search engine.”

The images at the top of a knowledge Panel on a query for Leonardo Da Vinci
The images at the top of a knowledge Panel on a query for Leonardo Da Vinci

Similar images appear on an image search at Google for Leonardo Da Vinci.
Similar images appear on an image search at Google for Leonardo Da Vinci.

Facts about the entity may also be displayed in the knowledge panel. For an individual, those facts may be specified as date of birth, place of birth, date of death, place of death and nationality. Related searches may be shown looking a query log information.

How a knowledge Card Improves a search engine experience

There are a number of ways a knowledge card is intended to help searchers.

  1. In the case of queries directed toward learning, browsing or discovery, the knowledge card helps searchers
  2. It supplies users with basic factual information about a query
  3. The knowledge card can help a user navigate to related content in a seamless and natural way
  4. The knowledge card supplies new content that may not otherwise be encountered
  5. The knowledge card potentially helps users find information faster than they would by clicking through search results

Knowledge Cards Used to Identify Entities

There are a couple of different ways that a knowledge card might be used. One of those is to identify a single conceptual entity, such as a “person, place, country, landmark, animal, historical event, organization, business or sport team.” It may also be used to “distinguish between distinct meanings associated with a query term.” For example, a query of “phoenix” may produce a knowledge card with disambiguation information about the mythical bird and other disambiguation information about the capital city of Arizona. It may contain content that enables a searcher to choose between 2 different meanings.

Sources of Content for Cards

The kind of content shown may depend upon the type of entity. For example, a query involving a person could include a first set of standard information such as:

  • birth place
  • birth date
  • career highlights
  • awards
  • etc

A query related to a place may include a second set of standard information, such as:

  • population
  • languages
  • currency
  • etc

In both instances we are often told that “Preferably, the knowledge card includes information from multiple sources. In this way, the knowledge card summarizes information from disparate sources.”

Factual Entities in Knowledge Cards

When a knowledge card might contain information about a factual entity, such as a person, place, country, landmark, animal, historical event, organization, business or sport team. a User interface processor mightshow off the content from that knowledge Card in a standard manner, using pre-existing content in a templated form.This is true for different types of entities.The patent provides examples of templates for:

Place Queries
Landmark Queries
Actor Queries
Movie Queries
Company Information Queries
Software Application Queries (games)
Disambiguated Queries
Highly Disambiguated Queries

For that last one, the example of “California universities” is provided, where there might be a number of possible results. When the patent was published, its authors mention listing a number of choices of universities, which Google was doing a few weeks ago, but is no longer doing now.

25 thoughts on “Google’s Knowledge Cards”

  1. This line was very amusing to read:
    “The purpose behind this patent involving knowledge cards is to provide a factual response to a query showing different aspects related to a “single conceptual entity”.”

    Thanks for sharing this. It was very informative.

  2. Google is bound to make things simpler and easier for end users and this can been seen as Google is improving results through patent acquiring and implementation. Where do you see SEO headed to as one day the organic optimization ability for search marketeers would be limited in Google SERP?

  3. Thanks for providing such an awesome update by Google. I have seen factual results in Google earlier and was surprised about how google decides what to show. I just read “” this post, and Your post is full of information and I love to read every new post of yours.

  4. Great post, Bill, as usual.
    Just to point out: In the case of ‘California universities’ query, Google shows a Knowledge Card about California State and a Carrusell of universities and colleges in California. Probably, it depends on the amount of entities to show for Highly Disambiguated Queries.

  5. It looks like most people-related entity searches produce SERPs without ads; however, searches for “baltimore orioles”, “Statue of Liberty” and “Disney World”, for instance, do provide SERPs with a single ad for tickets. In those instances, Google seems to be anticipating the next step in the searcher’s process. Pretty smart. Thanks, Bill!

  6. Hi Sergio,

    I saw the carousel being returned for that query, and decided that I didn’t want to go into describing how Google was using carousels as lists of things like that – I’m glad you mentioned it. Like I said, the first time I performed that searhc, i got a number of schools to choose from in the knowledge panel – I’m glad that Google changed the format to showing eh list in the carousel. for those highly disambiguated queries.

  7. Thank you Lalit – happy to hear that you are enjoying the posts so much -I want to find our everything I can, which is part of why I dig through Google’s patents.

  8. Hi Amit,

    In Google’s 10K Financial Statement for 2014 (pdf), they admitted that direct answers suited searchers better than providing them a list of links to web pages for searchers to search through. What this tells me is that if a website is built upon providing public domain type information or really generalized infomation, (What’s my IP Address? What’s the weather like today?) Google may just answer questions like those then show searchers a link to a page that does.

  9. Hi Pragyan,

    The provisional patent paper was filled with generalized information – it was fairly broad, and quite possibly couldn’t have stood up to a patent examiner’s prosecution as patentable Intellectual property – I think knowing that information to someone trying to study it, was useful, which is why I decided to write a post about it.

  10. I am seeing monetised knowledge cads come up for a lot of queries, even some that are only very vaguely related to a song e.g. a lyric etc…

  11. this knowledge card is seeming very helpful card i liked to hear this thanks for sharing this informative information keep posting like that.

  12. This some more info on googles knowledge cards
    Explore your search
    With a carousel at the top of the results page, you can get a more complete picture of what you’re curious about. Information from the Knowledge Graph is available on desktop, tablet, and your smartphone. So wherever you search on Google, you’ll find that answers and discovery are at your fingertips.

  13. Well after reading this complete blog post, I will just say It’s awesome. I really like the way of explanation in this article. Tips are very good and helpful for me. I think other people should also read blog post very seriously because this will help them to learn something new which they need. Hope this post will also help others when they will read it. Thanks for sharing this wonderful blog post.

  14. Google is always changing and its difficult to keep up with all the changes. Didnt know about this. Thanks

  15. This whole emerging concept of semantic entities is really going to improve the web as a whole. Hope to see it keep moving in the right direction.

  16. this is my 3 article that i m reading and i can say that i m in love with this blog to much helpfull too much active and informative

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