PPC – September 2023 Google core update: A deep dive into personal knowledge panels and E-E-A-T enhancements

PPC - September 2023 Google core update: A deep dive into personal knowledge panels and E-E-A-T enhancements


In July, Google released a massive update to the Knowledge Graph. We named it the E-E-A-T Knowledge Graph update and gave it the codename “Killer Whale” because it made a splash in the SERPs twice:

  • In real time between July 14 and 18.
  • As part of the September helpful content update.

A Knowledge Graph (Vault) update rarely occurs simultaneously with a ranking update, core or otherwise. SERP volatility has seldom coincided with Knowledge Graph volatility. Kalicube Pro has been measuring volatility since 2015 with our Knowledge Graph Sensor. 

The graph below shows a significant uptick in the depth of the Knowledge Graph between July 14 and 18.

As you’ll see, Google’s SERPs were hugely volatile on those days, too – for the first time ever. 

Checking the tools that provide historical data for SERP volatility, there is a huge peak between July 14 and 18. Accuranker and Advanced Web Ranking show that the volatility was significantly higher than during the subsequent core updates.

Accuranker and Advanced Web Ranking data

Algoroo indicates that July to August 2023 was the most intense and longest volatility since they started tracking in 2018.

Algoroo data

So. Huge.

Some people reported changes to their Knowledge Panel in July. Still, Kalicube data shows changes to Knowledge Panels were not widespread in July (we analyzed over 100,000 rand SERPs containing Knowledge Panels). 

Please exercise caution when making assumptions and performing manual checks. The degree I earned in economics and statistical analysis taught me that generalizing from a particular, or several particulars, is a huge mistake.

The changes to Knowledge Panels happened during the September core update, as we will see.


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Knowledge Panels represent Google’s explicit understanding of named entities

Google cannot fully apply E-E-A-T signals to an article’s author (writer) if it doesn’t explicitly understand the writer’s identity. 

The Knowledge Panel is the visual representation of Google’s explicit understanding of the writer. Without a stable, information-rich, and non-duplicated Knowledge Panel, your work building and demonstrating the writer’s E-E-A-T credentials is significantly under-leveraged. 

The same approach applies to the company that owns and runs the website. 

Sidenote: Google changed some significant terms in its Search Quality Rater Guidelines (SQRG) in December 2022, including changing “website” to “website owner.”

“The website owner is the person, company, or organization responsible for a website,” according to Google’s SQRG. This definition clearly indicates they are looking for the named entity responsible for the website and its content.

2023 core updates, E-E-A-T, Knowledge Panels and the Knowledge Vault update

The September 2023 helpful content update introduced the changes made in the Knowledge Vault on the SERPs in the form of Knowledge Panels. 

The percentage of Personal Brand SERPs with a Knowledge Panel increased from 38% to more than 50% (a rise of more than a third). 

Percentage of brand SERPs for a person with a Knowledge Panel

This is truly a Person update. For Corporations (and Organizations), the figure stayed steady at 40%. 

Percentage of brand SERPs for a Corporation with a Knowledge Panel

We know that helpful content updates focus on improving Google’s ability to deliver the best solution from the most credible source (a.k.a., E-E-A-T). 

Google’s July 2023 Knowledge Graph update added a layer to the September helpful content update. Google talks about “improved classification,” which is exactly what the Killer Whale update did to Person entities in the Knowledge Vault.

A quick aside: we now talk about N-E-E-A-T-T, adding “notability” and “transparency” to the mix. Without niche-level notability, you don’t stand out in your market. And without transparency, neither humans nor bots can understand who you are and why they should trust you. 

Importantly, notability does not mean what Wikipedia says it means. Consider notability as having enough impact in a particular field for a specific audience to warrant recognition. Well-targeted digital PR and placement of your content on relevant platforms that are authoritative in your niche are two ways to approach niche notability. 

Transparency simply means being open and honest. For example, having an easy-to-find and clear returns policy, privacy policy, cookie policy, About us page, etc.

Reliance on Wikipedia in Knowledge Panels dropped significantly

The percentage of Knowledge Panels on personal brand SERPs using descriptions from Wikipedia dropped from 77.7% in June 2023 to 50.4% in September.

Knowledge panels on personal brand SERPs using descriptions from Wikipedia

For Corporations, the ratio remained steady: the percentages were 69.8% and 66.8% respectively.

Additionally, Google is expanding its horizons: the number of unique domains providing descriptions in Knowledge Panels or trusted sources has more than doubled.

Importantly, the relative importance of each non-Wikipedia platform has changed significantly.

Percentage of knowledge panel descriptions from each source (exc Wikipedia)

Crunchbase has become much more important, and Google Books and IMDB are no longer dominant, which makes sense given the Knowledge Vault update I have described. 

But before you leap on Crunchbase, remember that Google will prioritize hyper-niche trusted sources for Knowledge Panels.

For example, Google has identified jasonbarnard.com as the trusted source for Boowa and Kwala. So, your strategy needs to be to go “hyper niche.” 

The Kalicube Pro database contains over 63,000 unique trusted sources and the 400 trusted sources we provide free on the site.

Avoid handing control of your brand narrative to a third party, like Wikipedia. A source the entity owns and controls, like a website, is ideal.

For example, kalicube.com is the trusted source for Kalicube, and Kalicube controls the information about the business instead of a third-party source.

What you need to do right now

Knowledge Panels are already the next big thing. The July 2023 E-E-A-T Knowledge Graph update is based on expanding, classifying, and identifying E-E-A-T-applicable entities. It is limited to people. 

The September 2023 helpful content update also prioritized Person entities and significantly reduced its dependency on Wikipedia for information it shows in Knowledge Panels for people.

For writer/author entities

If you are in any of these three situations:

  • You missed the boat this time, and a Knowledge Panel still doesn’t trigger on your personal brand SERP. 
  • You see incorrect information in the Knowledge Panel for your Person entity. 
  • You lost a personal Knowledge Panel.

…then it’s time to work on the Knowledge Panels of your key Person entities to leverage as much E-E-A-T goodness as possible. 

It’s time to build your personal brand and get your “Google stamp of approval” in the form of a Knowledge Panel. 

Take action and actively educate Google about who you are and earn its trust. (Or get lost in the abyss of Internet darkness. 

For website owner entities

The next Knowledge Vault update will likely be the expansion, classification, and identification of E-E-A-T-applicable entities for Corporations and Organizations. 

For companies, businesses, corporations and people who double up as authors and website owners, it’s time to build a brand around your entities, build understanding for Google and get a Knowledge Panel. 

Unless Google knows, likes and trusts you (through E-E-A-T), the next update spells disaster. 

When will the next update be?

From our historical data, the pattern for Entity updates is clear for the last eight years: December, February (or March), and July have consistently been the critical months. 

In each of the last five years, July has seen by far the most impactful updates.

Get ready. Our experience with thousands of Knowledge Panels is that you need to have all your corroboration straight six to eight weeks before the update. That update will be either February 2024 or July 2024. 

The post September 2023 Google core update: A deep dive into personal knowledge panels and E-E-A-T enhancements appeared first on Search Engine Land.


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