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Ranking first in organic search is the Holy Grail of digital marketing. For many businesses, that quest will be endless, expensive and exasperating. Thankfully, Google keeps coming up with new ways for all businesses to stand out in local search.

Cases in point: Google’s five most recent enhancements to the “Knowledge Panel.” On desktop, it’s the big box that appears at top right on the search engine results page (SERP) when you search for the company name. On mobile, it fills the screen.

The Knowledge Panel contains information about your business, photos, map location and directions, a link to your website, a ranking of 1-5 stars based on customer reviews, and more. We have added the enhancements to the Hollister Creative Knowledge Panel. To see what they look like, Google “Hollister Creative Bryn Mawr.”

Think of the Knowledge Panel as a free ad on Google, because in many ways it is. If you have already claimed your company’s Knowledge Panel, read on. If you have not, first skip to the end of this article and read “How to obtain or claim your Google Knowledge Panel.”

Stand out with ‘Attributes’

“Women-led” is the newest of many Attributes you can add to the “Highlights” section of your Knowledge Panel (if your business actually is led by a woman). Google announced it on March 7 in honor of International Women’s Day.

Each attribute shows up as a badge of sorts: a red female symbol with “Women-led,” a red apple for “Healthy options.” At present, Highlights badges appear only in mobile search results, not desktop, and you may have to scroll down and click “See more” to find the Highlights section.

To add “Women-led” to your Knowledge Panel: 1) Log in to your Google My Business account. 2) On the dashboard menu at left, click “Info.” 3) In the box that appears, scroll down to “Highlights” and click the editing tool (pencil). 4) Based on your business type, you will see a list of potential attributes. If “women-led” is among them, select it.

Other attributes may appear if your business is, for example, a restaurant. Select all that apply, such as “Outdoor seating” or “Free wi-fi.”

Stand out with ‘Description’ and “Opening Date’

You can now include a business description in the Knowledge Panel – up to 750 words! Only the first few lines will be visible before a “More” link, so be very intentional about crafting a sentence or two that state the most important information you want to convey.

The automatically generated headline will be “From [Name of Company],” making it clear that the description is not objective. Avoid using that leeway to load up your description with empty hype words like “premiere” and “best of breed.” Sell your company with your value proposition and salient facts.

If you are tempted to start your description by bragging about your company’s age, STOP. The No. 1 reason to stop is that no prospect cares how long you have been in business. Prospects only care about what you can do for them, which should be obvious from your value proposition. (If it isn’t, reconsider your value proposition.)

The No. 2 reason not to waste words on your company’s age is that Google also recently added to the Knowledge Panel the option to state the date your company was founded. At the time of this writing, Opening Date was not showing up as part of the Knowledge Panel on the search engine results page, but we expect Google will make it visible shortly.

To add a business description and opening date to your Knowledge Panel: 1) Log in to your Google My Business account. 2) On the dashboard menu at left, click “Info.” 3) In the box that appears, scroll down to “Business Description” and click the editing tool (pencil). 4) Scroll down to the next option and enter the date your company opened for business.

EXAMPLE: Click here to see an example of a Knowledge Panel (ours) on the back end (what you see when adding content through Google My Business) and on the front end (what the world sees on the search engine results page).

Stand out with ‘Posts’

Essentially, “Posts” is a feature that enables you to add an advertisement within your Knowledge Panel.  You get a box to fill with 100-300 characters of text, a call-to-action button linking to any web page you choose and space for an image 750x750 pixels (no animated gifs or videos).

A Post will be live for only seven days, unless it is an event, which won’t disappear until the event is over. With timeliness in mind, the best way to use a Post is to promote something new with a call to action: an event; a sale, discount, coupon or other special offer; a new product or service; a new ebook or white paper.

That said, you can write a Post about anything. You also can have up to 10 Posts live at the same time, and the newest will always be first. Don’t worry about including keywords in Posts because Google doesn’t index them.

To add a Post to your Knowledge Panel: 1) Log in to your Google My Business account. 2) On the dashboard menu at left, click “Posts.” 3) In the box that appears, write your Post, add the link and add the image.

Posts appear on both desktop and mobile.

Stand out with ‘Questions & Answers’

By clicking the “Ask a question” button in the “Questions & Answers” section of a company’s Knowledge Panel, anyone can ask a question – and anyone can answer, including you and your most unhappy ex-customer. Google added Q&A as a crowd-sourcing feature and it carries all of the reputation hazards and benefits of any online review.

To take advantage of the feature, your business can post questions as well as answers on your own Knowledge Panel. Write the question as a consumer might, and phrase it as a setup to a fact-based answer from you. After posting the question, go back to the panel, click “See all questions,” then click on the “Answer” option in the popup window.

To manage your business reputation, monitor your Knowledge Graph often and answer consumer questions quickly. If the “question” is really a criticism, respond politely and perhaps tell how you are addressing the problem. Google has rules prohibiting anyone from writing questions or answers that are fake, illegal, offensive, etc. – but they only enforce those rules if you flag the content as inappropriate.

Consumers can also give an up-vote (by clicking a thumbs-up icon) to a Q&A they like or agree with. Up-votes push a Q&A to the top of the list shown on the Knowledge Panel.

Q&A appears on both desktop and mobile.


How to obtain or claim your Google Knowledge Panel

Ever since 2012, when you search for a local business on Google, or click on a business name in the “Local Pack” map-driven listings on the search engine results page (SERP), a Knowledge Panel appears at top right. It looks like a box containing information about the business, photos, map location and directions, a link to its website, and more.

If your business has an online presence, and Google can find accurate, consistent information about the business across the web, the search engine may have created a Knowledge Panel for the business without your knowledge or consent.

You can gain some control over the contents by “claiming” your Knowledge Panel. You need to have a Google account based on a Gmail address (click here to create one).

If Google has created a Knowledge Panel for your business, click on the panel where it says “Own this business?” and follow the prompts.

If there is no Knowledge Panel and you want Google to make one, go to Google My Business and create your free listing (click here to start now).

In either case, Google will then take steps to verify your ownership and business location, one of which is to snail-mail a postcard to your address, imprinted with a code you will have to enter online.