Why doesn’t Google know who the CEO of Time Inc. is?

Sam Michelson, October 11, 2017

The Google Answer box is the section that appears in Google when you type in a question for which Google has a precise answer. One example would be “What is the capital of Iowa?”

iowa capital knowledge panel

The Google Knowledge Panel is that box of fast facts typically on the right side of a Google results page for companies, brands, movies, well-known people and many other entities.

al gore knowledge panel

To populate these boxes, Google needs to have a database reflecting the correct information. They typically source the information from Wikipedia, Wikidata, and other publicly available and (hopefully) updated sources. Sometimes, they get the information by accessing outdated sources or by parsing text in articles online – a process which can lead to mistakes.

So, when we notice something like this:

CEO of Time Inc.

We wonder what went wrong?

Google reports that the CEO of Time is Joseph Ripp ( but he’s been out since Sept 2016!).

Rich Battista is the actual CEO; see Time’s website orĀ  Wikipedia.

In our work, we often encounter cases where Google takes months or even years to update its answer box and knowledge panel information. Sure, Google provides a feedback link that allows you to report the issue – but often even tens of reports from different users have no impact.

Another option is to raise the issue on Google’s webmaster discussion group which has been successful on a number of occasions.

Sometimes, the confusion comes from the fact that the incorrect information is still housed in many data sources – for example in Wikidata, LinkedIn, Crunchbase, and others.

What’s the best practice to avoid these situations? When the facts change, make sure that the information is updated across all platforms including all of the profiles you control and the databases that you can influence. Even then, the change may not happen.

Meanwhile – it’s clear that a better system is needed unless Google is okay with just getting it wrong.

 


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