Refining SEO: why you need to know about entities
An introduction to entity-based SEO.
When we think of SEO, or search engine optimisation, we tend to think about keywords. Keywords are a set of words or phrases that people type into search engines, and the same keywords should be sprinkled strategically throughout your website content to allow those people to find you.
For many years, keywords were the cornerstone of SEO. But as we know, in the arena of semantic web results, the speed at which new rules are rolled out and old laws become obsolete can be quite staggering.
Now, since the advent of mobile-first indexing, the likes of Google and Bing have turned their focus towards snippets and entity-based web results and, more specifically, entities.
Moving beyond keywords: what are entities?
Entities are not keywords. Keywords are terms or short phrases which search engines use to connect a searcher with relevant content. Though keyword research, analysis and optimisation remain an integral part of SEO, entities are playing an increasingly important role because they provide more context than keywords.
An entity is a broad topic or noun, tangible or abstract, that can be read and understood by search engines as it is tied to a knowledge graph. You can picture a knowledge graph as a spider diagram or network, with entities and their related entities interlinked. So the information (data) stored for each entity is linked to and integrated with other entities, and it’s this that allows for greater context.
The Google Knowledge Graph is a knowledge graph Google uses to map data from many different sources to enhance the accuracy of its search engine results. Each entity has its own unique identifier and is stored in a database with millions of other entities, interlinked.
Entities are generic terms that can be concepts, brand names, objects, or names of people or places. An entity is linked to other entities. For example, the ‘President of the United States’ is an entity, as is ‘Joe Biden’. If you type these into the search bar the results will link the two entities together in one search result. If you then type in ‘Joe Biden party’, Google will link these two entities together and show you ‘Democratic Party’. So here, Google is showing you how two entities are linked together – it’s not concerned with keywords at this point.
However, keywords remain helpful in telling a search engine like Google how to read your content and which entities to assign to it.
Why are entities important for SEO?
As entities are linked to each other within a database and can already be understood by search engines, there is less space for ambiguity. Furthermore, entities are language-neutral, meaning they can be understood by search engines regardless of what language is being used by the searcher. This is not the case with keywords, which are linked to a specific language.
Entities are important for SEO because they add another layer of classification. So much of SEO is about user intent, and search engines like Google are now using their results pages to answer queries instead of directing you to a website that may or may not have the answer you are looking for.
Entities force disambiguation as they are linked to a knowledge graph, making it easier for search engines to truly grasp user intent and provide users with more relevant and useful answers – which is the aim of SEO.
How to make entities a part of your content and SEO strategy
When devising content, try to take a topic-first approach and think in terms of entity content model structures. Microsites comprising a small handful of interrelated pages provide a good way to structure and display entity content around a particular topic, service or product offering, or event.
Then find a key phrase or phrases you want to rank for and explore the various topics or ideas related to it. You could search on Wikipedia or Google Images to get a sense of how search engines link entities and topics together.
Look to create quality content around that topic (with your audience in mind). Make sure the copy links with other content or pages on the same topic and seek to enhance its authority in the eyes of Google by gaining backlinks from quality domains.
Don’t shoehorn entity-based keywords into your content – this would be as futile as stuffing your content with keywords for the sake of it. Instead, try to think in terms of topics, layering and structured content across microsites within your larger website.