Search Engine Optimization (SEO) used to be defined by the number of keywords and keyword synonyms in the content of your website.
When Google started its knowledge graph, SEO no longer shifted to just keywords, but also to search engine crawlers, which prioritized large snippets and entities on search engine results pages (SERPs).
These days, Google has more systems in place to determine the real meaning of keyword searches and queries. By categorizing ideas into “entities”, Google has revolutionized its search expertise.
While keywords are still important, SEO pros are now also using entity-based SEO to fuel their ranking efforts. Context and relevance are becoming increasingly important in search engine results, and entities can help improve these factors.
In this article, we explain what entities are, how to use them, and what the future of SEO could be.
What is Entity-Based SEO?
Entity-based SEO uses context, not just keywords, to help users find the information they are looking for.
While keywords are an essential part of your SEO strategy, they don’t fully reflect how people search for information. For example, a person searching for “Paris” might search for Paris Jackson, the city of Paris (in France or Texas), the movie Paris Is Burning, or a myriad of other options.
Google offers additional contextual suggestions to searchers, with the dual purpose of making their search faster by showing popular options and reminding them to add more context if none of those options are what they need.
Entity-based SEO is helpful for searchers, but has made things a little more complicated for content creators. Three ways entity-based SEO has changed the landscape are:
- Better mobile features: Businesses enabled SEO to improve mobile results. Entities also improved mobile-first indexing, which is more common than desktop search.
- Translation improvements: Entities can be found independently of homonyms, synonyms and foreign language use thanks to contextual information. For example, a search for “red” will return results for “blush” or “rojo”, if the viewfinder settings allow it.
- Rich snippets: Rich snippets that include photos and customer reviews as part of their results, for example, generally outperform even the number one search result.
Keywords Vs. Entities: What’s the Difference?
Entities might sound similar to keywords. In fact, they are very different. Here’s how they differ and why these differences are so important.
Keywords are words or phrases that are used in searches. They are often the focus of terms that users search for and can be questions, sentences, or individual words.
For example, users searching for makeup tutorials can search for makeup, tutorial, smokey eye, how to do smokey eye, and so on.
Keywords are still important as they connect your content to queries. Your goal is to drive organic traffic to your website by looking for keywords that customers can use to find your brand on search engines.
Keywords have long been the backbone of search engine optimization, largely because search engine algorithms require clear and precise direction to fill relevant search results.
In the early days of search engine optimization, keyword stuffing was used all the time, adding the selected keyword far too often or using largely irrelevant, popular keywords. At the time, search algorithms had to repeatedly display certain keywords in order to properly rank the content.
Nowadays algorithms have advanced significantly, and many old SEO tactics are frowned upon at best.
Google has always maintained that good copies and content are preferred over keyword stuffing and other black hat SEO tricks.
In the context of Google, an entity is “a thing or concept that is unique, unique, clearly defined and distinguishable.” This does not have to be a physical object and can contain colors, dates, ideas, and so on.
Entities can be people, places, products, companies, or abstract concepts. They should always be different and independent of other entities or keywords.
By emphasizing entities over keywords, search engines were able to reflect their results more accurately. Search engines aren’t psychic, however – they need more information to figure out what entity you’re looking for.
For example, a search for the word “apple” can lead to pages about the fruit or pages about the company. As interesting as both topics are, if you’re looking for information on whether apple seeds are actually toxic, reading about iPhones probably won’t be all that helpful. You need to add some keywords to tell the search engine which entity you mean.
We can think of entities as large subjects in which keywords live. In order for entities to be legitimate, they must be linked to a search engine knowledge diagram that depicts related information and data about the Internet. Knowledge charts can help search engines scan your website effectively.
In Google’s Knowledge Graph, Wikipedia was used as the primary trusted seed. An easy way to think about entities is that they are anything a particular Wikipedia page could be assigned to.
It is important to note that not every entity has a Wikipedia page. This might just be a helpful way to think about the concept.
How do entities and keywords work together?
Contextual keywords help define entities, but you need to understand exactly what your entity is about before you can create your keyword rich and well-written content. An SEO strategy that recognizes both factors is your best bet for success.
The page allows you to create entities for an internal knowledge diagram that uses keywords to link to different pages on your website. You can also associate your content with graphics with high EAT knowledge such as Wikipedia or LinkedIn. While this doesn’t directly affect your page rank, it can improve your page authority in searches.
Advantages of Entity-Based SEO
Entity-based SEO is more relevant, refined, and detailed than keyword SEO alone.
Over time, improvements in automated natural language processing and new search methods such as chatbots and digital assistants have made searches longer and more complicated.
However, most searches are still related to an entity. For example, “What to do in Brussels” or “What to do in Brussels today” refers to Brussels, Belgium. Even without the Belgian quantifier, search engines can tailor their results based on the company’s prior knowledge and context.
For marketers, business-based SEO offers a more concrete findability. Making sure your brand is a concrete entity can potentially add a large number of keywords that may not have been available before. For example, Nike can be searched through running shoes, tennis shoes, workout clothes, Air Jordans and more without users getting lost.
In e-commerce, entity-based SEO can connect your products under a single entity. For example, if you sell windows in Paris, France, you might be able to provide keywords for the Paris, France business and open up your store to potential new customers. By connecting your window sales business to Paris, France, you can ensure that customers in Paris, Texas do not see your content and mistakenly order from you.
Here’s how to shift your strategy to entity-based SEO
Adding entity focus to your existing SEO strategies can help prepare for future algorithm updates.
In the coming years it will become more and more important to understand which entities your company is connected to and to establish your company as an independent unit.
How do you transition from previous, often keyword-focused, strategies to an entity-based strategy?
List your company in relevant directories
One way to use entity-based SEO is to list your business in directories on the internet. For example, Google My Business is used as the data source for the Google Knowledge Graph.
Other listing services like Yelp can also help build strong, domain-rich backlinks for your brand and create a well-known entity. Yelp appears in the top 5 search results in 92 percent of Google web searches.
The listing of websites can change from place to place. So, when deciding where to build a list, do your research. Also, make sure you choose high domain permissions websites to improve your search engine reputation.
With this strategy, the companies listed here can form entities and combine unique keywords.
Prioritize brand building
Branding is another important tactic in business-based search engine optimization. All offline brand exposure activities need to be brought online, and you should always think about new ways to create a well-defined and unique identity for your brand.
Managing your reputation is also becoming increasingly important as your reputation can play a role in the creation of entities. Pay attention to the keywords you are currently ranking for and note and correct any potential PR issues that may arise.
Consider your use of interface management tools
Interface management becomes a factor in entity-based search engine optimization, as a silo approach to collaboration can negatively impact search engine visibility. This can happen despite keyword rankings, which can seriously affect some businesses.
Ultimately, focusing on keywords will not be enough in the future. Businesses and marketers need to shift their focus to entity-based SEO and implement tactics to ensure their content is connected to their entities.
Entity-based SEO can be a great way to communicate the context and relevance of your brand online.
By targeting ideas and context rather than words or phrases alone, entities create a broader picture of your content and thus potentially outperform traditional keyword research.
We can assume that marketers will have more opportunities to deepen their branding strategies by focusing on business-based SEO.
How have you experimented with entity-based SEO?
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