SEO | June 8, 2021

Entity SEO – How to use entities to optimise your landing page

Over time SEO has changed a lot, and to rank on Google it is no longer enough to focus on specific keywords.

Gone are the days of keyword density and keyword stuffing at every opportunity or using as many variations of your primary keyword as possible. Over the years, Google has introduced new features and algorithms, including the Knowledge Graph and Hummingbird, to better understand what the user wants and provide more detailed, timely and complete information in response to their needs.

The semantic web is very much in full swing. It is no longer a matter of searching for text strings in the content, but of identifying “things” and their relationships to build a picture of what a webpage is about.

To put it plainly, semantics has to do with the meaning of words and the relationships between them. 

This process, which goes in the direction of semantic research, involves two phases:

  1. analysis and understanding of the query to define the search context
  2. recovery of themed documents that best respond to the user intent

The notion of “context” becomes central for on-page SEO because the degree of relevance of content for a given search depends on it. At the basis of the context there are the entities, that is the objects of knowledge that are part of it and that describe it. Your landing page must also match the intent of the search, and to find out more about user intent, check out our post “What You Know About User Intent is Probably Wrong”.

What is an entity?

An entity is much more than a keyword, it represents an entire concept or topic, a more or less large set of information connected to each other. 

Google’s own patent defines an entity as,

“A thing or concept that is singular, unique, well-defined and distinguishable.”

An entity can be a person, a thing, a brand, place, an idea and so much more.

For example, an entity “person” can be described by information including, name, age, address, date and place of birth; a “car” entity for example contains information including model, number of seats, maximum speed and consumption. Typically, within the same context, entities are related to each other according to the meaning and the degree of relevance.

Through entities, Google is able to understand the topic of a webpage and can determine if it is relevant to the search performed by the user, without the need for the page to explicitly contain the exact keyword (although no SEO should be recommending not to use keywords). This is possible because Google can reconstruct the context based on the presence of other terms belonging to the same entity and based on the known relationships that link it to other similar entities. 

For example, it is possible to communicate to Google that we are talking about the moon without necessarily having to name it, by creating the right context or by using the other words that are part of the same entity such as a natural satellite, reflected light, luna, orbit, tidal cycle, phases, or eclipse.

The Knowledge Graph for the moon below shows some of what Google “knows” about the moon as an entity in its own right.

How do you optimise your webpages for entities?

The aim of search engine optimisation for entities or entity SEO, is to strengthen the connection of a website or brand with certain terms and entities. There are several approaches for this:

Content: Content is king, of course. But in this case the content is Zeus. In order to further optimise your own content, you should:

#1 Choose the topic you are going to write about and identify the main keyword for which you want to rank.

#2 Use entity analysis software such as Page Optimiser Pro, or you can use the free Google NLP Tool

Entities allow Google to categorise webpages to improve search results. You can use these tools to find out which categories the top-ranking webpages for a keyword are being categorised as.

The Google NLP tool shows us which category Google categorises your page as, what level of confidence it has that this page belongs in this category, and which entities make up the page.

The prominence of an entity to the content is given a salience score from 0.0 to 1.0.

#3 Sort the discovered entities from highest to lowest salience.  Choose the entities that make sense for the main topic you have chosen and help resolve the user’s search intention. You don’t have to use all of the entities these tools can highlight. They do not have to be in headings (H1-H4) either.

#4 Write the entities as part of the text and with meaning, don’t force irrelevant content. If it does not fit with what you want to write do not use it. This approach helps discover topics you’re not covering or that you should be writing about. It’s easy to get lost looking at words when found within these tools, but what you’re really trying to uncover is what greater topics and sub-topics you should be covering in your content to help Google understand your relevance to the overall topic.

“People Also Ask” is another helpful resource for entity content optimisation. These are the other topics and questions Google associates with your target entity.

Link building: Backlinks were once were seen as an expression of the importance and popularity of content. Today they are also an expression of the connection between topics. This applies to both links and mentions, i.e. not linked mentions on external websites. When it comes to mentions, having your own brand as an entity helps here as Google will understand that you are being talked about. When it comes to links, the aim here is to get links from pages that have a strong relationship with your own page topic, not just a high DA. The relevance of a link to your target subject or topic is now considered to be as, if not more, important than the authority of the source of the backlink.

Semantic data: This data, also known as schema or structured markup data, offers the possibility of marking previously unclassified information as entities. Using “SameAs”, the URL of a reference website can be transmitted to the search engine in the source text, which clearly indicates the identity of the entities on your webpage. This means that the entity represented by two resources or URLs, is seen as one and the same thing. Your webpage will be seen as the sameas a trusted source e.g. Wikipedia.

Entity SEO using “SameAs” Schema

The method of using structured data for this is nothing new. In 2014, Search Engine Land pointed out that websites can use SameAs to advertise which “entities” they speak about in their content and can convey to search engines that these entities are the “same as” on other websites or entity databases such as Wikipedia. Example schema markup code:

"@context": "https://schema.org",
"@type": "WebPage",
"headline": "UX Design : Illustrate Digital",
"about": [
{"@type": "Thing","name": "Services","sameAs": "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Service_(economics)"}
{"@type": "Thing","name": "UX design","sameAs": "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_experience_design"}
],
"mentions": [
{"@type": "Place","name": "Cardiff","sameAs": "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cardiff"}, {"@type": "Thing","name": "User experience","sameAs": "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_experience"},

Google uses Wikipedia as a reference in order to determine what a topic is about. With the code above we are saying that the page is about UX design and it is also about services as described on Wikipedia. We can also add code that will drop hints about your location, which can benefit when search terms are considered to be localised by Google. Instead of a Wikipedia page as in the example above, we can also directly enter the URL of a panel of the Google Knowledge Graph. For this we use the direct database connection “Google Knowledge Graph Search API”. After you have registered for this free of charge, you can use your own API key to send queries to Google to find out direct link to entities.

Create your own entity

If an entity that you want to reference, for example your own company or yourself, is not yet available in Google’s Knowledge Graph, you can influence it manually. You can create your own entity to get it picked up by Google. Word Lift created How to make your own SEO-friendly Machine-Readable Entity IDs, setting up an account on wikidata.org and create the desired “item”. Wikidata’s own meta description reads as:

Wikidata is a free and open knowledge base that can be read and edited by both humans and machines. Wikidata acts as central storage for the structured data

Google also answers:

How does this help me?

At the moment, the effect of search optimisation efforts using schema entity data has not really been confirmed and currently Google, aka John Mu, says that schema is not a direct ranking factor. He stated:

“With regard to using structured data in general for ranking, I think that’s kind of tricky.

So, on the one hand, we do use structured data to better understand the entities on a page and to find out where that page is more relevant.

But that doesn’t mean that just because people are doing things in a technically correct way on a website that that page is a better page than it would be otherwise.

So, we will try to use that to show it in more relevant search results that would perhaps bring more users to your pages that actually match the topics of your pages.

But it doesn’t mean that we would show it to more users or that it would rank better.”

The goal of generating the best answer or the best possible experience for search engine users has become more and more important since recent core algorithm updates from Google, where expert knowledge, authority and trustworthiness are becoming more relevant factors. Schema has been described as search engine language, for search engines, so while it may not be a ranking factor, using it, in this case, to allow Google to understand the topics of your web page can only be a good thing. This could help show that your webpage is competent, reliable, and trustworthy.

An entity-focused SEO strategy allows for more effective and detailed on-site optimisation for Google, which no longer bases its search results purely on keyword mentions in the text, but instead tries to derive the context to accurately rank pages that match the search intentions of users regardless of the search query is entered. As Google’s interpretation of an entity can change, making sure your webpage is updated to match the entity and provide accurate, up to date information is key to maintaining higher rankings and visibility.

Liberty’s SEO services can help you build upon keywords and go that extra mile to ensure Google knows exactly what your landing page is all about.

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