Keyword stuffing for link building used to be a tried and tested way to rank high across SERPS. That was 2005, and a lot has changed since then.
With fast-changing Google algorithm trends, the focus has shifted from primary keywords to entity-based SEO. Earlier, traditional SEO practices were all about working with primary keywords and user intent behind them.
However, with Google’s sole focus on improving search results, several other factors came into play. Besides user intent, context and word-to-word relationships made way for entity-based search engine optimization.
This blog explores the basics of entity-based SEO, its benefits, how it works, Google services that can help, and optimization tricks.
What is Entity SEO?
Entity-based SEO is an attempt made by a search engine to connect factors like context, intent, and word-to-word relationship to generate search results.
When it comes to language processing, certain nuances are only limited to human understanding. With machines, things are processed differently as they create knowledge graphs from various sources, like Amazon’s product graph, Linkedin, or Google’s Knowledge Graph.
A search query like “Who played Dean Winchester in Supernatural” or simply “Dean Winchester” on Google will fetch you multiple knowledge panels for the character. It also mentions Jenson Ackles, the American actor who rose to fame playing the role of Dean Winchester in the TV series Supernatural. It’s interesting to note that all this information was contextual, as the search query never mentioned the name of Jensen Ackles, who he was, or what his acting career was like.
This is a prime example of an SEO entity at work. It necessarily doesn’t have to be a tangible object. It could be anything- color, number, date, currency, or even an idea. It works on the flip side of keywords where you are supposed to spell out a particular word in a language, and an entity deciphers the meaning and designates similar keywords to it.
Considering that Google has always worked with keywords alone in the past, what made them shift to entities? Well, there’s more than one reason.
- Keywords pack ambiguity- There are many English words that carry multiple meanings, especially the context where they are used. For instance, “Apple” is both a fruit and a well-known tech product company. So, it’s only obvious that Google will offer a mixed bag of results if your search query only has the word “apple” in it, without any context or search intent.
- Keywords are always limited to a certain language– Think of French terms like “Cul-de-sac,” which means the dead end of the street in English. In Spanish, it is “callejón sin salida”. For a user with a language barrier, it can be baffling.
- Keywords aren’t helpful in building connections- Earlier in Google, different web pages from a single website could rank for different keywords. Google wasn’t that smart to recognize that these pages were all related.
When the structure shifted to entities, Google did not discard keywords completely but made it contextual to define entities. That way, search engines could locate relevant content and link it to similar entities.
Benefits of Entity SEO
The backbone of entity-based search grew out of people’s way of searching. That includes mobile, voice-based, and personalized searches, drastically affecting new content discovery and presentation.
Better Search Results
The transition to entity-based SEO only helped Google provide enhanced search results for users. The evolution of mobile searches is perhaps the most glaring example, followed by chatbots and voice-based searches.
Besides, Google now includes different entities at one go to interpret more than one search intent.
This, in turn, is based on several other factors:
- User search history– Your search history is what helps Goole generate better and personalized results. Imagine your recent searches have to do with the term “Ganapati” of “Ganesha”. The next time you search for terms like “decoration”, you might see a few results at the top that have to do with “Ganapati” or “Ganesha Decoration”.
- Global search history- Current global events are yet another important consideration for search results. For instance, search queries like “fever” were earlier linked to medical websites showing a related featured snippet. Today, in a post-COVID world, it will show you news related to COVID-19 and its popular symptoms.
- Search location– Google has shown great importance to the current location to come up with relevant results. No wonder a search query like “beauty salon “ automatically pulls up results related to “beauty salons near me”.
- Spelling variations– Those typos you are so frustrated about don’t make much difference for Google search results. So, whether you type acceptable or acceptable, you will still have relevant results. With entity-based SEO, it’s now possible for businesses to try and rank for other keywords that they might not have considered before. Like “running shoes” for a brand like Nike or Adidas.
Interestingly, search engines can recognize entities across a range of synonyms, homonyms, and context clues for foreign languages. For example, search results for a query term like “blue” also include results for terms like “azul” (blue in Spanish).
Builds Google’s Knowledge Graph
Entity SEO also contributes to building Google Knowledge graphs. These graphs make way for rich snippets that include the following:
- Featured snippets that usually appear at the top of the results page
- Review scores
- Event listing with time and location
How do Entities Work?
By now, you must have realized how entity SEO can be a surefire strategy for success. If you want to know how to make the best out of entity-based SEO, you will need to start with understanding knowledge graphs.
All modern and previous entity research on knowledge relationships owe it to a 2015 analysis by David Davies. The research focussed on ranking entities that are dependent on four key factors.
Let’s explore them one by one.
Citing and referencing two related entities will have knowledge graphs put two individual terms together, side-by-side.
The patent analyzed by David Davies talks about a secret formula that Google is known to use. Reportedly, it helps determine the notability of a particular entity.
If you discard the formula, entities will become more notable across all low-competition categories. Besides, they become more valuable with links, mentions, reviews, and relevance.
The notability concept is perhaps explained best when compared with long-tailed keywords. It’s simple; the more specific keywords you use, the more likely it becomes for the concrete entity in a content to rank higher, which is not the case when targeting generic, short-tail keywords.
As the name goes, contribution simply refers to an entity’s contribution to a specific topic. Here, reviews and backlinks, which are external signals, play an important role. For example, a backlink from a high DA website will always carry more weight than a backlink from a low DA site.
Don’t let the terminology fool you. “Prize” means the same worldwide. Here, it acts like a metric that considers all relevant rewards an entity might have earned.
For instance, the Nobel Prize in Literature sits ahead of the Pulitzer. In other words, the more prestigious an award, the greater the value for its entity. So, if you were to run a search for a query like “best cricketers’ ‘, Google would determine the relatedness, contribution, notability, and prizes to assign value. That way, it becomes easier to determine the applicable weightage for each result depending on the query.
The search query “best cricketers” is pretty subjective in this particular example. Hence, Google results include those cricketer who have won the most matches or have the highest number of centuries or wickets in their career.
Google Services that Help with Entity SEO
The early days of SEO saw Google stressing on keyword density for high rankings. No wonder keyword stuffing (consisting of several irrelevant keywords) was in practice.
In a few years, such black hat SEO techniques became the center of criticism. Google made several improvements in their algorithm, prioritizing well-written copy. Such doings helped Google realize its primary objective to improve the search experience for users with relevant and improved search results.
Here’s a closer look at some of the key updates that were a game-changer for search results.
A knowledge base comprising entities and the relationship between those entities was an essential update released in 2012. It helped search engine results gather relevant info from various sources and helped shift the focus of Google web searches from keyword to semantic matching. As a result of the internal knowledge graph and new search methods, users were able to discover relevant information faster.
Knowledge graphs continue to help Google present relevant knowledge panels to refine search results. The majority of those knowledge panels are uniquely based on user intent alone.
Another crucial update from 2013, Hummingbird, was launched to return improved search results, especially for moderate to complex queries. Reportedly, Hummingbird was the first major update to have emphasized the true meaning of search queries ousting individual keywords. Some experts consider Hummingbird as the beginning of the semantic search that changed Google forever.
One of the stand-out features of the Hummingbird update was Natural Language Processing (NLP). In other words, it matched context to populate relevant search results first, which made way for the best search intent and context to rank better.
For instance, when you run a search query, “how to make tea” also shows similar search results as that of “where to buy tea” or “milk tea recipes”.
Rankbrain was an update from 2015, a significant algorithm as well as a ranking factor. It helped Google as a search engine sort better through the search and search engine results pages.
Similar to Hummingbird, RankBrain also gave prime importance to user intent behind all search queries. However, both updates had significant differences. RankBrain was the first ever algorithm to have used the winning combination of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning. So, it could easily tweak and test algorithms, adjust the weight assigned to the backlinks, determine content freshness, and assess domain authority based on the keyword.
RankBrain is ever-evolving, constantly learning and analyzing the data from the best search results. To help users make the most out of searches, Rankbrain scans for similarities between valuable content and how users interact with new search strings. Such an approach is beneficial given the fact that more than ten percent of all search queries are indeed new ones.
So, if the users favor the new algorithm, Rankbrain continues to use it; if not, it returns to being the old.
How to Optimize Your Website for Entity SEO
It’s finally time to dig into different ways that can help leverage entity SEO for your brand site. Let’s get on with it, shall we?
Fill in Gaps with an Entity Audit
Want to optimize your brand website for entity SEO? You will need to ensure your website has content on related topics for the business. How do you determine that? By running an entity audit.
So, what does an entity audit comprise? It takes into account the known entities, runs a competitor analysis, and identifies the strongest entities related to a brand. In broad terms, an entity SEO audit helps a brand create relevant content for its niche.
Build Your Brand Entity
Internal knowledge graphs hold the cue towards building a brand entity. Here are a few ways to go about it:
- Create internal linking structures– Google loves following links that lead to content discovery across websites. Therefore, creating an internal link structure helps users in seamless navigation and defines website hierarchy. Besides, it also helps to distribute page authority across the web pages. A successful internal linking structure for brand site content will make Google think you have all connected topics.
- Always connect relevant content to high E-E-A-T knowledge graphs– From Wikipedia to Amazon, such knowledge graphs don’t readily affect page rankings. However, they can always boost page authority. That’s why you will need to work with links belonging to high DA websites.
Listing your business across relevant business directories– If you are looking for an effective data source for a knowledge graph, online directories, and listing services are a great option to consider. Besides, always create authoritative content to get backlinks from relevant directories and other websites matching your niche.
Gain Visibility by Improving Your Website’s Technical SEO
Content remains the king, but you can’t build a kingdom with the king alone, can you? Welcome to discovering technical SEO, which is precisely the work you do besides good content creation. Simply put, technical SEO has to do with optimizing websites and servers alike. This, in turn, helps in seamless crawling and indexing, helping your content rank better for relevant keywords.
Let’s find out more on how to improve technical SEO:
- Don’t ignore schema markup: The schema markup, otherwise known as structured data, is a standardized way to present web page info. As it goes, schema markup does not create any entities by itself. Rather, it defines objects as specific entities as well as the relationship it holds with other entities. Once you’ve successfully defined those entities, they are ready to be linked to a knowledge graph.
- Always prefer using a semantic HTML: Semantic HTML is one thing adding meaning to the code. In other words, it helps machines easily recognize and differentiate between different content blocks like headers, tables, footers, videos, and more.
- Don’t forget a sitemap: A sitemap or an XML sitemap is nothing but a list of URLs for each web page on your site. Webmasters are expected to add details( like why it is important and the last updates made) to every single URL. Sitemaps are created to facilitate faster crawling.
Create Content for People and Machines
Undeniably, entity-based SEO has transformed the way we search online. However, for content creators, it has made things a little bit complex as they have to optimize for both humans and machines constantly.
Thus, it helps to get a grip on some of the best practices to optimize content for
- Chase topics, not keywords- Before the Panda update, you could just use variations of the same keyword to rank higher. However, Google got smarter. Now, it clearly knows what the related terms are. So, creating meaningful and detailed content targeting long-tail keywords is the way out.
- Creating content according to the search intent is more applicable when creating web copy. You will need to understand things from a reader’s perspective. Once you’ve cracked the search intent, go ahead with keyword research. Look for variable keyword indicators to lure a prospect into the marketing funnel.
Always write the way you talk– Thanks to Google updates, the new search engine can understand how humans talk. That is why you will need to ditch your Shakespeare hat and write simply and avoid ambiguity as much as possible.
Common Mistakes to Avoid in Entity-Based SEO
While we are concerned about the doables for successful entity-based SEO, it’s worthwhile to check out some of the common mistakes too. Let’s dig in.
Ignoring Structured Data Markup
Structured data markups are about adding relational attributes to your site. Extremely detailed, they can relate certain content entities with other web pages. Thereby, it will enhance brand presence across the SERPS.
Using Irrelevant Entities
Remember, it’s always safer to refrain from using relevant entities than to optimize the irrelevant ones. Besides what is seen commonly, several site owners lay maximum focus on generalized entities and not specific ones for their target audience. Doing so dilutes your efforts and impacts your entity’s SEO strategy, causing a dip in rankings. It can also increase the bounce rate.
Creating Content Around Entities Only, Not the Topic
No matter what, Google’s primary aim remains constant- provisioning users with a satisfactory search experience. Thus, there is no alternative to well-researched and relevant content that has the maximum potential to rank higher across SERPS.
When looking to make an impact with your entity SEO strategy, give maximum value to the topic of the content and not just the entities. In fact, stuffing too many entities can hinder progress and give unfavorable results.
Although Google knows how to read and differentiate between content, you are still creating it for humans.
It’s a big mistake to stuff your content with too many entities. Sure, we create content to rank in search engines, but user intent and human readability come first. Also, don’t just stuff entities for the sake of including them. Instead, allow things to flow logically. That way, you will never have to try too hard to rank in Google SERPS.
As a fairly modern concept, entity SEO is integral to securing a favorable position in the SERPS.
With relevant entities to enhance semantic searches, optimizing your website content keywords entities only becomes more important. We recommend using this comprehensive guide with several actionable tips as a ready reckoner to plan your entity SEO strategy.
Are you a new brand on the horizon? Looking to gain a strong foothold in the digital space? You are looking at the right space. At DWS, we have helped several B2B and B2C businesses find a new perspective with a profitable brand strategy. Together, we can make it happen!