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Understanding Entity-Based SEO for Enhanced Search Results

Entity-based SEO demands continuous learning. This results in your ability to grasp its intricacies and apply strategies for a proactive improvement in search results and a stronger online presence.

Home / Blogs / Understanding Entity-Based SEO for Enhanced Search Results
Raghav Tayal

Head Of Operations - Digital Web Solutions

January 26, 2024

In the past few years, there has been a significant change in the way Google ranks web pages in their SERPs. Instead of relying on keywords, SEO experts are now focusing on entity SEO to rank higher on the search results and capture broader keywords that search engines previously identified as irrelevant to the websites. Here is what you need to know about entity SEO and how it impacts your website ranking on SERPs.

What is an entity?

An entity is anything that is uniquely definable. It can be a noun, place, or thing. An entity is characterized by its name, attribute, type, and relationships to other entities. An entity is considered to exist only within an entity catalog.

However, if an object or thing is not inside an existing catalog, it does not necessarily mean that it is not an entity. You can generally identify whether something is an entity by its existence in the catalog.

A unique ID is assigned to each entity by the entity catalogs. When discussing entities, any catalog can be used. While an entity is usually a person, place, or object, it can also be an idea or concept.

A few common examples of entity catalogs are:

  • Wikipedia
  • WikiDat
  • Freebase
  • DBpedia
  • Yago

Entities help make better sense of unstructured data by bridging the gap between unstructured and structured data. They improve the understanding of the meaning of unstructured text for humans as well as machines (search engines and more).

For humans, it is relatively easy to resolve the ambiguity of entities based on the context in which they are mentioned. For machines, however, it can be a lot more difficult and challenging to resolve the ambiguity. Entities offer a semantic understanding of the user’s information needs.

Why are entities important?

The growing importance of entity search is a result of the way people perform searches. In the past few years, voice search, personalized search results, and mobile search have gained massive popularity and have affected content discoverability and its presentation. This has given rise to entities that make it easier for search engines to offer accurate solutions for a particular search query.

Here are a few reasons why entities are so important:

  • Their Role in Core Algorithm

The main goal of using entities is to disambiguate ideas and not to rank web pages with the same ideas. However, you can use entities in a smart way to help your site’s content rank better. Search engines like Google spend a significant amount of time converting text passages into underlying entities. It happens when they index your site and analyze a user query.

  • Language Agnostic

The language-agnostic nature of entities makes them extremely useful for search engines. Moreover, the idea also suggests that an entity can be described through multiple media. If you are describing the Empire State Building, an image of the building can do the job since it is iconic. 

There can also be a speech file or the official website of the building. They all represent valid labels for the entity. In some cases, they also play the role of valid identifiers in other knowledge graphs.

  • Connections between Entities

The interplay between entities lets you develop content that will rank. As soon as two entities are entered in a search, the number of relevant search results goes down significantly. Adding multiple entities to your search query gives you only a small selection of pages focusing on the mentioned entities.

Even though only a few people may type such a phrase with multiple entities, the conversion rate will be much higher. You can use the idea (the combination of multiple entities) to develop strong pages. At first, you need to analyze all the competing pages for the search phrase. It will help you understand the relative importance of the underlying entities to the main query.

A writer can use this information to create a coherent plan and develop a new piece of content that offers more authoritativeness than the competing pages. While search engines often claim that entities are not a ranking factor, the strategy helps you write content more effectively for the target audience, driving more traffic to your website.

How Does Google Use Entities?

The foundation of modern entity relationships is based on the analysis of a 2015 patent by Dave Davies. The analysis highlighted that the ranking of entities on search engine results pages depends on the following factors:

Relatedness

Knowledge graphs put two entities together when you cite and reference those terms together. Here is an example: When you search for “U.S. presidents,” you get this result.

On the other hand, “U.S.” and “President” gets you this result:

 

Notability

Google uses a particular formula to determine the notability of an entity. The concept shows that entities are more notable in categories of low competition. They are also more valuable when they have a higher number of links, mentions, reviews, and relevance.

The concept of notability is very similar to the long-tailed keywords – more specific keywords mean higher chances of getting a better rank than optimizing content for a generic short-tailed keyword.

Contribution

How much contribution an entity has made to a topic is also a major factor in ranking entities on search.  External signals like backlinks or reviews help determine it. If there are reviews or backlinks from reputed websites, they will have more consideration than the ones with the same from less respected websites.

Prizes

This factor scales relevant prizes received by an entity. It can be as prestigious as the Nobel Prize or the Pulitzer Award. The more prestigious prize the entity has, the higher its value becomes.

When you search for an entity, here is how the search engine decides what to show in the results:

  • Google assigns values to determine the relatedness, notability, contribution, and prizes of other entities.
  • Then, the search engine determines the weights applicable to each entity based on the query type.
  • Finally, Google determines a final score for every possible entry.

The final search result for the search term “Actresses” looks something like this:

Since the “actresses” is a generic category, Google displayed a list of people who have won Best Actress at the Academy Awards.

Examples of Entities

If you have used search engines in the past, there is a high possibility that you have already seen several examples of entities. The most common types of entities are the ones related to people, locations, or businesses.

Wikipedia entries are great examples of entities. You get a ton of information associated with entities in the directory.

Even though Wikipedia has many data points on a topic, it is by no means exhaustive. 

Keywords Vs. Entities: What’s the Difference?

A lot of people confuse keywords with entities since they are all related to each other in the vast landscape of SEO. If you also have the same confusion, let’s try to clear it once and for all.

Keywords

Keywords are the specific terms or phrases that users type into a search engine. These work like a bridge between the user’s intent and the content they are looking for. Keywords can include one or more entities, showing what the users are trying to find.

For example, while “PlayStation” is an entity, a keyword that includes it might look something like “PlayStation 5 price in the USA.

Entities

At a basic level, an entity is a singular noun, like “smartphone” or “pastry.” However, entities can also be places or complex concepts. For example, an event like the “FIFA World Cup” or a place like “Miami” is considered entities.

In the semantic framework of SEO, entities are unique, definable concepts that remain consistent across various texts or contexts. They usually aren’t linked to specific phrases, but they represent broader concepts or ideas.

In a broader sense, for a website about the latest tech-related news, product launches, and price comparisons, entities like “PlayStation,” “Xbox,” “smartphones,” etc. guide its overarching themes, telling search engines its main subject matter.

If you are still having trouble differentiating keywords from entities, the following pointers can be useful for you:

  • Entities are specific and focused, while keywords are specific searchable terms related to one or more entities.
  • Entities help focus and refine the SEO strategy, and keywords serve as the target for actual search queries.
  • Both entities and keywords serve to refine and specify the content within content clusters.
  • Entities offer specific answers, while keywords can be developed to meet specific user queries.

In addition, entities offer search engines a better understanding of the core essence of your content, while keywords refine and specify user intent to make the content discoverable to users with specific queries.

How Do Entities and Keywords Work Together?

Previously, Google used to focus on keywords and ignore phrases that it thought were irrelevant to the website. So, why did the search engine shift its focus to entities? Here are some explanations:

Keywords can be confusing

There are several different meanings of the same word in the English language. For example, Windows is an operating system, and Windows is a part of a building. Thus, when you search the term “Windows,” you will get a bad mix of results when you do not consider search intent, context, or related terms.

Keywords are often language-specific

In many cases, the keywords are in a language different from English, which makes it difficult for search engines to understand the context. For example, “la Maison” in French means “the house” in English, which translates to “la casa” in Spanish.

Difficulty building connections with keywords

Earlier, Google used to rank separate pages from the same website for multiple variations of keywords. The reason was that Google could not recognize that they were all related.

Even though Google has shifted from keywords to entities, it does not mean keywords have become obsolete. Google still uses contextual keywords to help define entities. The keywords further help search engines locate and link certain pieces of content to similar entities.

Frequently encountered mistakes regarding entities

While conducting entity-based search engine optimization, website owners often make the following mistakes. If you want to get positive results from your entity-based SEO activities, you need to avoid them at all costs.

Ignoring Structured Data Markup

Structured data markup gives your site detail-rich relational attributes. It also helps relate content entities to other pages, improving the presence of your website on search engine results pages. If you ignore or overuse them, it can cause more harm than good.

Using Irrelevant Entities

Some website owners prioritize generalized entities instead of focusing on specific ones that are related to their brand and target audience. If you continue doing this, it can make all your efforts ineffective and negatively impact the overall effectiveness of your entity-based SEO strategy. It becomes extremely difficult for search engines to understand the context of your pages, and this leads to a significant drop in rankings.

The practice also affects the user experience negatively, which increases the bounce rate. This is why it is better to leave our search entities instead of optimizing the irrelevant ones.

Creating Content Around Entities Only, Not the Topic

Google aims to satisfy the intent of its searchers. This is why it ranks certain websites higher on SERPS, which offers well-detailed and relevant data based on the search intent. The success of an entity-based SEO relies heavily on the value of the content and how well entities are optimized in the content, not just irrelevant stuffing of entities.

Overusing Entities

The goal is to develop content for humans, not machines. So, it is important that you optimize your website content for humans by integrating entities that feel natural and seamless. If it seems forced, you may see a drop in the rankings. Since the quality of the content determines the success of entity-based SEO, you need to examine how to create content that Google will feature at the top of its SERPs.

What Is Entity-Based SEO?

A search entity is an object or concept that targets the search query of a user. It can be anything from a person or place to an idea or concept that a user wants information about. Whether it is a physical object or an abstract concept, as long as it is unique, identifiable, and distinguishable, it can be a search entity.

In recent years, entities have started playing a crucial role in improved keyword rankings, SEO share of voice, and quality of content. However, search engines like Google use a number of techniques to identify the search entity in a user’s query and then offer relevant results. Some of these techniques are machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), and semantic analysis. The ultimate goal is to understand the user’s search intent and return the most relevant information related to the search entity.

If a user enters the query “Who acted in the film Harry Potter?” on Google, the results page will provide a knowledge panel featuring “Daniel Radcliffe.” It may also mention the name of J.K. Rowling, who wrote the novels from which the film was adapted.

As you may have noticed, the search engine offered the results without us mentioning Daniel Radcliffe, J.K. Rowling, or any other cast member of the film Harry Potter. That’s because entity-based SEO connects entities and their context or intent to build knowledge graphs from Wikipedia, Encyclopedia, Wikidata, Google Knowledge Graph, and other sources.

Benefits of Entity-Based SEO

Entity-based SEO can offer significant advantages to both search engines and website owners. Let’s check out the major benefits it has to offer for search engines:

Better Search Results

These entities help improve search results, which leads to a better user experience. When you search “How old is the Taj Mahal” or What to do while visiting the Taj Mahal, it relates to Agra. Even without including Agra, which is the location, Google offers a personalized result based on previous entity knowledge.

In recent times, entity-based SEO has enhanced mobile search results as well. It has even paved the way for new search methods, such as voice search and chatbots.

Improved Translations

Entities in search engines also help simplify translations between different languages based on user search settings. Thanks to context clues, entities can be found irrespective of synonyms, homonyms, and foreign languages. If you search for “red,” it will also include results for “Rojo” or “rouge,” as long as the searcher’s settings allow for this.

Improved Rich Snippets and Structured Data

Google uses a knowledge graph to offer rich snippets with entity searches. This makes rich snippets more useful to the users with their search, improving the overall user experience. Moreover, Google analyzes user behavior to enhance its search results and performs algorithm refinement. Rich snippets that include things like customer ratings and photos as part of their results outperform the top results in the SERPs.

How to Optimize Your Website for Entity SEO

If you are a website owner, you can optimize your website for entity SEO using the following measures:

Fill in Gaps with an Entity Audit

You need to confirm that your website covers all the proper entities associated with your brand. Here, an entity audit comes into the picture. This type of audit helps you evaluate your entities, perform a thorough comparison with your competitors, and make sure that your website covers the site’s perfect entities.

Tools like SurferSEO scans the competing pages with higher ranks on the SERPs and then identify the most relevant terms based on their mentions in those articles. So, if the competitors are not using a relevant entity, tools cannot recommend it to you. In other words, if all your competitors are not using entities that search engines consider highly relevant to your target keyword, the tools may not suggest those entities to you.

Thanks to the evolution of AI, things have become much simpler now. With the right prompt, you can easily find hidden entities that can improve your content and optimize your website for entity SEO.

Build Your Brand Entity

If your brand is not included as an entity in the Knowledge Graph, Google has less confidence in the “facts” mentioned about the brand, its relevance to the user search query, and how it is related to other entities. This is why it becomes essential to build your brand into an entity.

Start by defining the official brand name of your business. Since Google’s natural language processing is sensitive to spelling and casing, a slight change in the name can be interpreted as a different entity. By defining the brand entity bio, you tell Google about your brand in such a way its algorithms can easily understand and collect “facts” and connections.

You should also use schema markup to communicate with the search engines. As you confirm crucial attributes of the brand entity, Google starts to accept those facts. Moreover, you need to establish related entities by marking them up with structured data on your site. When search engines understand these entities, it strengthens the connection between the brand entity and those recognized entities.

Gain Visibility by Improving Your Website’s Technical SEO

Apart from optimizing the website content, you also need to focus on your site’s technical SEO. Technical SEO helps search engine spiders crawl and index the site more efficiently. You can use the following steps to improve your website’s technical SEO and boost your rank for relevant keywords and phrases in the process: 

  • Implement Schema Markup

Schema markup helps you provide information about a webpage. Even though schema markup cannot create entities on its own, it can define objects as distinct entities with their own features and relations to other entities. You can link the entities to a search engine’s knowledge graph once they are defined.

  • Use Semantic HTML

Semantic HTML adds meaning to the code so that bots can easily recognize headings, footers, navigation blocks, tables, or videos.

  • Create a Sitemap

An XML sitemap is a list of URLs on your site. Webmasters usually add crucial information (such as its information, when it was last updated, etc.) about each URL. This helps search engines crawl the sites more quickly.

Optimize Your Content With Relevant Entities

Nowadays, if you want to optimize your website content, you must pay attention to relevant entities. There are several tactics that help optimize content for entities. Here are the most effective ones:

  • Use semantic SEO keywords

You should use related terms, conceptually linked keywords, and synonyms that can improve the context and meaning of your website content.

  • Organize content with headings and subheadings

You also need to structure your content using descriptive headings (H1) and subheadings (H2, H3, etc.) that disambiguate the key entities and their relationships.

  • Optimize meta tags and URLs

Focus on creating informative meta tags and URLs that properly show the entities and topics your content has covered.

Best Practices

In today’s date, if you want your business to rank higher in the SERPs for relevant queries, you need to identify which entities your business associates with and build your brand entity as early as possible. While most businesses had (and still have) keyword-focused strategies, it is now time to shift to an entity-based strategy.

Here are some of the best practices for entity-based SEO that you should consider including in your current strategy:

  • List Your Business on Relevant Directories

Listing your business on relevant directories across the internet is one of the most effective ways of leveraging entity-based SEO. The Google Knowledge Graph uses Google My Business as a data source, which is an example of such a directory.

Since listing sites usually change from one location to another, you should perform a certain level of research while deciding where to list. It is recommended that you choose sites with high domain authority as it improves your search engine ranking. This practice helps create entities and start associating unique keywords with them.

  • Make Brand Building Your Priority

You need to find new ways to create a unique and well-defined identity for your brand. If you own an offline brand, your goal should be to bring it online. Besides, you also need to manage your reputation online. In most cases, reputation plays a crucial role in entity creation. Take note of all the keywords you currently rank for, and rectify any possible PR problem that could arise in the near future.

Using Schema To Help Define Entities

It is possible to provide more clarity to search engines by using the “about” and “mentions” schema, as they help search engines disambiguate content by describing what a page is talking about. An SEO expert can quickly summarize long-form content into its key areas so that it is ready for knowledge graphs to consume. The expert only needs to create a page “About” with one or two entities and the “Mentions” of a few more.

It is important to note that Google has not clarified where this schema is used in its core algorithms. Here is a schema that you can add to your article:

<script type=”application/ld+json”> {

“@context”: “https://schema.org”,

“@type”: “WebPage”,

“@id”: “https://www.yoursite.com/yourURL#ContentSchema”,

“headline”: “Restaurants a small distance from the Eiffel Tower”,

“url”: “https://www.yoursite.com/yourURL”,

“about”: [

   {“@type”: “Thing”, “name”: “Restaurant”, “sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restaurant”},

   {“@type”: “Place”, “name”: “Eiffel Tower”, “sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eiffel_Tower”}

],

“mentions”: [

   {“@type”: “Thing”, “name”: “distance”, “sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distance”},

   {“@type”: “Place”, “name”: “Paris”, “sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris”}

]

} </script>

You need to treat schema as a method to disambiguate the content instead of treating it as a tool to optimize your content. This way, you may end up driving more targeted search traffic.

Conclusion

It is important to understand the purpose of using entities in your content, which is to disambiguate the text for both users and search engines. So, focus on using entities to improve your content. As you optimize your content for relevant entities, you are more likely to drive organic search traffic to your web pages.

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