The rising popularity of entities in SEO signals a dynamic shift in how we think about search. With intent and relevance increasingly driving what ranks on search engine results pages (SERPs), entity search has become one of the most important factors in on-page SEO. Today we’re diving into entity search to discuss what entities are, how you can leverage them to improve impressions and ranking, and how they’ll shape the future of the SEO landscape.
Chances are if you’ve been keeping up on the latest SEO trends, you’ve heard the term “entities” or “entity search” come up in conversation more and more in recent months. Over time, Google has shifted away from its reliance on keywords for organic results and, after launching its Knowledge Graph, has been prioritizing rich snippets and entities to deliver users more contextual results.
But what exactly are entities? And how are they different from keywords? Let’s talk about this latest trend and what makes it one of the most important tactics to leverage in your content and search engine optimization strategy.
What are entities in SEO?
Google defines an entity as “a thing or concept that is singular, unique, well-defined and distinguishable.” This can be a person, place, or product, but also extends beyond physical objects to ideas, concepts, and even time periods.
How are entities different from keywords?
Think of entities as larger topics that a keyword can fit within. The keyword or phrases we use to create our content give context to those entities. These entities also become better defined by the related topics we incorporate into our content, leading to a more relevant search result.
For example, the word Amazon could be referring to any number of entities, but If your content contains other related entities or keywords, such as Brazil, rainforest, or South America, Google now has context for which entity your content is about.
Why are entities important in SEO?
The relationship between entities and keywords allows Google to use their Knowledge Graph to return more relevant results, which in turn leads to a better user experience. In fact, Google will often refer to entities as “topics” which serve to give the search engine algorithm more context about a piece of content. The desired result is a better understanding of the intent of the user, ensuring that they land on the type of content they’re searching for. In the example below, we show how Google links the ‘entity’ former US President George Washington on the Knowledge Graph.
How can I use entities in my content?
The first step in leveraging your content for entity-based search is to research and identify:
1. The main entity you are targeting (i.e. the one that relates to your business or piece of content)
2. Related entities and topics that give more context to that entity
3. Keywords that users are typing into search engines to surface those topics.
How can I use entity SEO in my search strategy?
One way to ensure your overall SEO strategy makes it easy for Google to understand which entities you connect to is to list your business in directories. Google My Business (GMB) is a part of Google’s Knowledge Graph and helps the algorithm better connect relevant keywords and topics to your business. Any directory with high domain authority can help turn your business or product into a known entity.
Schema markup is vitally important for translating your content to entities and connecting them to other entities for the search engines to understand. Schema markup is structured data that mark up your content in a language built for the algorithm to read. This helps return rich results and connect your content to the appropriate topics for entity-based SEO.
How does entity SEO differ from semantic search?
Semantic search, or semantic SEO, refers to the aim of the search engines in understanding natural language in order to return more relevant and contextual search results. This can be done in a number of ways, through AI and machine learning, or by analyzing entity data and location data to determine the context of the search.
Entities play a vital role in semantic search by providing one more way for search engines to understand context and intent.
The challenges of entity optimization with schema
Majority of websites across the globe do not have schema and this is because the process of deploying schema does come with its challenges. This is primarily because schema deployments first require infrastructure and multiple teams such as Content + SEO + IT + Development to come together for this cause – which is often a strain on organizations. Secondly, implementing schemas is cyclic and not a do-it-once process as website content and the schema vocabulary constantly changes. Having schema with errors on a website is ineffective and errors are bound to show up without a stringent monitoring and maintenance setup.
How Milestone Schema simplifies the path to entity optimization
On one platform, Milestone Schema Manager, the quest towards entity optimization of website content is simplified and erases the above-mentioned challenges that a business could face with schema deployment. From automatically identifying website pages to be tagged with schema, to the simplified tagging process using auto-detection of pages and constant monitoring and maintenance of schemas. Milestone Schema Manager calls out errors if there are website content changes or Schema.Org vocabulary changes and warnings which brands can use as content opportunities to draw a relationship between entities on the web page.
To gauge how schema impacts your visibility, Milestone Schema Manager’s visibility report will give your business an insight into your rich result performance, the best performing schema categories, and the dollar value of schema deployment – how much your schema is saving your business for the same click gain against a paid campaign.
Schema Implementation Success Story
Take this as proof of the efficacy of schema in driving the visibility of a brand. For a Travel Management that wished to drive post-pandemic visibility, Milestone deployed schemas such as Trip, Service/Product, ItemList, ImageGallery, VideoObject, WebPage, and TravelAgency across their web pages. In just 9 months following deployment, the schemas provided enriched data on search results for Featured Snippets, Product Rich Results, and People Also Ask results. The business witnessed a sharp increase in impressions, clicks, and average position against the same period the previous year.
- 209% increase in impressions from mobile devices on Google Search
- 144% increase in clicks to website from Mobile devices
- 29% improvement in the average position of the website on Google Search
- 69K impressions from Product Rich Results
In addition to driving visibility for brands on search, for its schema solution, Milestone Schema Manager has been shortlisted for ‘Most Innovative Product’ at the prestigious US Search Awards 2021.
Entities are certainly your competitive advantage and if you wish to know more, join Milestone’s Founder and President, Benu Aggarwal, along with industry veterans Bill Hunt of Back Azimuth and Dixon Jones of DHJ Ventures at the SMX webinar ‘Why Entity Search Is Your Competitive Advantage’ on November 9th and 10th.