The popularity of entity-based SEO demonstrates how websites are moving beyond the standard search box, and are starting to think outside the box. A well-structured website unlocks opportunities in search that are still relatively new for many brands. Even if you aren’t in the first position of a search engine results page, there are many advantages to creating context and relevance for your brand.
In this article, we will outline what entity-based SEO is, how it relates to building content on your website, and how mapping entities can benefit your brand in search.
Entity-Based Search in Advanced SEO
While keywords play an important role in content SEO, they can be limiting when it comes to performing in the search engine results pages. Pivoting to an entity-based strategy means more context, robust content, and a greater return on investment.
Google describes an entity, or named entity, as a single, well-defined thing or concept. That being said, you’ll find that Google hardly ever uses the term entities, instead calling them topics. This is helpful to know from a content perspective, where entities can be thought of as topics that become well-defined by referencing other related things.
For example, Paris is the capital of France but it is also a town in Ontario, Canada. Your content could mention Paris in relation to the Nith River, which empties into the Grand River in Ontario where the town of Paris is situated.
Or your content could mention Paris in relation to the Louvre Museum in France.
How your content mentions Paris in relation to other locations or landmarks makes it explicit which of these entities the mentioned Paris is.
From a technical SEO perspective, one of the most effective ways to create strong connections is through schema markup. It’s important to note that utilizing schema by itself does not create entities. Rather, specific identifiers (@ids aka URIs) can be used to define objects as distinct entities with their own properties and relationships to other entities. LocalBusiness markup previously required an @id, defining the location as a unique entity, but Google removed the required property of @id for LocalBusiness on July 22nd, 2021.
Once defined, entities can be linked to a search engine’s knowledge graph through structured data like schema markup. Knowledge graphs represent the linking of information and data across the Web, providing context for search engines as they crawl your website.
Here is my knowledge graph. I am Martha van Berkel, the CEO and co-founder of Schema App.
Google explains knowledge graphs as containing nodes and edges, where a node is an entity and edges are the relationships between entities. I am the central entity of my knowledge graph, and my relationships with other entities make me unique from other Marthas in the world. Other entities are connected to me through my relationship to them, such as my nationality, my education, and my employment history. By linking the content on your website to resources across the Web, search engines begin to understand and contextualize the information about me.
Contextualize Your Website Content
Entity search is all about specificity, but it’s also about context. Entities make it possible for search engines, like Google, to connect the world’s information together, regardless of the language. In turn, this helps search engines deliver more relevant results to queries in search engine page results.
One effective way to contextualize your content is to link the information on your website to other entities in knowledge graphs with high E-E-A-T like Wikipedia. Of course, not all entities exist on Wikipedia pages. Other types of entities, like you, your brand or your company, can be linked to knowledge graphs like LinkedIn. This linking won’t necessarily increase your page rank in search engine optimization, but it will help to establish your brand authority in search.
Linking entities creates context, and the more context you can provide, the more relevance you’ll receive for entity-based search. So if someone searches for a product or service that your brand provides, they’ll find just what they’re looking for.
Semantic Search vs Entity Search
SEO focus has shifted from having as many keywords and backlinks as possible to rank higher in search, to understanding intent and context to drive more quality leads. A firm understanding of user intent is vital for semantic search.
Semantic search is basically a search engine’s attempt to understand natural language the way a human would. It’s how Google attempts to generate the most accurate search engine results page based on search intent and the semantics, or the true meaning, of the search query.
Semantic search helps Google to distinguish between different entities and interpret search intent based on what and how language is being used. Through well-defined entities on your website, you are creating a more comprehensive and quality resources that search engines can easily match to a user’s relevant search query.
Approach Content With Entities In Mind
Fundamentally, search engines are a resource for users to find answers. User intent is always evolving, and search engines are becoming more sophisticated to keep up. Traditional SEO practices are becoming less important as search engine algorithms get smarter.
Entities have become stronger than keywords in SEO because they provide more insight for search engines in their relationship to other words in a search query. When writing, consider and establish the relationship between the entities you’re targeting in your key phrase. The goal is to provide enough context that search engines can associate your content with their knowledge or entity graphs.
To translate your website content into entities and connect them to other entities for search engines to understand, many brands utilize the power of schema markup. Schema markup, or structured data, is the practice of marking up your website content in a language that search engines can understand, and the dictionary is Schema.Org. This markup connects the established and related entities in your content to search engine knowledge graphs.
As your website changes and you link more entities, it’s extremely important to update your schema markup. The number one rule for this type of structured data is to only markup content that exists on your web page. Enterprise solutions like the Schema App Highlighter can do all of the technical work for you, and our expert team of customer success managers will guide you every step of the way.
The return on investment in your website content and structure is evolving, and semantic search is right in the middle of it.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is entity-based search?
Entity-based search is a more accurate method for search engines to understand search intent, because Google is able to map your well-defined entities across verified sources like Wikipedia that make up Google’s Knowledge Graph. By linking objects defined as entities in your website content to a search engine’s knowledge graph, you are creating more context for your content and helping Google to better match your content to user intent.
What is an entity and how do they impact SEO?
An entity is a well-defined thing of concept that has its own distinguishable properties and relationships to other entities. You can use specific identifiers to define objects on your web pages as entities, and then link these entities to a search engine’s knowledge graph through schema markup. Knowledge graphs represent the linking of information across the Web, and through entity-based SEO you are creating more context and relevance for your brand. Well-defined entities help Google to easier match your content to search intent.
Search engine optimization isn’t solely about driving more traffic to your website or ranking higher on search engine results pages; SEO helps you drive more quality traffic. Consumers don’t usually become customers the first time they see your brand in search.
Schema markup creates engaging and informative touch points through enhanced Google features like rich results, building trust between your brand and consumers as they become familiar with what your organization has to offer. From eCommerce to healthcare, it’s important to maintain your brand credibility, and through entity-based SEO you have more control over how your products or services are represented in search.
If you need help getting started, we’ve helped brands like SAP and Keen Footwear to reach their online business goals through customized schema strategies! Get in touch if you’d like to learn what structured data markup can do for you.
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Martha van Berkel is the co-founder and CEO of Schema App, an end-to-end Schema Markup solution provider based in Guelph, Ontario. She focuses on helping SEO teams globally understand the value of Schema Markup and how they can leverage Schema Markup to boost their SEO strategy and drive results.
Prior to Schema App, Martha was a Senior Manager at Cisco Systems for 14 years responsible for the global online support strategy. She has a degree in Applied Mathematics and Engineering, attended MIT for Innovation and Strategy, is a Mom of two, as well as an avid rower.