Entity SEO: How Important Is It?

Entity SEO

‘Things, not strings’ is a phrase that was coined by Google over a decade ago when they unveiled their Knowledge Graph.

And yet, it’s a concept that still triggers a lot of puzzled expressions amongst SEO professionals, much like my own face when I get tasked with the job of checking my daughter’s math homework.

Best practices in SEO have long revolved around keywords, and while this is still essential to SEO, the idea of entities is becoming increasingly important. The concept of things not strings emphasises the significance of entities over keywords.

Things, or entities, enable Google to better understand its user’s requests and give them context. It can then provide more relevant results, compared with strings, or keywords.

If you can get to grips with entities from an SEO perspective, you can leverage your content to rank better on search engines.

What are Entities?

Before we get started on how to optimise content with entities in mind, we first have to understand what entities are in the context of SEO.

Entities are typically people, places, businesses, and things that exist both online and in the real world. Entities can also include ideas and concepts, though this is less common.

These entities form the basis of a search engine’s understanding of the world. For an entity to ‘exist’ to Google, it has to relate to other entities. Google can use these relationships to put entities in context and have a better understanding of content, and what a user might be looking for when they enter a search query.

Recently, there has been a shift amongst search engines, where more importance has been placed on a context-driven user experience using entities, over a keyword-driven approach. This is only expected to become more prominent as technology advances, making entity SEO essential for future-proofing websites.

Keywords Vs. Entities

In Google’s ‘things, not strings’ expression, ‘things’ refer to entities, and ‘strings’ refer to strings of words or keywords.

So, are entities more valuable from an SEO perspective than keywords?

The answer, unfortunately, isn’t straightforward.

Rewind ten to fifteen years, and SEO was all about cramming your content with as many relevant keywords as possible. Does your content have more keywords than commas? Great! We all know this is no longer good practice, but keywords still remain one of the cornerstones of SEO. However, with the rise of entity-based SEO, search engines are getting smarter.

Google wants to understand the context and the relationships between different entities to provide users with more relevant and accurate search results. This is great news for users. The rise of entity-based SEO means that Google understands the relationship between things to determine the relevance of results to any given search query.

Keywords in Context

Entities allow search engines to understand how words, including keywords, are related to each other in terms of meaning. So when you search for ‘simons yellow car’, you get results like this:

Keywords in Context

Google understands that you’re looking for the Fiat Cinquecento used by Simon in the Inbetweeners TV series, without having to actually mention ‘Fiat Cinquecento’ or ‘Inbetweeners’.

It understands this by connecting entities in its Knowledge Graph. Without entities, and with a stronger focus on keywords, the user query of ‘simons yellow car’ might instead give you images of yellow Lamborghini’s, yellow cars for sale, businesses named ‘Yellow Cars’, or information about celebrities named Simon.

As a user, you’d have to sift through a lot of results to find the information you were looking for, if search engines relied solely on keywords without being able to put them into context.

Optimising for Entities

Get Topical

That’s ‘topical’, not ‘tropical’, as much as I wish that lazing under a palm tree would get us ahead in SERPs.

Rather than obsessing over individual keywords, create content that thoroughly explores specific topics and entities.

This ensures that your content provides valuable information and context to users.

For example, if you’re creating content about endangered elephants, littering your page with the words ‘endangered elephants’ isn’t going to get you very high in rankings by itself. Instead, explore the topics related to endangered elephants.

Discuss which species are endangered, why they are endangered, which charities are involved in helping, and how individuals can make a difference, all while naturally mentioning the keywords ‘endangered elephants’ throughout.

Get Organised

The layout or organisation of your page can help with entity SEO. Use headings and subheadings to distinguish other concepts and known entities from one another, making them easier for search engines to understand.

Get Structured

Structured data, or Schema, is invaluable when it comes to defining an entity.

This is a HTML code that helps search engines interpret the content on your pages more effectively.

By incorporating structured data, you’re essentially giving search engines a roadmap to understand the entities on your site, and how they relate to each other. Optimise your page with as much structured data as possible, to clearly explain to search engines what each piece of your content means or relates to.

By explicitly defining the entities and their relationships within your content, search engines can better understand the context of your content.

Get Intentional

Understanding user intent is so crucial for various areas of SEO, including entity SEO. You can do this by putting yourself into the place and mind of the user, and considering what they want from your content.

You want to create content that answers questions, solves problems, or provides valuable insights related to the entities being discussed.

Get Connected

Always remember that entities don’t exist in isolation. Throughout your content, think about how different entities relate to each other. Linking to relevant sources, both internally and externally, can strengthen these connections.

This not only enhances the user experience but also signals to search engines that your content is well-structured and authoritative.

On a Final Note

There’s a lot of crossover between entity SEO and general SEO, so if you’ve been optimising your site already then chances are you’ve probably already come across some of the recommendations listed here. It can be challenging though, so don’t expect to get a firm grasp on this topic right away.

Focus on the basics first, and you can refine your optimisation throughout the process.

If you need a helping hand with SEO on your website, get in touch with us today.

Karli Edmondson-Matthews
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