SEO has become so much more than finding a bunch of keywords and placing them in key areas of your website. As Google’s AI has evolved to cope with natural language processing and to understand relationships better, new themes have emerged in SEO. The most notable of these are semantic search and Entity SEO. These take us beyond finding strong keywords and incorporating them into the content and create a more natural writing style which encourages authors to show their breadth of expertise and knowledge.
You already know about optimising your text, images and internal links as part of your optimisation but you should still consider other ways the search engines extract meaning from your pages. There are many great and expert articles on these topics which are interesting to ready if you want to explore further (Try “Entity SEO: the Guide to Understanding” on Inlinks or this piece on SEO Scout called “Entities In SEO: How Topic Research & Natural Language Processing Will Shape SEO Content“. Then you will find a useful introduction to semantic search on “Semantic Search: What It Is & Why It Matters for SEO Today” on Search Engine Journal).
For now, it’s sufficient to understand that you can think of entities as pages on Wikipedia and semantic search looks at the relationships between things and concepts.
What’s the Goal?
The reason we try to understand how Google works is so we can support your business. Typically, the goal is to get good rankings because you want to attract more customers. Adopting Entity SEO and applying the principles of semantic search encourage you to demonstrate your expertise on any given topic. As you expand your content around the theme you tend, naturally, to write in the kind of rich way that helps people to understand your product or service fully.
Entity SEO takes you out of an introspective laser focus on your service to think about the benefits your service brings to your clients. It goes beyond a recitation of the facts about your product as you describe the kinds of situations where it could be used, why it will add value to the buyer and where it fits in their domestic or work ecosystem of products. That might sound slightly pretentious but consider the following example.
Putting products into context
I recently bought a new laptop backpack and, by the time I had made my final selection, I felt that I had chosen despite the website, rather than because of it! The description focused purely on features of the bags but gave me no context that made sense. I wanted to read about the types of laptop that fitted the bag, I wanted to know how small it would compress for a daytime meeting and how much I could fit into it if I was going on an overnight stay. By describing the likely things someone might pack or the arrangements of straps, I would have felt more confident and made my decision far faster. I even left the site to look elsewhere for a backpack with a better description.
When you write about an item in context, you can begin to weave it into its semantic context. Backpacks relate to carry stuff. The type of things they carry tell you more about the purpose of the backpack. You paint a picture of the features in the context of items that seem disparate but are, in fact, semantically connected. You are giving humans context.
During the writing process, you will begin using a wider variety of keywords and traditional keyword research is invaluable to help you find the words and phrases people are using to research your product or service. Adapting the way you write to weave in entities as well as keywords. Now you are giving the search engines context.
As I apply these techniques on clients’ websites, I put myself further and further into the mindset of their prospective customers. While I’m looking for ways to build out the entities so that my client has covered every topic included in pages that rank in the top 10 for their chosen keyword, I naturally build a semantic web around their core business. Instead of writing simply about clinical negligence law, I now expand the text to include reference to different support networks, medical professionals, insurance companies, courts, rehabilitation and financial pressures. This means the website is a far closer match to the actual experience their clients find when they visit the law firm.
In person, it is the care and expertise these specialist lawyers offer that make a difference to their clients. This is the reason they pursue claims successfully and help people cope with loss of income and long-term health consequences. By applying Entity SEO and painting this picture online too, we are seeing an improvement in enquiry rates. Although it’s fairly early days since I made the changes to the text and added structured data to the page, we can already see the rankings are stabilising and search impressions are growing. The signs of success are emerging but, like with many things in SEO, we will need to be patient and wait a few more months for the results to develop fully.