Why Entities Matter for SEO

What Are Entities?

Entities might be a new SEO term for many but recent opinions by experts state that entities are the most important concept to understand in SEO today. An entity, according to Google’s definition in a recent patent, is “A thing or concept that is singular, unique, well-defined and distinguishable”. In other words, an entity is anything that can be defined by a web page as an object with unique distinguishing properties. On the web, the most basic way entities are described is by the information on the page itself.

What Entities Represent

For you, this means you and your business can be defined in terms of entities, or the things that make up your business. For example, if you are a tailor with a shop in your community, your web page would likely describe your business in terms of your business name, services, and products that you offer your consumers along with all the related descriptions and pricing information. Your store address, phone number, email contact information and hours that you are open, all distinguish your business as unique, well defined and distinguishable from all other businesses.

An entity, according to Google’s definition… is “A thing or concept that is singular, unique, well-defined and distinguishable”.

Your website can be defined as an entity, your organization can be another entity. In the case of a tailor, the store itself can be defined as an entity. If there are multiple stores in unique locations, they can all be described as unique entities. Your business logo can be an entity, the images on your website can be described as entities. These are just a few of the many things that can be described as entities. For a full list, go to schema.org.

Establishing and Defining Entities

Google prefers for their purposes, that entities be described by the page semantic structure and with what is called structured data. Structured data can take one of three forms on a web page, Micro-data, and RDFa, which are forms of HTML markup, and JSON-LD, which is the format for describing objects in JavaScript. All three are designed to sit somewhere in the code of your web page and define your business and the elements of your pages as entities.

For defining entities on a web page, I prefer JSON-LD (as does Google). For me, it’s easier to see the properties and definitions in the JSON arrays rather than trying to visually extract them from the semantic HTML markup.

SEO, Entities and their relationship with RankBrain, Content, Keywords, and Google Search Results

The relationship between entities, keywords, content, RankBrain, and Google search results.

Why Do Entities Matter for SEO?

Entities matter because entities (or things) make up our world. Google is very serious about knowing how to match up their users with the entities they seek. The content we produce and publish describes the relationships between these entities. This is the reason content is also important as a ranking factor in the equation. One of the largest goals of RankBrain, Google’s machine learning engine is to interpret from the content the relationships between the entities.

A well defined and established entity has the advantage among entities that more ambiguous or even undefined. The key here is to remember that when users use keywords, they are looking for those things the keywords represent, and not websites that are packed with the keywords they are using. For Google and other search engines, the search goes deeper than the language we use to describe things to the things themselves, and that is what Google is trying to deliver. Defining your business, venture, organization, website, etc. as entities, or the “things” as clearly as we can is how we establish relevance and that is how to rank well.

Other Advantages of Entities

The advantages of creating and defining your website entities can be immediate. One benefit is the presence of rich snippets in your search results. Rich snippets are additional information about you and your business that visually show up in the search results that can make your results pop. These include star ratings, pricing information and other features depending on the type of entities described on your pages. Some catalogs, such as recipes can be displayed with image information on “cards”. This visual advantage may seem a bit small, but when your competition has no rating stars, and you do, the results unquestionably draw the eye on the page.