What exactly is entity SEO and how do you use it to boost your SEO?
That's what we're going to be talking about today with someone who's an author for both Search Engine Land and Search Engine Journal. She's worked both agency side and in-house and has been doing SEO for the past eight years. She is currently the SEO manager at Assembly Global. A warm welcome to the In Search SEO podcast, Sara Taher.
In this episode, Sara shares six tips to boost your entity SEO, including:
Create a topical map
Decide on the page/topic
Add internal links
Sara: Thank you for having me, David. Hi, everyone.
D: Hey, Sara. Thanks so much for joining. You can find Sara over at sara-taher.com. So Sara, what exactly is entity SEO?
S: With the release of the knowledge graph in 2012, Google moved away from the focus on tactics that can be easily manipulated and moved towards a more complex concept, which is entity SEO. Basically, it's focusing on things and topics rather than on keyword density and tactics like using exact match keywords, keyword density, and so on. It's a shift in the mindset on how we approach content. Right now, you should think about topics and whether you're covering all the necessary information you should, more than just how many times I put a keyword on the page.
D: Nowadays, you've got to prove that you're a thing. So today you're sharing six steps to drive your entity SEO. Starting off with number one, create a topical map.
1. Create a topical map
S: When you're starting to do SEO work on any website, one of the first things I recommend you do for content is create a topical map. We tend to complicate things sometimes in SEO, but it's really simple. It's a map of the topics on the website, not the keywords, the topics, and the themes you're talking about. For example, if it's an adventure travel website, the topics could be hiking, surfing, and mountain climbing, the main themes of the website. How they connect to each other or to the main theme of the website.
Once you have this map in front of you… and there are a lot of tools that can help you to do that. You can check Wikipedia and see, for example, what other related themes or entities mentioned in the page are dedicated for those themes that you have been able to collect. And then you can even add more. You're just trying to have a map. If you're brainstorming, for example, think about it, you're just trying to have a map of how the topics on the website connect with each other.
D: Understood. So is this in relation to the topics that are most relevant to the entity? Or do you also incorporate things like keyword volume as well, and perhaps structured topics based upon which topics have the highest volume, and then do the subtopics, according to that.
S: At this stage, you don't even need to look at keywords. If your website is about adventure travel, you just need the themes, entities, or topics you’re covering and how they relate to the main topic. And then maybe each of those topics maybe would have subtopics inside them. Maybe hiking in specific locations, or if it's camping, maybe camping tips. It's the equivalent of building a website from scratch and brainstorming what topics you're going to have and at a very high level how they look connected to each other.
D: Understood. So start by looking at the topics that are most relevant in relation to the entity and that can build up related topics to that. And don't get distracted by keyword volume, to begin with.
That brings us up to number two, decide on the page/topic.
2. Decide on the page/topic
S: This is where you can actually use keyword volume. Now you have your network of topics/entities to choose where to start first and this is where you may look into the data and keyword research and see what is going to be more valuable to the business, what I can do now, and what I can do later. Once you have this data and you decide on the specific theme or the topic you want to address, then you can say that to cover this topic we'll need this set of pages. So you choose the first page to start with and you work your way from there. This is what you do at that stage.
D: Understood. And do you think at that time about things like how the internal pages are going to be linked together and linking text within those links?
S: This is something you can do at that time. Now you have a list of pages, and you picked your first page. Some people now send their content briefs, including internal linking, and sometimes people do this separately at the end once they have a clearly optimized set of pages when there’s a clear way to think of internal linking. So this can be done now or later.
D: And this brings us to number three, which is to do entity research.
3. Entity research
S: Now you have your page, and usually pages have a main entity. It’s not always the case, it may have various Google entities, but usually, it has one main entity. So what people do usually for keyword research is try to find as many keyword variations that are related to the topic of that page. But with entity SEO, you're looking for other entities that should be mentioned on the page, even if they don't have the same words as the keywords. For example, if the page is about a guide to camping, and the main entity is camping, other entities that should be mentioned there like a map, a tent, or anything that is related to the entity of camping. And you can find these by, for example, doing an image search for camping on Google, ideally in incognito mode so you don't get personalized results. So from there, you can pick what you see as relevant to the entity and your topic. And you can also use Google Trends. There are a lot of tools and every once in a while, someone recommends a new entity SEO tool. They're coming in batches right now. So do your research. You may even look at competitors' page ranking for the keyword you're targeting and see what entities they mentioned there.
And the purpose of that is, once you have the list of entities that you should mention, you'll find that this helps you expand the topics in ways you did not expect. For example, there was this one time I prepared a topic for writing something about road trips, and some of the tools recommended entities like mileage or maps. I was thinking GPS and but apparently, some people still use actual maps. So by including those entities, to be able to add those words, you had to add specific paragraphs or context to be able to accommodate those entities and you have expanded your content in ways that you may not have initially thought of.
D: I love it. That's a great example there. I think many article writers will perhaps think of a topic that appeals to them and just write something that they know about without necessarily writing in a way that helps to educate Google, as well as the reader, about what the article is about and the context of the article. And when you give Google that context about where it fits in with other entities, then you're giving yourself a greater opportunity to write because you're giving Google greater confidence.
That brings us up to number four, which is integrated entities. What does integrate entities mean?
4. Integrate entities
S: I think we actually touched upon that in what we just said. Once you do your entity research, and you have a list of entities, you just add them into the content. And as I said, this helps you expand your content in ways you did not initially anticipate.
D: Understood. So it's not just about thinking about the entity at the beginning but trying to incorporate as many relevant ones as possible. That then brings us up to number five, which is adding internal linking.
5. Add internal links
S: Now you can look at internal linking and start to think where my main entity is mentioned on the website, what other articles are mentioning it, and start linking back to it. And internal linking has always been valuable and it's becoming more valuable because we are now starting to understand more about entity SEO and utilize it. And the way you connect your website helps Google understand how you structure your website and how the entities relate there. The better the internal linking the more Google is able to understand and rank your content. In simple words, make sure that every time your main entity is mentioned on another article or blog post, you link back to it.
D: Did you have any preference to determine a page for the entity home? Because I was talking to Jason Barnard and he's in favor of the About page as being the homepage on a website of what that entity is and describing it. Are you in favor of that as well? Do you prefer the homepage, for instance, for some entities instead?
S: Sometimes people use the main schema on the homepage, and I think the About page is more descriptive. But if I have a client who has it there I would not potentially ask them to change it. But it makes more sense to have it on the about page. And this is an example of this, if you want to add the organization schema or the local business schema, it does make sense to have this on the About page more than on the homepage. I do agree with Jason, definitely. But I wouldn't say people who would put it on the homepage are making a mistake.
D: Understood. So it's essentially like if you've built that authority to begin with to a particular URL, think twice before changing it, because you might end up confusing Google.
S: Yeah, if we keep changing things, it's generally speaking not good.
D: And that brings us up to number six, which is adding the main schema and other related schemas.
6. Add 'Main' schema and other related schemas
S: In addition to the organization schema or local schema to add on the About page or homepage, for every article, there is a main entity. Especially if we're talking about bottom-of-funnel pages like email marketing software. The main entity there is a type of software. So depending on the page, there’s usually a main entity and there is actually a main entity schema. There is this type of schema that's called the main entity. And this is where you tell Google that the main entity here is software, for example. And then you can give it a name like email marketing, for example, or if it is a project management software, like Asana, the name can be Asana. You can tell Google that this page is about an entity, and then you define the entity in the main entity schema.
And then there are also other types of schema that you can add to tell Google that this page mentions things which is also a standard schema type. If we're talking about email marketing software, maybe email is an entity. I don't have all the related entities in my mind, but in the list of entities that we have created earlier, you can actually tell that each of those is thing and they are mentioned on that page as well. There are actually tools that automate this process for you. Recently I've been using InLinks, and it does that.
The Pareto Pickle - CTR Experimentation
D: Great resources to share as well there. Let's finish off with the Pareto Pickle. Pareto says that you can get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. What's one SEO activity that you would recommend that provides incredible results for modest levels of effort?
S: I would say CTR experimentation. It's something we hear about a lot and don't invest a lot of time in. Analyzing the SERPs, seeing where most of the clicks go, finding variations of your title, and testing that is definitely worth it. For example, if you look at the developer forums like Stack Overflow, they have this answered or resolved added and it definitely increases the CTR compared to the results that don't. So finding those things that you can append or finding patterns for title tags that would get you more clicks in relation to your industry is definitely helpful.
D: And how do you come up with have ideas for new title tags that may result in a higher click-through rate?
S: Well, you analyze the SERPs for a lot of industry-related keywords and then I feel as SEOs, we should be always looking and noticing how we personally behave on search and what patterns are there. It’s just something to keep on your mind every time you look at SERPs and take notes. For example, this is something worth adding Price Starting From. Sometimes even talking to your customers and thinking what is one thing that's really important for them and how you can incorporate that like free shipping. If you add free shipping on specific products will that get more clicks? Things of that sort are worth testing. You're already ranking on the page, you did all the effort, you're already there, you're on the first page. So it's definitely less effort than ranking and you're just leveraging what you have.
D: And also, for US websites wanting to expand internationally as well. Think of international language preferences. Obviously, being in the UK, you tend to prefer postage instead of shipping. So if you have different country-specific sites, trying to make sure that you regionalize the text that you incorporate as well.
S: Definitely, those things matter. And we just need to find them. We have to keep testing in. The easiest way to test that is to select a group of URLs and test them and compare them against the ones you pre-selected and did not make any change for and if the CTR increased in the test versus the control or not.
D: I've been your host, David Bain. You can find Sara over at Sara-taher.com. Sara, thanks so much for being on the In Search SEO podcast.
S: Thank you so much, David.
D: And thank you for listening. Check out all the previous episodes and sign up for a free trial of the Rank Ranger platform over at rankranger.com.