A while ago, commenting on Gary Illyes’ words on how Google evaluates contents quality, the conversation fell on entities, core of the semantic web and the key with which the search algorithm succeeds in identifying topics and establishing a connection among them.
What is an entity for Google
The definition of entity comes directly out of a Google’s patent, already registered in 2012 and constantly updated throughout the years in order to adapt it to new technologies and the algorithm’s evolution, immediately used to build the Knowledge Graph but than also extended to the Research as a whole. The document reads that, to the meaning we are interested in, an entity is
“a thing or concept that is peculiar, unique, well defined e discernible“.
More specifically, an entity can be a person, a place, an object, an idea, an abstract concept, a practical element or any combination of these – Google’s team explains – and, generally speaking, entities include things or concepts linguistically represented by nouns.
Examples of entities
Therefore, entities are not simply names or physical objects, given the fact that Google succeeded in a step further: an entity could be an idea or theory (such as the theorem of Pythagoras), an adjective (like a colour), an abstract concept (a unicorn), a globally interesting topic (global warming), a relevant date and so on, so that everything can be gathered in a unique way without any chance of confusion.
Ties between entities and link importance
Trying to simplify fairly complicated concepts, we could say that Google uses a set of systems to evaluate ties among entities and to give importance to each and every one of them: for instance, it can establish a correlation between two entities comparing the number of times in which they are both quoted on web pages.
An external factor of comprehension are the contribution supplied by various sources, such as reviews, third-party published charts and so on: in this specific case, the value is also reasoned on the authority of the source. A particular typology is the one that concerns prizes, used to determine the perceived entity value compared to an activity, professional field or competence.
Furthermore, also links and mentions play a relevant role, given the fact that they are used as factor to measure the importance (notability) of the entity based on the way it refers to a query or another entity: the algorithm cross-checks the entity’s global popularity and so its number of backlinks, mentions on social media etc., and ponders it compared to the value of the specific kind of entity.
Let’s get back to talk about links value, but in a different meaning (maybe not that much, really): we have defined them as “votes” from site to site, but linkings are also a way to create a conjunction between entities (such as the linking site and the linked one), so are likely considered entities the pages’ PageRank, the used anchor text, the topic relevance, etc.
Schema.org and the kind of data structured to build semantic web
First of all, though, the kind of tools we have to communicate entities to Google (and to propose our contents as such) are structured data and schema.org ‘s info, and we need them to implement semantic web. Meaning, the new (and not that much already) way to directly report to the search engine all the info included into and behind web pages (brands, authors…), so that Google could make the gathering and elaboration of data faster and its answers to the search query quicker and more precise.
Using entities and their data, the algorithm can actually compute the probabilities to intercept the user’s real intent with more accuracy and at the same time – from language and used tone – to understand if the result will be positive or negative.
In essence, as we were saying in the past dedicated articles (specifically this one about microformats), in order to define entities and to provide them to search engines as data you have to use structured data, so to highlight a web page’s topic and the correlation among various entities.
Entities within SEO
Reaching our professional topics, inside the SEO field entities also are the elements to the core of the users’ researches: a product to buy, a brand, a piece of news, kitchen recipes are all entities to the search engine. Effectively using scheme’s vocabulary and scructured data we directly communicate to Google – in a focused and errorless language – our pages and website’s topics, giving the algorithm the actual chance of a better understanding, without any confusion.
How to optimize the website
There are some steps and interventions we could perform to try and increase our website’s value as entity (that subsequently include countless other entities), i.e. to strengthen its value and correlation with other web’s elements we would like to connect to. They are very “simple” operations, such as adding schema.org to the site, using structured data without any mistake, create a Google My Business form and keep that updated, always have a relevant backlink profile also thanks to a more strategic link building, other than obviously give priority to the creation of quality contents, that can deepen their topics and answer to people’s search intent.