What are Entities and Keywords for SEO Optimization?

In SEO, there are two main components to the words that create the content on the page – entities, and keywords. Understanding the relationship between them is an integral part of how we do things in optimization today. Let’s take a look at what these things are, and why they matter when we create and execute an SEO strategy for you as one of our clients.

What is a Keyword?

Keywords are the words or phrases people type into the search engines when they are trying to find something. Keywords could be something like, “restaurants near me” or “dentists in San Diego.” Chances are, you already knew the answer to that question. But, I promise I’m going somewhere with this so stay with me.

What people are searching for isn’t keywords. They’re looking for answers. They want to know how to get somewhere, where they should go for dinner while on vacation in a town they know little about, what product they should buy to solve a problem they’re having, who starred in a movie, who said a famous quote, and so on.

SEO professionals place a great deal of emphasis on keywords – optimizing for specific keywords and phrases, although that’s not what people are searching for at all. The truth is, a large part of what people are searching for is what’s known as an “entity.”

What is an Entity?

An entity can be considered a type of keyword since it is a specific person, place, or concept. You are an entity. The city you live in is an entity. The model of the car you drive is an entity. Concepts are entities, too, so things like topics and brands are entities.

That said, people aren’t necessarily searching for entities, but most of the time are searching to learn something about the entity. The answer to their question isn’t the entity itself in that case.

So, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at how keywords and entities are similar, and how they’re different. It does matter to the topic modeling approach to SEO, which I’ve discussed here on the blog before.

Keywords can be entities, and entities can be keywords. It is easy for multiple keywords to represent searching for the same thing. Some people may search for “SEO agency in Carlsbad,” while others may search for “Carlsbad SEO company.” They are searching for the same thing, and there will be multiple entities (all the SEO companies in Carlsbad – us being one of them) that are related to those keywords.

Search Intent

Search engines like Google and Bing use keywords and entities, and the relationships between them to understand search intent. If a webpage contains the keywords someone has used to search, then it signals to the search engines that it could be a good result. But, because Google and other search engines don’t want people stuffing keywords into their content, the bots look at other signals, such as entities, links, and so on to determine the best possible results for any given search query.

How Search Engines Tell the Difference

Machine learning makes the Google algorithm smarter as more searches are conducted. Google processes more than 3.5 billion Google searches per day – and that breaks down to more than 40,000 per second. As the computers learn more about search intent, they can continuously improve the search results they deliver for each query. They learn how specific sets of keywords and entities are connected, and you can use this machine learning to your advantage.

How to Use Machine Learning to Your Advantage

Though Google machines are the ones that determine if your content is worthy of serving in the search results for relevant queries, you should focus less on those machines, and more on the people you’re writing the content for. If you do this, then the keywords and entities your content needs to fit into the various searches will appear naturally in the material you’re writing – thus making both the people who read your content and the machines that rank it, happy. Stop stuffing keywords, and focus on providing information completed with related words and phrases, and secondary keywords.

Always Seek to Provide the Best Answers Within Your Content

The only way to honestly get ahead in the game of SEO is to make sure you are creating content that answers your audience’s questions. The better you can provide what your users are looking for, the more favorable the search engines will find you. When you hire us to handle your SEO, we can use your content, or you can let us create the content for you. The bottom line is while keyword research used to be the holy grail of SEO, it now really only serves as a primary tool in the toolbox. It helps you understand what your audience is searching for, and the language they use, so you can use it, too. It helps you better understand their search behavior and how it continues to evolve. Focus on the user experience, and the rest will follow.