Old vs. New SEO
Once upon a time, SEO was done through a means of finding the right keywords and placing them throughout website content with every synonym known to mankind. Being #1 was the goal and there was not a rich snippet in sight. But one day, Google launched its knowledge graph, spreading entities and rich snippets far and wide on the SERP. Things might not have changed all at once, but over time, entities became all the new rage while keywords became much less relevant. The #1 spot was never the same with knowledge cards and People Also Asked boxes. In short, SEO is not what it used to be.
Whether we like it or not, the nature of SEO has drastically changed thanks, in part, to the emergence of entities. While keywords are far from extinct, their importance has drastically diminished in favor of entities. In a sense, keywords and entities are interconnected as they both utilize each others functions to better serve knowledge graphs. As such, it’s important to understand their functions, their differences, and how they have changed SEO.
Keywords are somewhat self-explanatory and easy to understand. Keywords are words that are a focal point of content and are what users type in queries in order to find the answers or content that they’re looking for. Keywords can be picked out from a question or long-form query or used entirely on their own.
If you are looking for cat videos online, common keywords may include things like: cat, kitty, cute, playing, videos, clips, compilation, etc. You might search for a long-tail query like, “cute cats playing with each other video compilation” or even something as short as, “cute kitten video.”
Entities are concepts or ideas that have distinct attributes and characteristics which can be shared with others of its kind. They are connected within a knowledge graph, such as the one provided by Google and can be accessed by anyone. While each entity is independent, it has direct and indirect relations with other entities based on common attributes. They are also not required to conform to a specific language.
Going back to our example on cat videos, we can find an entity on cats. The entity can describe things about cats, such as they are an animal, carnivorous, their taxonomy, names in other languages like Japanese or Latin; and many other facts and characteristics about cats.
The important thing to know about how entities work is that entities share heavy connections with each other. Think of them as people, places, things or concepts that have attributes and relations with other people, places, things or concepts.
Similarly, cats as an entity are connected to other entities based on its relationship with them. Such as that it is a mammal, like whales, tigers, and bats; or that it has different breeds, like Scottish Fold, Siamese, or Egyptian Mau.
How Entities Changed SEO
Entities have made conducting SEO both more useful and complicated. In the past, conducting SEO required proper utilization of keywords whereas now, SEO is focused on developing connections with entities and providing answers in the knowledge graph. While there are many minute changes to SERP function, there are three major takeaways in how entities have changed the SEO game:
- Increased mobile capabilities: thanks to entities, SEO has expanded to mobile results, as it is now easier to search for and find answers provided by entities using mobile search. It has also paved the way for mobile-first indexing, where mobile results have taken priority over desktop search. So now, you can learn all about cats in a fun, mobile-friendly manner.
- No need for a thesaurus or translator: since entities know what synonyms and translations exist for that word, there’s no need to have to use translations or utilize every possible synonym on your webpage. Now, you can utilize an entity for every available language and every varying name possible. You can use “cat” along with “gato” and “kitty.”
- Rich snippets & structured data: with entities as the new key focus of SEO, rich snippets are now the new priority over getting the #1 ranking. Using structured data in your article, you can contribute to entities on search engine knowledge graphs and get your content featured in a rich snippet. For instance, answering a common question about cats in a PAA rich snippet.
Are Keywords Still Relevant?
Although entities may have taken the center stage of the SEO show, keywords still have a major role to play. Keywords are still used to help find and connect your content to entities (whether on the Google Knowledge Graph or an internal knowledge graph). Utilizing keywords can help Google identify the content of your webpage and understand it using entities. This is a particularly useful off-page tactic to get others to view your content.
For an on-page tactic, you can develop entities for an internal knowledge graph for your organization, company or website. We use our own at WordLift and you have seen some of our keywords linked to different pages in this very article. Context cards have provided some information on these different entities listed. You can scroll around and find plenty of context cards linked to our entities in our article.
The Magical Kingdom of SEO
So while it seems that the changes in SEO may be beyond your control, this might not be the case. Although entities have taken over, keywords still have their place. In addition, the changes made because of the development of entities have brought welcome changes to the SEO landscape from mobile results and rich snippets. It turns out they weren’t so scary after all.
So while some SEO specialists may some things to learn, these new changes can bring about a greater user experience and a whole new means of bringing traffic to websites. So the SEO specialists went to sleep that night, knowing that all was more than just well in the magical kingdom of SEO, and they all lived happily ever after.
If you’d like to learn more about how SEO has changed and the significance of entities, check out our webinar with Cindy Krum in the WordLift Academy.