Search engine optimization

Search engine optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a branch of web marketing which is aimed to improve the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s organic (meaning un-paid) search results (which are collected in a SERP).

What kind of tactics does SEO use?

SEO activities are divided into two main categories:

  1. On-page SEO: all the tactics used to gain better SEO results working on a website’s content and on its code.
  2. Off-page SEO: all the link-building tactics used to gain valuable links from other authoritative websites.

What kind of improvements are expected from SEO?

As a result of SEO you can expect three kinds of results:

  1. Organic results: SEO helps your website gaining best positions on strategically relevant SERPs
  2. Quantity of traffic: as a result, organic traffic will grow and so you will gain much more visits on your website
  3. Quality of traffic: as long as your SEO strategy is coherent with your content and with your business, the users who visit your website will be truly interested in the services or products you offer.

To learn more, watch our webinar

Here at WordLift, we have studied, written and experimented a lot about this subject. If you need more tips, don’t miss our webinar on machine-friendly content with Scott Abel. It’s free and you can watch it anytime. Just grab a pen and a scratch pad. ?

Watch it now!

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (often shorten with A.I.) is a field of computer science and research which aims to develop intelligent machines, computer systems, and agents able to perform tasks that would normally require human intelligence.

What is intelligence, anyway? The Standford’s University defines it as “the computational part of the ability to achieve goals in the world“.

In an article written in 1950, Alan Turing discussed the conditions for considering a machine to be intelligent: according to his work, when a machine could pretend to be human to an actual human, then it certainly should be considered it intelligent.

Is this enough? Well, it is arguable. In 1998 Daniel Dennett implemented various Turing’s tests and it turned out that some people are easily led into believing that a rather dumb program is intelligent.

How can artificial intelligence help writers?

While NLP (natural language processing) is evolving into NLU (natural language understanding), we are facing a huge revolution in writing and – especially – web writing. Artificial Intelligence is already able to write news stories starting from different sources, edit articles and review their grammar and wording, quickly scan articles to find relevant information. These technologies are going to simplify the repetitive tasks for content writers, helping them focus on what they care most: writing good stories, suggesting to their readers well-informed opinions, and writing critics and comments.

On the other side, the semantic web is feeding search engines with meanings and data, which help them compute information, interpret users’ intent, and serve them with the most fitting and useful results. Google‘s machine learning algorithm, RankBrain is a bright example of how quickly search engines are evolving in this scenario.

If you are interested in this topic, read this article by Ben Dickson about the impact of AI on professional writing.

How is WordLift using AI?

WordLift uses NLP, which is an intersection between AI and linguistics, to suggest content editors relevant information, images and links by analyzing the pages and articles they write.

To be more specific, WordLift uses Named Entity Recognition (NER) and Named Entity Disambiguation (NED) to extract Named Entities from textual contents. Editors can reconcile entities extracted from their posts and pages with equivalent entities available on other sources.

In this way, WordLift helps machines (such as computational search engines, personal assistants, and more) unambiguously interpret the context to whom the content belongs.

Writing

Writing

Writing is the representation of language in a textual medium through the use of a set of signs or symbols (known as a writing system). It is distinguished from illustration, such as cave drawing and painting, and non-symbolic preservation of language via non-textual media, such as magnetic tape audio.

Entity

Entity

What is an entity in the Semantic Web?

In the Semantic Web an entity is the “thing” described in a document. An entity helps computers understand everything you know about a person, an organization or a place mentioned in a document. All these facts are organized in statements known as triples that are expressed in the form of subject, predicate, and object.

Take for example an article on the Chinese invasion of Tibet that refers to the prophecies that [Thubten Gyatso] made twenty years before the invasion. [Thubten Gyatso] as a string is composed by two separate words but as an entity it has a much richer meaning. [Thubten Gyatso] is a person, more specifically he’s the 13th Dalai Lama who was born in the Tsang-Ü province in Tibet on the 12th of February 1876. In the context of Semantic Web, an article annotated with the entity of [Thubten Gyatso], conveys all this information about the 13th Dalai Lama in a way that computers can understand it and, as you might suspect, computers might not be too familiar with the history of Tibetan Buddhism.

Every document on the Web is about many different kind of “things”. Entities describe content using knowledge models known as graphs that help computers “think” the way we do and that help us, in return, find information more efficiently.

Entities are linked to one another. Each entity holds the information required to provide direct answers to questions about itself (i.e. “When was Thubten Gyatso born?”) and questions that can be answered by looking at the relationships with other entities (i.e. “Was Trinley Gyatso his predecessor?”).

What is an Entity in WordLift?

Entities in WordLift are web pages that describe the “things” that we talk the most in our website. All the entities are organised in a vocabulary within WordPress. Each entity is a web page and corresponds to a data point that WordLift creates in the web of data.

WordLift publishes entities and their properties in an intelligent model — technically called “graph” — designed to help computers understand real-world “things” and their relationships to one another. The graph is published using linked data and it is used, in WordLift, to enrich all content published on a website.

Structured Data

Let’s take this page as an example. This is the entity page to describe what entities are. You are reading content from this webpage, a hypertext document that is connected to the World Wide Web. At any time a crawler, a smart agent or a chatbot can read this same information by looking at the structured data that WordLift has created for this entity.

While humans can read a web document, for a computer is way easier to read semantically-rich data linked to other data published in openly available datasets.

How is an entity different from an article or a web page?

WordLift uses Entities in three ways:

  • Entities describe the “things” that you talk about in your articles using 5-stars linked data so that search engines can unquestionably understand what you’re writing about
  • Entities help organize the content that you’re writing. As you annotate an article with an entity, WordLift creates a relationship between the article and entity in such a way that a computer can understand it. These relationships are stored in the graph of the website and are used to provide meaningful recommendations to your readers
  • Entities provide contextual information to the audience. Take for example Linked Data – this is a concept that I used in this article and you might not be familiar with. In this case, WordLift helps me create a link so that you can find out more what linked data is and avoid jumping on another website to get the same information.

Entities have to be relevant to the content that you’re writing and in a way define your content strategy and the knowledge domain you’re addressing with your website.

What are the guidelines for creating new entities to annotate a blog post or a page?

A basic guideline for adding a new entity is:

I should create entities that a librarian would plausibly use to classify the content I am writing as if it was a book

In some cases key concepts that are important for our audience are not automatically detected by WordLift. In this case, we can create them and teach WordLift – as well as search engines, so that they will be able to recognise them in the future.

Let me give you an example. When a new concept was introduced to describe PASO an acronym for Personal Assistant Search Optimisation, I created a new entity on this website and described it using structured data with WordLift.

As you can see in the video below, the entity, after few weeks, became a featured snippet. By doing so Google Home was able to provide a simple definition of PASO using the content from this same website.

I have already several articles that could be used to organize the content on my website, can I turn them into entities?

Yes, you can now convert your existing articles or pages into entities with a simple click. This helps you reuse your cornerstone articles to reorganize the content on your website and improve the search rankings of these pages.

Cornerstone articles are usually meant to describe the “things” you care the most and are a perfect match for becoming entities. 

How Can I Link Entities With One Another?  

According to Schema.org the sameAs property is:

URL of a reference Web page that unambiguously indicates the item’s identity. E.g., the URL of the item’s Wikipedia page, Wikidata entry, or official website.

It is like you’re saying to the search engine “this is the same thing as the one you find at this address.” Today only between 10,000 to 50,000 domains use this property. That is also why you can make a difference for your SEO strategy by using it.

However the sameAs property alone might not be enough if you need to query the data that you’re publishing (or simply if you want others to query the data that you’re publishing across multiple datasets).

You need something more. You need to publish data following the so-called five-stars open data scheme introduced by Berners-Lee, that requires you to link every piece of data with other data.

Here is where the owl:sameAs property comes into play.

How Can you Link Entities from your WordPress Site to the Linked Open Data Cloud?

Imagine we want to explain to a search engine Matt Mullenweg is and link the page I have for him on my blog with entities in the LOD cloud. How do I do that on my WordPress website?

Matt Mullenweg LOD

As you can see above, I used WordLift within my WordPress to create a page about Matt Mullenweg. That page is set up as a Schema Entity Type “person”. To make it clear who I am talking about I run a search using WordLift that taps into giant graphs published in LOD and in a snap I can get the reference to the entity of Matt Mullenweg on Freebase, Wikidata, and DBpedia.

Once I update the page, the Schema sameAs, and the owl:sameAs properties are automatically added by WordLift and made available to search engines.

We can now use the Structured Data Testing Tool of Google to see how the search engine sees the page:

Structured Data Testing Tool

The structured data has been created without writing a single line of code and now Google can crawl and index that page way more efficiently. However, there is also more to it.

Now my data is interoperable with other datasets and published also off-page in an RDF-based knowledge graph.

What Is Structured Data?

What Is Structured Data?

In the context of search, structured data are a predefined schema, helping search engines better understand and classify the information provided on a web page, thus making it more accessible to machines. That can also be used as an SEO marketing technique to improve your traffic.

What is structured data from a technical standpoint?

Structured data is data created using a predefined (fixed) schema and is typically organized in a tabular format. Think of a table where each cell contains a discrete value. The schema represents the blueprint of how the data is organized, the heading row of the table used to describe the value and the format of each column. The schema also imposes the constraints required to make the data consistent and computable

A relational database is an example of structured data: tables are linked using unique IDs and a query language like SQL is used to interact with the data.

Structured data is the best way for computers to interact with information. As opposed to semi-structured and unstructured data.

  • Semi-structured data is characterized by the lack of a rigid, formal structure. Typically, it contains tags or other types of markup to separate textual content from semantic elements. Semi-structured data is “self-describing” (tags are a good example, the schema is part of the data and the data evolves with the content but lacks consistency)
  • Unstructured data can be found in different forms: from web pages to emails, from blogs to social media posts, etc. 80% of the data we have is known to be unstructured. Regardless of the format used for storing the data, we are talking, in most cases, about textual documents made of sequences of words.

Structured data on the web

Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying that content on the page; for example, on a recipe page, what are the ingredients, the cooking time, the temperature, the calories, and so on.

Source: DevelopersGoogle.com

Structured data on the web uses Schema.org as a reference vocabulary and can be embedded in web pages using three formats:

Structured Data FormatsSource: DevelopersGoogle.com

Imagine a book supported in three different formats: ebook, paperback, and hardcover. Each has different weights, sizes and so on. So does Schema.org.

JSON-LD is the preferred format by Google. In fact, that is a JavaScript embedded in a <script> tag in the page or head or body. The code encapsulates useful and contextual information regarding the article written using linked data standards.

The Semantic Web movement, the creation of the Schema.org vocabulary and the importance that these technologies have on semantic search engines like Google, Bing, and Yandex have resulted in publishing online structured data on a previously unprecedented scale.

Structured Data from the Common Web Crawl

Structured Data Growth from the Common Web Crawl

Why structured data matter in SEO?

In the context of SEO, structured data are an effective tactic to pass critical information on a web page to search engines. In particular, in a recent update, Google clarified:

Content in structured data are eligible for display as rich results in search.

In short, the search engine is able to provide additional featured on the search results pages, that will enhance the visibility of your content. For instance, when asked about structured data, that is how the search engine might extract content from a web page, and place it into an answer box, called a featured snippet:

what-is-structured-data-wordlift

Example of a featured snippet coming from the WordLift blog, that with the help of structured data helps the search engine extract critical information. This sort of feature has a high click-through rate. It means that a large number of users finding it will land on your site thanks to a better real estate on Google’s pages. 

Among other Google advanced features enabled by structured data, there is a Knowledge Panel:

structured-data-seo

A Knowledge Panel is a visualization that appears on top of search results (on mobile) or at the right side of them (on desktop) which provides authoritative information about any entity or concept. Structured data help trigger this feature, by enabling Google to pull critical data from your web pages, thus making your brand more visible on its search results. 

Other rich elements triggered by structured data are event snippets, which can pull up critical information for an event directly on the search results, thus making your brand the most authoritative on that specific event. By creating an association in the mind of users between that event and your brand:

Example of the Structured Data of an Event AMP as displayed by Google

Example of an event snippet. With the WordLift team, an event page was created by using the mapping of our software to pass key information about the event, which was taken by the search engine as an authoritative source of information on that specific event. 

Key takeaways

From the technical standpoint, structured data are predefined (fixed) schema and are typically organized in a tabular format that helps machines understand how data are organized.

From the marketing standpoint Structured Data by leveraging on the Schema.org vocabulary, can help search engines better understand, interpret and process the information provided on the web page. Thus making it easier for the search engine (Google in particular) to show that data directly on its search results as a rich element.

Rich elements can be of various types. From featured snippets, knowledge panels, event snippets, top stories, Google news, People Also Ask, reviews and more. Those rich elements can become a key driver of qualified traffic and visibility toward your website.

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