Know what is an Entity (and what isn’t )

Just as you can type in into Google search to see all (or most) of the web pages that Google has for any given site in its web index, they also provide a tool to allow you to interrogate their knowledge base. This is a very useful place to start. After all, if your brand, product, organization or person is already well defined in Google’s Knowledge Graph, then you are in a much stronger position than if it is not defined.

Here are the basic steps. We’ll go deeper in the next section.

1: Go to Google’s web based API explorer.

The page should look a bit like the image above. In the Query field, add your search term. Then click execute.

2: Scroll Down!

One of the annoying things about many of these tools is that they are meant as demos for programmers, not for SEOs that do not program day-in-day-out. That means there is a little laxness when it comes to UI. If you don’t see anything happen when you pressed execute, it probably did work but displayed the results below the fold. Scroll down the page to see something like this…

Do not be alarmed by the look of this! It may be long or short, but it is structured… and quite easy to read as a human if you don’t panic.

3: Search for your domain

If the output is long, simply type CTRL-F to open a search box on your browser and see if your domain is on the page.

Understanding the output of Google’s Entity Search Tool

The tool described above is, in one sense, the last word on whether an entity is “recognized” by Google. Simply put, if the entity is in this list, then your strategy should be to make the record richer by helping Google add verifiable information to the Entity record. Once a record is created, then Google will be able to enrich the record with more information as it travels around the web (including your website) and reads structured markup in particular. However, whether any given structured data is taken on board by Google is far from clear. Barbara Starr talks about “Trust” and “Proof” being at the top of the Semantic Web Stack. This is worth a read to understand why you cannot just add to the record manually. Even so, there are some great nuggets for SEOs when analysing the output from this tool. We’ll discuss some now…

When ZERO entities exist for a given query

Regardless of whether any data is returned, the output provides a few lines of text. These can be ignored, except that it does mean that Google definitely doesn’t consider the query to be associated with “an entity”.

When only one result exists

If you are lucky enough to be famous and have an uncommon name, you may have found the Entity SEO equivalent of what Gary Stock and later Dave Gorman once termed as a GoogleWhack. The output text that appears when no entity is returned still appears, but then the output for one other entity. For the purposes of understanding the output, here are TWO query variations: “Bill Hartzer” and “Ramsey Saint Mary’s”

Result for “Bill Hartzer (July 2019)
Result for “Ramsey Saint Mary’s” (July 2019)

Both these queries return a single item. Going through these line by line helps us to understand what we are looking at:

@Type: EntitySearchResult: They are both showing @EntitySearchResults because we were using the Entity Search API. Every record seen using this tool will start with this description for the @type.

@id”: “kg:/m/…”: This is the all-important record locator. If this is the record you hope to optimize, then make a note of it. You could try using it in your structured mark-up on your web pages. The “kg” means that the data comes from Google’s “Knowledge Graph”. This may tell us that there are other structured data stores at Google? There is also another nugget for SEOs here. “m” usually seems to mean the data was sourced from Google’s purchase of Freebase a number of years ago. This data was expected to be migrated over to WikiData (part of Wikimedia opensource data) but it is not clear whether this migration was ever completed. If this was a “g” instead, the data is sourced in Google’s own proprietary dataset.

“name”: “Bill Hartzer” or “2007-08 Isle of Man League” : Here we get the name of the thing/entity in question. This is the entity that Google has returned for the search query that we entered. I find this interesting, because whilst “Bill Hartzer” is an exact match to the query, “2007-08 Isle of Man League” is not what I was expecting at all! I know “Ramsey Saint Marys” as a tiny village in Huntingdonshire, countryside in the UK. I have no idea how Google associated this query with what appears to be a sports league in the Isle of Man!

@type: now appears again on both entries. We have already seen @type higher up in the output, so why do we see this again? Note the slight indent as we are heading down the text? ….

What this Teaches SEOs

  • A search query does not need to be an exact match for Google to return an entity.
  • There could be a possibility in this ambiguity for Black Hat optimisation to try to exploit Entity Search.
  • Sometimes Google is just WRONG.

Inlinks builds out a full knowledge graph specific to your website and is able to find many stronger entities and relationships than Google does. This delta – the gap between the entities on your site and the entities that Google THINKS are on your site represents a valuable SEO opportunity. The tool is free for the first 20 pages on any site.

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