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SEO in the age of the semantic web
SMX East 2013 Conference Presentation in NYC
AN INTRODUCTION TO ENTITIES
IMAGINE, FOR A MOMENT… A TREE
Close your eyes …. and think of everything you associate it with.
IF YOU DID WHAT THE PREVIOUS SLIDE
SUGGESTED YOU KNOW THAT A TREE
• Has categories (deciduous, evergreen, coniferous, wide-leaved)
• Has properties (hard, organic, aromatic)
• Has attributes (it floats on water, burns in the fireplace)
• Is associated with products (paper, buildings, bridges, ships and planes even)
• Brings up personal memories (Christmas tree, a tree you planted in your backyard)
• Can be an abstraction (the deodorizer dangling from your car mirror)
• Can have personal significance (the green movement, forests)
• Is associated with actions (root systems spreading underground, soil support)
• Is also an abstract symbol (endurance, persistence)
AS A MATTER OF FACT…
A tree, in your mind‟s eye, is both a personalized and generic object that has both
personal significance unique only to you and a factual existence that is generic to
everyone on the planet.
Everything you know
about a “tree” is your
That would mean
that the word “tree”
then is an Entity.
Well, almost, but not
THE WORD “TREE” IS NOT AN ENTITY
To prove this let‟s consider the word “arbre” which means tree, in French, or the word “dendro”
which means tree in Greek.
The moment you learn that those words mean tree, in your mind, you instantly associate
everything in your Knowledge Graph, with that word, even if you cannot express it in that
So really a “tree” in your head is a concept that is divorced from the words you use to describe
it. That concept is defined by all the knowledge associated with it. The moment you learn the
word tree in another language you simply, mentally, remap the Knowledge Graph to that
Essentially that‟s how Entities work in Google‟s semantic search. The Knowledge Graph is
what defines them.
AS SEO PROFESSIONALS WE THOUGHT WE KNEW
HOW THE WEB WORKED …
We look beneath the fabric of the web and see the
code that runs it … the connections that form it.
SEO IN THE PAST HAS ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT
• Search returned statistically probable answers to keyword-laden search queries.
• To succeed in search, we needed to „load‟ the dice. And we had a variety of techniques in our
arsenal on how to do that exactly:
• Keywords, links, anchor text, on-page techniques, inbound links …
• If something did not work we needed to increase quantity, volume, intensity. It was always a
case of having to dial things up.
BUT IN A SEMANTIC WEB STATISTICS FADE AWAY
The traditional “ten links in search”
Are changing, becoming:
Populated by people with
SEARCH ITSELF IS CHANGING:
• Predictive (Google Now)
• Functional (Google Maps)
• Infontational (YouTube)
Information is growing at an exponential rate and search is changing with it
Volume Velocity Variety Veracity all Big Data components play a key role
AND ENTITIES ARE THE NEW DRIVER:
Entities are generated relational mapping that uncovers the association between different data points.
This is RADICAL. Entities become trusted points around which other data revolves.
ENTITIES ARE PRODUCED IN A VARIETY OF WAYS:
• Imported from trusted sources (Wikipedia, Freebase, Metaweb)
• Extracted from web pages
• Data mining in the social web
• Sentiment mining
ENTITIES ARE A CHALLENGE TO SEO BECAUSE:
• They provide answers at the search box rather than suggestions
OPTIMIZATION APPEARS TO BE REDUCED TO
ANSWERING A SEARCH QUERY
• But let‟s look at it again:
THE „ENTITY‟ THAT IS THE ANSWER TO THE
SEARCH QUERY “WHO IS THE PRESIDENT OF
THE UNITED STATES” PRODUCED:
• An answer
• A biography with associated links
• Recent posts with links
• Associated entities, complete with links
A „one‟ answer result generated a much wider, related field of data than it might have been
ENTITIES: THE CHALLENGE & THE OPPORTUNITY
• For SEOs the challengers are as steep as the question is simple:
• Changing search interface (screenless computers and keyless devices)
• Less reliance on keywords
• Deprecation of existing, on-page SEO techniques
• Loss of real estate space in SERPs
• Reduced reliance on statistical association in results
• How do you take advantage of Entities to make up for it all?
REVERSE ENGINEER ENTITY AS A DRIVER:
• If that’s the end result how can it be reduced further into manageable steps?
• What actions can be taken at the content-creation interface that will produce these
outcomes, and how can this be ensured?