Every online business understands the value of ranking high in Google search. Every time your website fails to rank for search queries, you lose business.

Google admits that 15 percent of search queries it sees each day are new. Coming up with every possible variable a searcher might look for is unrealistic. This makes optimizing a website for every possible search query that could be associated with it incredibly hard, time-consuming, and counterproductive.

To counter this, Google uses machine learning to help online searchers find what they're looking for--even if they don't know how to explain it. Even this, though, has its limits.

Luckily, there are things every website owner can do to help improve a site's ranking in search without requiring deep SEO knowledge or extra time and cost. The simpliest trick--that surprisingly few businesses use--involves "entities."

Entities to the Rescue

Entities are concepts that Google has verified. The search engine uses them to determine the authenticity, authority, and trustworthiness of a page's information.

Consider, for example, that Inc.com is an entity. We know this because it appears in the knowledge graph on the Google search in this screenshot:

In practical terms, this means that Google considers Inc.com a highly authoritative source of information, because it has verified Inc.com's value and existence. It then spreads that aura of trust to the websites Inc.com mentions, and those websites that link to Inc.com.

The approach, in other words, is a heavily digitized, algorithmically complex version of "the company you keep"--which a University of South California study found applies to people and brands in equal measure.

How does this help you?

Using Entities in Your Web Copy

As a business owner, you'll inevitably create copy that describes services or products on specific web pages. Usually, that text focuses on what the business does, its message to its public, what makes it stand out from the crowd, and how it can best meet its audience's needs.

In the past, search engine optimization efforts focused solely on keywords in that text. Now, the most "searchable" web copy contains entities--or alludes to them in some way. That makes Google assess it differently.

Consider the Inc.com example I'm using here. Inc.com's description in a Google search has 21 words. One is an established entity. The rest score highly on what's known as a "salience score."

As Google explains: "The salience score for an entity provides information about the importance or centrality of that entity to the entire document text." In plain English, the words used in web copy or the metadata that describes a page play a key role in Google's understanding of a website's true nature.

Choose these words with care. Google has an API you can use to assess how well you're doing do. There's even a free, online version.

Experiment by copying and pasting your existing text there, to see just how well it does. Remember, the higher the salience score of the keywords you use, the closer you get to copy that best describes what your business really does.  

Be Smart

To give yourself the best possible chance to succeed, you need to be smart--before even a single word has been written. To help, create a mini-mind map.

Start with the key concept of your business. Then, branch out to everything else your business does with its existing customers. Aim to flesh out your entire company within four branches or less.

Finally, pick out the words that are key to each branch in your mind map. Make a list of them. These are the words that should come up time and again in your website's copy and metadata descriptions. Your newest services or products will always stand a better chance at ranking in search if they're associated with the cluster of words that describes the entity that is your business.

Published on: Apr 9, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.