What is an Entity? Understanding Its Role in SEO and Digital Marketing - ld icon 42

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The concept of “entities” in the context of information technology and databases has been around for several decades, but what is an entity? And specifically in the application of SEO and digital marketing.

In the simplest terms, an entity can be defined as a distinct, identifiable object or concept that exists independently of its name. This definition prompts the Question: What is an entity in various contexts, especially with regard to digital marketing?

noun. /ˈɛntət̮i/ (pl. entities) (formal) something that exists separately from other things and has its own identity. The unit has become part of a larger department and no longer exists as a separate entity.

Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries

Entities are not just limited to physical objects but also encompass a wide range of identifiable concepts and ideas.

For instance, when discussing an entity like “Apple” you could refer to the fruit or signify the technology giant Apple Inc. In SEO, for instance, distinguishing between these entities is crucial. Search engines like Google use entities to understand and categorise the vast amount of information on the internet more effectively.

Let’s look at another example – the term “Jaguar.” This could refer to an animal, a luxury car brand, or a sports team. In digital marketing, understanding the specific entity a user is searching for is vital for delivering accurate and relevant content.

Entities play a significant role in SEO as they assist search engines in comprehending the ‘what’ and meaning behind user queries. This understanding allows search engines to provide more accurate search results.

For example, if someone searches for “Taj Mahal,” they could be looking for information on the historic monument in India or seeking details about the musician of the same name. The ability of search engines to distinguish between these two entities based on the search query’s context is a cornerstone of modern SEO practices.

Introducing the Knowledge Graph

To explain entities in full, it’s important to understand a key concept – the Knowledge Graph – a huge database that Google uses to enhance its search results.

What is the Knowledge Graph

Google introduced the Knowledge Graph in 2012 with the slogan “things, not strings.” It significantly changed how Google understands and displays facts about people, places, and things and, more importantly, how these “entities” are interconnected.

For example, if you search for “Albert Einstein,” the Knowledge Graph allows Google to display links to articles about him, as well as a sidebar with crucial details like his date of birth, notable achievements, and related historical figures. This sidebar is a direct result of the Knowledge Graph at work.

The Relationship Between Entities and the Knowledge Graph

Understanding the relationship between entities and the Knowledge Graph is essential when exploring “what is an entity?” in the digital marketing sphere. Entities in SEO are:

  • Specific
  • Identifiable objects
  • Concepts

Examples might include: “Eiffel Tower,” “Barack Obama,” or “The Beatles.” The Knowledge Graph understands these entities and their attributes, as well as the relationships between different entities.

For instance, searching for “The Beatles” will bring up information about the band and show related entities such as individual band members, albums, and genres. This interconnectedness makes the Knowledge Graph a powerful tool for enhancing search results.

In the context of SEO, this means that optimising for entities and their relationships is increasingly important. Traditional SEO strategies focused heavily on keywords, but with the advent of the Knowledge Graph, there’s a shift towards understanding and leveraging entities.

This is where a digital marketing agency like Link Digital can play a crucial role. By understanding how entities are represented and connected in the Knowledge Graph, we can help businesses optimise their online presence.

This optimisation ensures that our clients are not only visible in search results but also represented accurately and comprehensively, enhancing their digital footprint and authority.

Entities vs. Keywords: Understanding the Differences

It’s common for the concepts of entities and keywords to intersect. However, they are fundamentally distinct. This section will demystify these differences, shedding light on how each uniquely shapes online search experiences and addresses the question, what is an entity?

The Fundamental Differences

When it comes to SEO and digital marketing, understanding the distinction between entities and keywords is crucial. Here are the key differences:

Definition: Keywords are specific words or phrases used in search queries. Entities, on the other hand, are distinct, identifiable concepts or objects that exist independently of the words used to describe them. This distinction is at the heart of understandin what is an entity? In the context of digital search.

Example: The keyword “rose” could refer to the flower or a person’s name. The entity “Rose (flower)” is distinct and separate from “Rose (name).”

Contextual Understanding: Entities are recognised for their meaning and context, whereas keywords are often just a string of characters without context.

Search Engine Interpretation: Search engines like Google use entities to provide more accurate and contextually relevant search results, moving beyond the limitations of keyword-based searches.

To explain this further, let’s look at the entity “Amazon” – when a user searches for “Amazon”, the search engines must interpret the intent behind the query, i.e. is the searcher interested in Amazon, the online retailer OR the Amazon River? This interpretation is a practical example of what is an entity? In action.

Here’s how search engines figure out a user’s intent and display the correct results for the term “Amazon”.

Contextual Clues: Google uses surrounding keywords and the user’s search history to determine the context. For instance, if the search query is “Amazon rainforest biodiversity,” the engine understands the user is referring to the river and its surrounding ecosystem. Conversely, a query like “Amazon Prime Day deals” indicates an interest in the e-commerce platform.

User Behavior and History: Google also considers the user’s previous searches and browsing history. A user who frequently shops online or has recently searched for online shopping deals is more likely to be shown results related to Amazon.com. In contrast, a user researching travel destinations in South America might see results about the Amazon River.

Result Customisation: Based on these interpretations, Google returns search results to be as relevant as possible to the user’s intent. This means that two different users searching for “Amazon” might see completely different results based on what Google understands about their respective intents.

Google’s Evolution with Entities

Google’s algorithm updates have shifted the focus from traditional keyword-based search to a more nuanced understanding of entities. This evolution has been pivotal in enhancing the accuracy and personalisation of search results.

Major Google Updates Focused on Entities

Several key updates to Google’s algorithm have been instrumental in this change:

Google Hummingbird: Introduced in 2013, Hummingbird was a major overhaul of the core algorithm. It marked a shift towards understanding the context and intent behind search queries as opposed to just the individual keywords.

Example: A search for “best coffee shop near me” is interpreted as a string of keywords and a request for local coffee shop recommendations based on the user’s location.

Google RankBrain: Launched in 2015, RankBrain is a machine learning-based component of Google’s algorithm. It helps Google understand the relationships between entities and interpret never-before-seen search queries.


  • Processes complex queries more effectively.
  • Understand nuances and variations in language.
  • Adapts to new patterns in user behaviour and search trends.

Google BERT: Introduced in 2019, BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) uses natural language processing better to understand and comprehend the ‘what’ of words in search queries.

For example, BERT helps Google grasp the subtle distinctions in queries like “nine to five” (a work schedule) vs “9 to 5” (the Dolly Parton song).

Impact on Search Results and Personalisation

These updates have massively impacted how Google personalises and delivers search results:

Enhanced Understanding of User Intent: Google can now interpret the intent behind queries more accurately, leading to more relevant search results.

Example: A search for “Titanic” could mean a historical event, a movie, or even a museum.

Google’s entity-focused approach helps determine the most relevant results based on additional context and user history.

Personalised Search Experience: Google’s ability to understand entities and their relationships has led to a more personalised search experience, where results are tailored to the individual user’s interests and past search behaviour to deliver and improve:

  • Customised results based on the user’s search history and preferences.
  • Dynamic adaptation to changing search patterns and interests.
  • Improve accuracy in delivering relevant information.

These advancements by Google underscore the importance of entities in SEO. For a digital marketing agency like Link Digital, staying abreast of these changes is crucial in crafting effective SEO strategies that align with the latest in search engine technology.

Search Suggestions and Entities

The integration of entities into Google’s search suggestions represents a significant advancement in how search queries are interpreted and processed. This integration has led to more intuitive and relevant search suggestions, enhancing the overall user experience.

Entity-Based Suggestions: When users begin typing a query, Google’s search suggestions often include entities related to the typed words. This feature helps users quickly find the most relevant information.

  • Suggestions are more contextually relevant.
  • Helps users refine their searches more effectively.
  • Enhances the accuracy of search results.

Improved Search Efficiency: By incorporating entities into search suggestions, Google has made it easier for users to find specific information without needing to type out full queries.

Embracing the Entity-Driven SEO Landscape

Leveraging entities is essential for success, and marketers and businesses must look to enhance their online presence and embrace and understand the concepts behind this entity-driven approach.

With its SEO and digital marketing expertise, Link Digital is ideally positioned to help businesses navigate this sometimes-complicated terrain. We craft strategies that align with the latest advancements in SEO, ensuring that our clients are visible but also relevant and authoritative in their respective fields.

Find out about our SEO Services and how we can help you harness the power of entities for improved search visibility and engagement.

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