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Entity optimization as a big SEO play isn’t quite upon us yet. It’s a slow, growing Google addition. I know – it frustrates me too. So much potential, of which I believe will greatly improve search results in the future. Google isn’t nearly showing the fruits of everything it knows through entities, whether through cards or search results – at least not relative to the way they rank on keywords alone.

But can knowledge cards help bring qualified traffic while considering searcher intent? SEOs always talk about searchers intent. Anyone who’s been doing SEO for a while knows that building for intent can be a challenge.

Google Search Bar Batman

Take a query like “batman the dark knight”. Was the searcher looking for the 2008 movie? The graphic novel? The upcoming game? Were they looking to buy something, or just curious about a release date? What the hell were these people thinking? This is certainly very top of the funnel stuff, and would normally yield lower conversions, but it is where many Google non-power users would start.

Tin Foil HatGoogle knows these searchers expect them to be mind readers. They’re keenly aware of this. They may be working on mind-reading devices in their labs (to which I will finally invest in the tin-foil hat – I’ve got a lot of junk swimming in my head that should stay hidden). But in the meantime, through their results they give us personalized search, or this cute little cluster of links, but I doubt many click on anything here:

Searches related to batman the dark knight

But if you properly create an entity, you can get better “related results” in the knowledge graph:

Related Results - Sting

Pop into Freebase and look up either of these entities, and you’ll see the details above listed out. Coincidence? Probably not. The data could have come from there. We know the Google-owned Freebase is part of their brain now. But unfortunately, the huge database of great information (granted, which needs to be checked against other sources), simply isn’t producing results yet. Whether a limitation in the knowledge card product or limitations in processing the data, I’m not sure – but I’m always hopeful Google steps it up soon.

Of course I recommend optimizing now and getting your entities in place for when Google pushes the pedal to the metal.

But for those who are working on campaigns where entities are being shown, you’re in luck. Google’s using your search history and their knowledge cards to personalize the results – sometimes in a more valuable way than the general results.

The Jaguar Example

If I were doing SEO for Jaguar, a well-known luxury brand car, I already have the benefit of Google knowing what my product is. They show some of it in their knowledge card with a simple “jaguar” search:

Jaguar Result

Obviously this isn’t all Google knows – just what they feel like showing at the present time. They’re getting this from Google+, Wikipedia and Freebase at a minimum.

Since Ralph Speth can’t go back in time and choose a new name for the company, they have to compete for search result real-estate and millions of monthly searches for the term “Jaguar”. That is, against other pages that want to rank – like the Jacksonville Jaguars, the animal, the Atari Jaguar, comic book characters, and movie titles.

Now, if I were doing SEO for the defenders of wildlife, and I wanted this top-of-the-funnel term to potentially bring me traffic and awareness, the default (above) results suck for me. It’s all cars, football teams, or pictures.

But Google does something cool…

Search history plays a role in results. It uses keywords, and ideally entities, to see relationships through queries. A query like “animal,” “panthera,” and “wild animal” is related to Jaguar. Specifically, a query like “panthera,” followed by a new search for “jaguar” gives a different result. The Jaguar car listings, ads, and knowledge card are supressed, for an option where one can click to refine their search. This isn’t even slightly hidden. See the difference between the below results and the above example?

Jaguar Related Searches

Clicking the link (pointed to by the red arrow) shows a new refined search where has a listing (at the time of this writing). The query has been changed to “jaguar animal” but, through a new click-path, has the opportunity to benefit from this “jaguar” head term. I believe this is at least partially entity driven. And, I believe this is a small example of how entities can be used in the future as Google’s products become more robust.

What do you think?  Am I seeing a connection where there isn’t one?

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Bill Sebald
Bill Sebald
Follow me on Twitter - @billsebald

I've been doing SEO since 1996. Blogger, speaker, and teacher at Philadelphia University. I started Greenlane in 2005 to help clients leverage search marketing to hit business goals. I love this stuff.

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3 responses to “How Entities (and Knowledge Cards) Can Help With Query Intent

  1. Interesting connection of searcher history and knowledge card content changes.
    I’ve seen the same for organic changes based on history of searches. For a particular client it was namely the inclusion and placement of image results. Their brand name happens to be the name of a popular candy and images and results for the candy will show up, until you have a history of searching for what the client has to offer. So it makes sense that the knowledge card display also follows the pattern of the organic display… since it is all after all, organic display.

  2. Nice find! Related to this, is Google Alerts and Google Trends Alerts. As you probably know, since this year it is possible to receive search trend updates about the keywords you enter in Google Trends. What is special about this, is that Google ‘asks a question’ when typing in a search term. For instance, type in ‘Wayne Rooney’ and google will asks you if you want updates about the football (soccer) player Wayne Rooney, or about the ‘search term’ Wayne Rooney.

    I didn’t test more keywords but I think using ‘Jaguar’ will also give you the possibility to choose between ‘animal’ or ‘car brand’. Yes, Google is still becoming a smarter search engine.

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