Issue 6: Help Me Understand SEO Part 2
Your business identity
Thanks for joining us again for another Big Pond newsletter. Here’s this week’s BIG IDEA. Let’s get into it.
Last week we covered why you may not trust SEO, and the most common trap in measuring value. If you missed it you can catchup on Issue 5 here.
Today we ask the question: how do you prove who you are? One way is to own a passport or driver’s license.
Now ask yourself how you prove to others (and Google) that your business is a real thing, is trustworthy and has expertise.
They would need to see proof, right? Trustworthy proof. Where might they find that you ask.
That’s why today we’re covering your business identity - “Entity SEO”. It’s not as complex or boring as that might sound. This is about who you are in the eyes of the digital world.
And as long as people are glued to their digital devices, I’d say that’s important to businesses of all sizes and types, including yours.
Because if Google can’t understand your business relevance, then Google is less likely to rank you highly, which means less people see you online, which means you make less money.
And just like I make my own grammar rules around here, Google too makes its own rules about what it looks for to verify your business as a thing, or even THE thing in your industry.
Adding us to your email contacts so we don’t end up in your spam folder is another power play move. In Gmail, creating a filter looks like this.
We would really appreciate it, especially as Google by default will send these to the promotions tabs or - the horror - the spam folder. Alrighty, here we go.
Entity SEO: The Profound Difference
In his book’s introduction, Dixon Jones writes that Google is shifting focus from the concept of keywords (strings) to the concept of entities (things).
The art of optimising the underlying data is what we mean when we talk about SEO in this context.
Think of it as untangling a ball of messy strings loosely organised, and weaving it into something that makes sense as a thing. You are no longer just a marketer. You are a weaver of worlds! A builder of empires!
You can help teach Google what your business is and what it’s famous for doing.
As I mentioned last week, Glasgow Prestwick airport is not actually in Glasgow, and so how we create and optimise business and brand information is what will drive your brand visibility forward.
If you think of how you weave your business information like knitting a jumper, it can either fit the digital world beautifully having been created with care, or it can be full of holes with one sleeve longer than the other and messy to the point where nobody is quite sure if it’s even a jumper. Maybe it’s one of those coatigan things. See? Totally confusing.
Lack of certainty around your business identity means it’s unlikely to achieve high visibility.
More likely to stay hidden until we figure out what it is and who its for exactly. Google may choose to do the same with unclear business information and unclear topic relevancy.
Dixon in his book writes, “SEOs are starting to wake up to the PROFOUND difference between an entity vs keyword approach to content strategies.”
Whenever you hear someone mention the Google Knowledge Graph, this is what Google uses to help understand the relationships between concepts.
Google shows entities as a Knowledge Panel result.
The Google Knowledge Graph needs to understand what you are as a thing. When you search, this is what Google tells us within that panel area.
When the search query is Glasgow = Knowledge Graph states: “city in Scotland”
When the search query is Prestwick = Knowledge Graph states: “town in Scotland”
When the search query is Glasgow Prestwick Airport = Knowledge Graph states: “airport in Scotland”
OK you think to yourself, that’s obvious. But look again at the panel. Notice how Google distinguishes between two geographical places. One is a city and the other is not. A machine has to decide how to determine that difference.
Now see how it lists Ryanair as a ‘focus city’. In fact, Ryanair has been pulling out of airports and the service from Prestwick has been reduced to only two countries during select summer months. It’s not a focus at all.
A machine is only as smart as the information we give it.
Successful companies understand business identity and brand bio information must be accurate and consistent across all the trusted places Google cross-checks it.
Social media managers rarely check if your bio makes sense as part of your business identity, but Google does.
Even Dundee’s best branded barber shop (of which I am a huge fan) fails to clearly mention what type of business it is in their bio.
‘Cuts’ here is still a contextual uncertainty for Google when Artificial Intelligence still struggles to correctly identify curtains from an image. The jump from cuts to haircut is close enough that Hard Grind should get away with it.
Other brands with fewer glowing customer reviews would be better saying they’re a barber shop in the bio. Especially if the business is not currently in the 3-pack local map results in Google.
For example, there’s enough trusted citations and contextual signals for Google to understand that the word FORD most likely refers to the automobile company.
Local business has to create the same level of understanding with a microscopic fraction of trusted sources. Why should Google believe you are the best at what you do locally? Anyone can write they are “the leading blah blah blah” and most do.
Ask yourself what you can do to better showcase verifiable and trustworthy expertise.
What industry or local media sources can back up your claims?
Here Comes The Mic Drop
When I search for “eyewear glasgow”, Scottish designer brand IOLLA are listed in the 3-pack map results but not for “opticians glasgow”. As an entity, they lack enough signals for Google to award the business a Knowledge Panel.
Even a UK-wide brand like Vision Express is only known to Google as a “Company”, not as an optician or retailer. Specsavers is slightly better, described as a “Retail Chain” in their Knowledge Panel.
From a branding perspective IOLLA and Hard Grind are two of the very best brands in Scotland. It would only require minor tweaks to help Google understand their entity better, which in turn would help more people find them.
Your business identity - and what you want to be famous for - is interpreted by Google from sources including:
your website’s ABOUT US page
your social media bio info (LinkedIn & Facebook especially)
All of which may contribute to your score within the Google Knowledge Graph API.
Boom! Yes, there’s even a score for this metric. If that hasn’t made you curious then check your pulse. This is cutting edge next-gen leap stuff.
It’s why Google said it has moved from being a mobile-first to an AI-first company.
You’re getting a front row seat now before your competitors figure this out.
At the most basic level, on your website it helps to use the following:
Header tags (H1 to H3) to identify important concepts
Bullet points to help group concepts
Tables to help organise data
Which again, is all expertly explained in Dixon Jones’ book. All I’m doing here is showing you that this area of SEO is worth your time and energy.
You’ll need to buy a copy of the book to really dig into the practical actions you can take yourself to enhance your own business brand and entity status in the eyes of Google. Or hire the smart brainiacs at Big Pond to assist you.
Search Intent: Making Your Content Useful
The content strategy for your business should cover these three key areas:
Informational intent - “kings theatre glasgow reviews”
Transactional intent - “Nike Air Force 1 red mens size 7”
Navigational intent - “independent jewellers glasgow west end”
There’s a decent chance your prospective clients and customers are looking for reviews, a number are ready to pay for your product or service now, others would like to know where to find you. Your content needs to cover all this.
Half-hearted efforts of ‘thin irrelevant content’ on your site is a one-way ticket to less clients and less customers. I don’t mean create lots of long-form content either, simply that it should be accurate, well written, and provide the reader with a high level of satisfaction.
If it leaves them asking more questions because you’ve failed to answer their underlying intent, that’s what I mean by thin. What’s obvious to you is likely not at all obvious to the person on your site looking for an answer.
Trustpilot and other sites will list user reviews that rank above your own site if it lacks relevant content for those queries. Rival businesses that provide more in-depth buying guides and customer service info may outrank you. Rival businesses with more trusted location business citations can prevent you from appearing in the Top 3 local map results.
If you are a local business, how visible you are in Google can rely on doing small incremental content and entity improvements regularly, no matter how small or insignificant they seem. Good habits should build up your commercial value over time.
Step by step, you can build up your relevance and authority as a thing so that more people discover you and do business with you.
Training & Learning
If you would like to take your SEO knowledge further then I can whole-heartedly recommend this online SEO learning course from Tom Critchlow (industry expert).
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NCR: 75 years in Dundee told in 75 incredible pictures - LINK
Complimentary personalisation available at optician IOLLA's Edinburgh showroom on Saturday (04.12.21) - LINK
Scottish EDGE18 awards for Scotland's most innovative startup businesses - LINK
Medical tech specialist OrganLike secures £100,000 in record EDGE round - LINK
Gigged.AI and Know-it of Glasgow make tech startup shortlist - LINK
‘Artificial Intelligence is a misnomer’ - Sir Roger Penrose (Channel 4 News Webcast) - LINK
Virgil Abloh obituary: Celebrate the life of the inspirational designer and artistic director at Vuitton, whose work included Off-White and NIKE - LINK
Top PPC Expert Aaron Levy chats to Kirk Williams about the death of keywords (two of the smartest minds in US search marketing, not to be missed) - LINK
ProTips: Faster DevTools navigation with shortcuts and settings in Chrome - LINK
December 2021 Google Webmaster Report (tracking all the Google changes!) - LINK
SEO industry thought leader Aleyda Solis launches LearningSEO.io which looks amazing - LINK
80s Computing: 3D interactive BBC Micro with 100s of games ready for you to play - LINK
Google PPC centric list of Top 25 PPC Experts (I love these folks btw, it just lacks the Facebook experts like Andrew Foxwell, Gil David, Cory Dobbin) - LINK
Livestreaming: follow Big Pond Digital on LinkedIn and get invited to upcoming webcasts in 2022 (I know, exciting right?) - LINK
YouTube has grown beyond cat videos and viral memes. Today you can find inspirational channels and learn almost anything. This week’s top tweet found its way to being my favourite by igniting the spark of imagination and learning.
A close second is this Kids Activity Book on Cybersecurity which looks like a brilliant gift. Staying safe online is always a handy skill to learn and improve.
Visit the tweet below to check out the YouTube channels you might be missing out on. Parents and teachers this one is for you.
Until next time - good luck!
Andrew @ Big Pond
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