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Entity Search is Here. What Does It Mean?

John Doherty —  May 17, 2012
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Today Google announced that they have rolled out the “Knowledge Graph”, which Matt Cutts explains thusly:

Google has been talking about entity search for a while, and a lot of talk has happened in the past few months, starting with this story on Mashable (of all places) and an interview with Amit Singhal of Google. In that interview, Amit said:

It’s a challenging task, but the work has already begun. Google is “building a huge, in-house understanding of what an entity is and a repository of what entities are in the world and what should you know about those entities,” said Singhal.”


So basically, Google is changing the way search works. They are taking Schema.org markup, using their knowledge from social database Freebase which they bought in 2010, and other information sources to figure out what words mean, which eliminates a lot of guesswork that search engines currently have to do in order to return relevant results.

Away from Links

Links have been manipulated over and over, and even though updates have been rolled out to try to deal with this to an extent, and more seem to be rolling out daily even if unannounced, they’re still being manipulated. Google’s getting tougher on reinclusion requests from what I’ve seen as well (can’t share details unfortunately), and sometimes will partially revoke a penalty when they see that there are still some manipulative links pointed at it.

So now we get to Entity Search, which allows Google to learn if it’s a person, a team, or whatever that the search is intending to find. To see it explained quite well, here’s the video that Google released today in their announcement:

It’s even entitled “Things, Not Strings.”

How It Seems To Work

I am seeing it for a number of queries that I do. For example, when I search for [danny sullivan], I see both Danny of SearchEngineLand and Danny Sullivan the race car driver:

When I search for [nets], I get the Brooklyn Nets and a lot of information about that team:

Conspicuously absent, however, is any ecommerce for [basketball nets] or [hockey nets] or anything of that regard. To get those, you have to do a more exact search. We’re moving away from broad searches to more exact searches, it seems.

When I search for [joe gibbs], I don’t just get the Redskins coach, but I can also see entries for producer Joe Gibbs:

Here’s an interesting one. I searched for [samuel adams] because I’m drinking a Sam Adams as I write this. Here’s what I see:

But when I search for [sam adams], I get two more results too:

And sorry Mike King, they’re not showing you:

Only for People and Sports Right Now?

From my investigations, it seems like this Knowledge Graph is quite limited right now, mostly to people and sports. Some searches that I expected to return useful information, like when I search for [jeep], I get their Google+ page which we’ve been seeing for months:

It seems that most brands are not yet showing up yet. I see nothing for [jeep], [rei], [delta], [seomoz], or [inc].

I do see it for some TV shows, this one for [greys anatomy]:

And I found this interesting case, where I looked for the community where I lived in Switzerland for a while. I got the Massachusetts branch and photos:

And for [new york hotels]:

But they have a ways to go with [paris hotels]. No Google, I don’t want the Paris hotel in Vegas:

Report an Issue

It seems that Google does not have complete faith in their ability to glean the right information from websites at this point, so they are also asking users for help to report when information is wrong. Check out all of the information that I could report as wrong on the search for [danny sullivan]:

Of course, I had to report something as being wrong to see what happened (sorry Barry, I reported you), but this is all I saw, which is most unhelpful because I can’t even give any justification for why I reported it:

Is SEO Dead (Finally)?

Nah. SEO’s just getting started, y’all! We should not stop building links because of this. Rather, Google is moving towards entity search, and this will take a while, and links, in my opinion, will always matter at least somewhat. Google is just trying to better understand what people are looking for and serve them that directly.

Our jobs have just become more interesting though. I’m sure people will be trying to find ways to manipulate this soon (it’s what SEOs do, right?), but here are some things you should be moving towards in the future to help Google out (and I bet this helps with being recognized as a brand too):

  • Google+. You have to be on there
  • Schema markup
  • Get a Wikipedia page if you can, apparently

What is interesting to me at this point is that the information being pulled is from Wikipedia. I expect to see Google+ content being used more often in the future (you didn’t think G+ was a social network, did you??).

But Amit did say (quote from the SearchEngineLand article):

“Wherever we can get our hands on structured data, we add it.”

I do want to reiterate that if you’ve been building brands and winning through content, you’re going to be fine. If you’ve been doing crap linkbuilding and SEO, then you’re probably going to be hurting if you can’t evolve, and quickly.

Other Good Posts

There have been some other really good posts written about entity search that you should read as well to understand it better:
Justin’s Entity Search Results
Dan Shure’s It’s Time To Stop Ignoring Entity Search
Bill’s Named Entity Detection in Queries


What are your thoughts about this? Do you like it? What ramifications do you see? How do you think SEO/online marketing is going to change now? Also, I’d love to see more examples of it “in the wild”, including edge cases of course.

Isn’t this stuff exciting??

John Doherty

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I'm the new (as of October 2013) Online Marketing Manager of Hotpads.com, soon to be based in San Francisco. Previous to Hotpads I worked at Distilled for 2 years as an online marketing consultant. In my spare time I shoot lifestyle photography, explore new and interesting food in New York, ski, rock climb, and update my Twitter and Google+ accounts.

8 responses to Entity Search is Here. What Does It Mean?

  1. Thanks, John. The whole entity search thing wasn’t quite clicking until I read this.

  2. Brett Shaffer May 17, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    How will this affect PPC ads? Seems like the right side of the page is going to be where the knowledge graph will be located so will the PPC ads go underneath?

  3. “Nah. SEO’s just getting started” True and the reason is due to the layer cake Google keeps adding, Analytics Yes, SEO emperors wearing new clothes NO, linguistics – Google or Turing we still connect to the keyword / s until the processor is an implant, trying to develop the algorithm through code recognition has a space time to get right in just one language/culture. Time for technical jumps to await a huge evolutionary jump : ) until then bull-phoo layer cake

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