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Entity Mentions and Link Building

Plunging a Wooden Stake into the Heart of an SEO Vampire

     
6:17 pm on Jan 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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In another thread someone asked:

I note that MOZ have a (subscriber) tool to track entity mentions.


This is a topic that is six years old and should have been put to rest definitively years ago. But like a vampire it keeps coming back to bite the industry. Bill Slawski, ace SEO vampire hunter has been battling this beast [seobythesea.com] for years. Here's my turn at the stake.

I am not certain why these notions persist but I consider "entity mentions" in the context of brands an SEO exaggeration. There is a place for it in Local Search but that's not the focus of this forum or discussion. It's related to something called Previous Query that was instituted during Update Vince but a report out of SERoundtable noted that it only affected 0.3% of searches. It is also related to identifying that a word or phrase can also represent an entity that is a domain name. So the focus on entity mentions for brands is not only unsupported by any research papers or patents but is wildly overblown. I believe that entity mentions as promoted for brand is 100% bogus. Here is why:

Entity mentions is a spin-off from a patent related to what has been referred to as a "previous query" feature. As I recall it was Marissa Mayer that dropped this information in an interview with Danny Sullivan. Previous Query is the concept that when someone searches for one thing then subsequently searches for another, that the next query Google will associate the two concepts for that user. In reading the scientific paper, it also sounds somewhat similar to the "did you mean" feature in Google Search.

Returning to the "previous query" feature, this is what got people all nuts about brands because they seized on this to mean that if people searched for your domain plus a keyword that you would autosuggest yourself to the top. But entities were never a reference just to brands it was always more than that.

Entities are basically people, places, or things. Way bigger than just brand names. It was initially spotted by someone and commented on by Bill Slawski [seobythesea.com], how it was being used to extrapolate the domain name (example.com) when someone queries keyword + example. Google can understand that the word example is an entity, a thing, a domain name, i.e. example.com. Can you see how this has nothing to do with brands? Here is what Bill Slawski wrote in Not Brands but Entities: [seobythesea.com]

Rather than just looking for brands, it’s more likely that Google is trying to understand when a query includes an entity – a specific person, place, or thing, and if it can identify an entity, that identification can influence the search results that you see.


I really don't understand the obsession with brands and trying to put a finger on Google being biased in favor of brands. If brands do well in Google it is based on marketing and not "tricks" to fool Google into thinking your site is an entity related to a keyword.

I just researched the citations to make sure I was remembering them correctly and for your benefit, to know I'm not making this up.

http://searchengineland.com/previous-query-refinement-coming-to-hit-google-results-13743 [searchengineland.com]

Google’s never given this feature a formal name, but Marissa said internally the company calls it "Previous Query," the first time to my knowledge that we’ve had some type of formal name put to it. Learn the name well, because Previous Query refinement is now coming to unpaid or "organic" search results, she said.


Patent about rewriting search queries [patft.uspto.gov]

[edited by: martinibuster at 1:44 am (utc) on Jan 10, 2015]

1:31 am on Jan 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Hi Roger,

I don't know what the tool from Moz does.

I also didn't know about Marissa Mayer's role in something called a previous query.

I did write a blog post on October 6th, 2006 in response to a rant from Danny Sullivan about query revisions that were showing up in search results based upon entities within those queries. Danny's article was definitely about the "Did you Mean" mid page level query refinements that had been happening at Google for a couple of years when Danny published his rant. No mention of Marissa Mayer in Danny's article though. He's written or given more than one rant on the same topic in the past, so he may have written another one.

The article from Danny Sullivan that I mentioned in a post was:

Hello Natural Language Search, My Old Over-Hyped Search Friend
[searchenginewatch.com...]

I wrote about it in:

Google’s Query Rank, And Query Revisions On Search Result Pages
[seobythesea.com...]

Note that I wrote that in 2006, which was 9 years ago.

None of what I wrote or what Danny wrote has anything to do with link building. But the query refinements that he was writing about did have to do with Entities.

While the patent I wrote about could have potentially applied, it was just as possible that something involving the semantic web was going on. That time period was one where there was a group of people at Google involved in a project called the Annotation Framework, as led by Andrew Hogue (now the director of search at Four Square)started working on a fact repository, or forerunner to Google's Knowledge Graph. This fact repository definitely included entities as well, and data about them.

As for Semantic Web related patents and processes, there have been many from Google, especially within the past 10 years or so, including the annotation framework patents and many more. The Query Rewriting one falls into that category, but I've written about a lot of other semantic Web patents, including ones that provide answers to direct questions.

Google recently came out with a foreign patent application that uses an understanding of entities (and entities previously searched for by somebody) to find and offer search suggestion to searchers that might have something to do with those.

According to what I see at the US and International patent offices, semantic Web updates and patents involving entities are a busy part of Google's intellectual property.

I don't know how robust the Tool from Moz is, but I suspect that there potentially are other tools that may offer more than what it does presently.
1:54 am on Jan 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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None of what I wrote or what Danny wrote has anything to do with link building.


Exactly! :)

The concept of entity mentions creeps into discussions of unlinked citations, spilling into discussions about link building.

Every time you think it's been put to rest the concept jumps back out of the grave to haunt link building discussions. I fixed the SEL link above to quote Danny Sullivan quoting Marissa Mayer.
2:38 am on Jan 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I wrote about a patent that Navneet Panda co-invented, and someone read my post, read the patent, misinterpreted the patent and wrote a post on Moz where he called "brand building" the new link building.

Another person plagiarized the Moz article, and called brand building the new link building.

Both of those guys completely misread a line in the patent to mean that an unlinked mention of a domain had as much value as a link. Both were completely wrong. They shouldn't be allowed near patents. :(
4:54 am on Jan 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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And one the plagiarized article was in a publication of, ahem, some note if I'm not mistaken ;-)
2:51 pm on Jan 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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It was published at Forbes, and that has become a total joke of a magazine