How to Increase Entity Salience to Boost Google Rankings

Understanding entity salience is important for every content marketing strategy.

Understanding entities and how entity salience works is an important skill for SEOs and content marketers. Google’s Natural Language AI analyzes online content for entities. Google then measures the salience — or importance — of each entity in the text and gives it a salience score. If an entity has a high salience score, Google will then assume that it is an important topic in the content.

Content marketers, content strategists, and copywriters can take advantage of this! By writing content with a high salience score for important entities, you can make your content more clear to Google. The better Google understands your content, the more likely it will be to rank your content.

How to Use the Google Natural Language API Demo

Google’s Natural Language API Demo is a fantastic resource for digital marketers, SEOs, and content marketers. Here’s how you can use it to get an idea of how Google’s Natural Language AI reads your online content.

Step 1: Copy and paste your content into the Natural Language API Demo text box.

Visit the Google Natural Language API page and copy and paste your content into the demo text box. Click “Analyze.” You’ll then have to check the box below it to confirm you’re not a robot. Google will then return your analyzed text. It should look something like this:

Google's Natural Language API Demo is a great tool for SEOs and content marketers to optimize their content.

Each entity that Google’s Natural Language AI was able to identify is colored in brackets. The colors represent the different classifications that Google sorts entities into. These are called entity types. Different entity types include:

  • People
  • Locations
  • Organizations
  • Events
  • Works of Art
  • Consumer Goods
  • Phone Numbers
  • Addresses
  • Dates
  • Numbers
  • Prices
  • and “Other”

Step 2: Review the entities of your content and their salience score.

Beneath the breakdown, you’ll see a list of the entities from the content. The entities are listed from most salient at the top to least salient at the bottom. Each entity listed will also show the entity type and the salience score. When relevant, it’ll also show a link to an associated Wikipedia page.

Google's Natural Language API Demo can break down the salience score of all the entities in your content.

How is Entity Salience Measured?

Remember that Google’s Natural Language AI measures each entity and gives it a salience score. The salience score will be a number between 0 and 1. The closer the score is to 1, the more important that entity is to the content. Here is Google’s official definition of the entity salience score:

The salience score for an entity provides information about the importance or centrality of that entity to the entire document text. Scores closer to 0 are less salient, while scores closer to 1.0 are highly salient.

For example, in an article about fixing a toilet, the entity “toilet” could have a salience score of 0.6. This shows it is an important entity in the text. On the other hand, an entity with a score of 0.01 is not viewed as very important.

But how does Google’s Natural Language AI decide how salient each entity is? Natural language processing (NLP) algorithms use several language factors to determine entity salience. Entity salience is decided by factors like:

  • How clearly the entity is used in the text
  • The entity’s position in sentences and the overall text
  • The number of times the entity is mentioned, including references to the entity using pronouns
  • How the entity is related to other parts of the sentence

How to Write to Increase Entity Salience

Writing with entity salience in mind can only be beneficial. Content strategists and copywriters can use this knowledge to create content that emphasizes entities you want to stand out to Google. This will make your content more clear and understandable for search engines. An added benefit is this will also make your content more clear and crisp for human readers!

Entity Position in Text and Sentences

Entities that are closer to the beginning of sentences and the beginning of paragraphs are seen as more salient. Furthermore, entities that occur at the end of a sentence are more salient than entities in the middle.

Entities as Subject vs. Object vs. Indirect Object

The subjects of sentences almost always have a higher salience score than direct objects. Entities that occur as indirect objects, or the objects of prepositional phrases, usually have an even lower salience score.

In the sentence “Adam kicked the ball to Tom,” the subject — “Adam” — has a salience score of 0.67. The object — “ball” — has a salience score of 0.28. The indirect object — “Tom” — has a salience score of 0.06.

The subjects of entities have higher salience scores than direct objects. Direct objects have higher salience score than indirect objects.

Number of Entity Mentions

The number of times an entity is mentioned in your content is also important. However, remember that spamming the entities you want emphasized is never a good tactic. If the entity is not used correctly and relevantly, it will backfire.

Google’s Natural Language AI is smart, so it’s also able to recognize other references to an entity, like pronouns. For example, it is able to recognize that the word “he” in the following quote refers back to the entity “Thomas Jefferson”:

Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. He was also the first Secretary of State and the third President of the United States.

Even though the name “Thomas Jefferson” is only mentioned once, it still has a very high salience score of 0.87. The salience score of the other entities is all below 0.1.

Using Entity Salience for SEO

Entities and entity salience has clear applications for SEO and content marketing. However, this is still cutting-edge. There has not been much written about entity salience on the SEO blogs. However, in late December 2019, John Mueller — the Google Search Liaison — seemed to confirm that entity salience in content is relevant to Google Search rankings.

Optimizing for entity salience is not the magic formula to make your pages rank. There are many factors that go into Google’s ranking algorithms. The most important thing is to make sure you have good, quality content that people would be interested in reading. Optimizing for entity salience can only help that.

If you or your business needs help optimizing your content or developing content strategies, feel free to contact me!

Trevor Antley

Trevor Antley is a digital marketing professional based in Dallas, TX, specializing in content strategy, content marketing, SEO, and branding.