Innovations do happen at the intersections. One such innovation happened at the intersection between SEO, Content writing and the Semantic Web.
It is called WordLift.
Below are my notes and thoughts about the experience I had with WordLift, going down the rabbit hole of linking, linking and … linking people, concepts, things and ideas, in a machine-understandable (to the extent possible) way.
A Tool for Semantic Web Weavers: What is Wordlift?
I see WordLift as a loom for Semantic Web weavers. A WordPress plug-in for online content creators, WordLift has it all: interlinks texts, images, topics, adds data to content, brings these data visualized. In a word, it makes your content engaging while giving it the machine-readable form it needs to thrive and make a difference in the Semantic Web.
Enabling a brave new text (as I call the dance of text and data in web writing), the tool brings both opportunities and challenges for content creators and is worth the time and effort to explore and experience.
- In the language of content writing it enables the creation of topical hubs and richer reader experiences.
The depth and breadth of interlinking that WordLift enables is what makes content easy to access and immersive to interact with.
- In the language of semantic search it helps you go from strings to things with your web strategy.
Web content organized around concepts or entities is what search engines can understand and process better and ultimately rank relevantly.
- In the language of the Semantic Web, it weaves your texts (and understandings) into the Web of Data.
WordLift publishes data as linked data and creates links with existing graphs such as DBpedia, yago etc. The dataset created with WordLift is a 5-star data and if submitted with the proper requirement it can be part of LOD (datasets that have been published in Linked Data format, by contributors to the Linking Open Data community project and other individuals and organisations).
Embrace the Mess: Where To Start With WordLift From?
When I first started my interdisciplinary journey with WordLift I was going deep down the rabbit hole of structuring my own writing, finding the common threads in it, seeking for clearer descriptions of terms and connecting texts to internal and external sources.
I was on a quest. A quest for meaning and structure, powered by interpretative and computational powers of machines.
I had to differentiate writing from web writing.
To conceive and represent that difference (if any), I had to approach the thorny matter of meaning and embrace whatever mess comes up, knowing that knowledge is messy. And this is where WordLift features helped me find the beauty and the connections in this amazing mess.
Enter the Vocabulary of Entities.
The Essence of Things Is Outside Them: WordLift’s Vocabulary of Entities
Key to what WordLift does are entities. Entities are used for annotating and organizing the posts and the pages on your website. Describing entities and interlinking them you build a vocabulary.
The vocabulary of entities you create is your mini (or maybe giant) knowledge graph. It is a collection of terms, people, places, events, concepts and all kinds of things that you choose to describe with your own words or to reuse from publicly available sources, for example, Wikipedia.
The entities and the relationships between them are published as RDF, which means what you have to say, the point you make, can be processed meaningfully (to the extent possible) by machines and you just got an army of “new colleagues” (ref. Andrea Volpini in his slides: WordLift for Digital Publishers and how to create an Open Database of Knowledge) to help you with organizing, linking, surfacing and arranging the content you craft.
On my website, after going through a dozen of posts to choose the entities I believe best represent what I write and think about, it occurred to me: I was, in a very elegant yet very inconsistent way using words like text, web writing, writing, content interchangeably. For us humans that’s fine (maybe for some not so). But if a machine wants to read this, it would be lost. Just like I was, before getting my hands dirty with the Entities feature.
The creation and curation of entities is what actually makes you smart with your content. Each entity is an interconnected piece that has been enriched with machine-readable information and turned from words into linked data pieces.
Each entity – be it selected from the suggested ones or created by you, gets a page on your website. The entity types are: thing, person, place, event, organization, local business, creative work. Each types has their corresponding properties, like name, description, image, permalink.
You choose to curate an entity the text for which was populated by Wikipedia, or create your own description and interlinking. Either way this is directly related to your content strategy and editorial plan (and as we will find out to your SEO activities, see SEO Caveat).
On my website, in a bold and brave attempt to differentiate web writing from writing, I created:
First, a web writing entity curating a bit the Writing entity, maybe not in a very valuable way.
Then, I created and curated the entities: Semantic Web and Intertextuality, because I saw them as main differentiators between writing and web writing.
Naturally the entity for Sir Tim Berners Lee has been curated and enriched a bit with links:
Inevitably the curation of the World Wide Web Definition took place:
Then came the Web of Data.
Followed closely by the good old Linked Data.
And this journey across the main things and thoughts that keep me up at night, was recorded in this Linked Data map:
Going further down the interlinking part of my quest for meaning, I ended up at the “backend” of interconnectedness, that is at the way data and text were actually being interconnected:
- The sameAs property
Each entity can be enriched with the URLs of same entity on the different sources.
When linking entities to each other, WordLift uses the owl:sameAs property; this means that we’re talking about the same thing (or simply that both entities share the same “identity”): “Yes, I’m talking about that same [Europe Day] that Freebase describes with machine id m/04f6ymq”. (cit. WordLift Wiki)
The sameAs property of WordLift is translated into owl:sameAs (https://www.w3.org/2002/07/owl#sameAs – this property is used to connect entities in the linked data cloud – so it should be used when pointing to an equivalent entity in LOD). This translates into schema:url and you can add as many as you like.
- The Dublin Core Schema
WordLift stores relationships between one entity and other entities in the graph using the Dublin Core property dct:related. (cit. WordLift Wiki) This information is then used to infer new connections between the contents of the site. It is what you use when you want to establish a relationship which is a correlation. On the picture below you can see how the link between the Web of Data and Semantic web is such link, between entities and is represented using dc:relations:
- Other Entity Properties used for interconnecting
Every entity (depending on its type – person, event etc) can also be enriched with additional connected information using the properties. For example, the entity person can have the following properties:
If you are curious about the Metadata being added to Entity pages RDF representation of the Entity dive in: WordLift Wiki: Publishing an Entity
SEO Caveat: Curating and creating entities, I also started pondering about duplicate content. As far as search engines are concerned there are several things I discovered on the go that you should be aware of:
1. Use the “No index” tag to avoid duplicate content
When you choose to annotate an article with a suggested by WordLift entity, an entity page is created right away and populated with texts and content from external sources. This means that you should definetely use a no index tag if you decide not to curate the entity – rewrite the text or edit it a bit.
2. Mind the code
This is something SEMrush helped me realize. In their reports I saw that many of the newly created pages had low text:HTML ratio, missed image alt tags, meta descriptions, heading etc.
So, from a search engine visibility and readability point of view, make sure you take good care of your entity pages: check all of the above-mentioned elements and further don’t forget to interlink them well. The better you curate them, the more benefits you will reap.
And speaking of realizations, Wordlift’s Chord was my A-Ha moment for the the warps and wefts of the texts I have been weaving on my website (and in my head).
The A-Ha Moments of Data Visualization: The Chord
Data visualization is what makes you realize connection that have somehow eluded your knowledge discovery journey. This is what Wordlift’s Chord does. The Chord widget is directly related to the way you link your posts with other posts and with entities. It is a beautiful way to present your readers with a quick overview of related understandings and further discovery options.
The Chord is also a way for you to see your writings structured and interconnected. Thus it gives you a vantage point to broader understanding of the domain you are travelling across in search for meaning and shared understanding.
Last Words: Let’s Coddiwomple!
It’s only when text marries the idea of being tagged, marked up and properly presented to search engines to be recognized and understood, that it will become truly brand new and start living the life it was meant to live – forever entering an indefinite number of relations that are easily traceable (and hence useful and valuable). (The Brave New Text)
Knowing and feeling that the automagical combination of words and Linked Data will work wonders for both content creators and consumers, I have been passionately and patiently waiting for a tool like WordLift. A tool that would let anyone, with as little technical background and effort add Linked Data to their content.
I see benefits everywhere. But don’t get me wrong, WordLift is not for everybody. It is for those who want to write and create through building networks of concepts; for those who are ready to go the extra mile of reframing their idea of content ideation, creation, planning and organization. For those ready to write and live the brave new text, for the bold and brave content writers and creators who are ready to coddiwomple across webs of meanings.
Call to Adventure: Check my interview Semantic Web Sideways with Andrea Volpini of Wordlift.