LSI keywords: meaning and importance

  • 08 / 11 / 2022
  • Agata Cnatalska
LSI keywords: meaning and importance

As a digital publisher, you undoubtedly must know how to make your content easy to find by your desired audience. To make it happen, you need to put some aces up your sleeve! And yes, we know that the concept of LSI keywords is a little controversial, as it was developed in the late ‘80s when the world was a whole different place. But the idea behind it remains the same and can also find use today! Intrigued? Keep on reading!

What are LSI keywords

LSI keywords are words or phrases related to the main keyword chosen for your content. The “LSI” stands for Latent Semantic Indexing, meaning that the relation between the used keywords has to be of a conceptual or, as the name itself implies, semantic nature.

The technology behind LSI is quite old (patented in 1989); therefore, some search engines, like Google, don’t consider it relevant anymore. However, the principles underlying it are exceptionally important for current-day operations related to SEO. In fact, such semantically-related phrases are used to improve the search engines’ comprehension of what information can be found within your content. And, as we all know, what their bots consider useful and compatible with the user’s query will rank higher. Even though, as we established, the term “LSI keywords” is not entirely correct, we’ll stick to it because it’s commonly used also in our times, and the concept hidden behind it remains valid.

Don’t confuse LSI keywords with synonyms! For example, if your keyword is “cinema”, its synonym would be “movie theater”, while the LSI keywords related to this term could be words like, for instance, “cinematography”, “motion picture”, “Hollywood”, or even “popcorn”.

source: https://giphy.com/

SEO and LSI

At the beginning of Search Engine Optimization development, it was a common practice to stuff articles with as many keywords as possible. The texts indeed ranked higher, because the search engines’ bots considered them adequate for the phrase entered by the user, but they were not pleasant nor easy to read for the human eye. Obviously, the issue was finally noticed, making keyword overstuffing considered an SEO fiasco.

LSI was developed to improve the categorization of a page’s topic by using words that are conceptually related to the text’s main subject. Today, the algorithms investigating and evaluating every content available online are way more advanced and take into consideration many more various aspects. But the application of semantically associated terms is still valid and impacts SEO.

The use of LSI keywords is necessary for determining your text’s subject, especially when your main keyword is an ambiguous word (that can have more than one meaning). An excellent example is “fall”, which can mean both the season of a year and an act of collapsing; or “pupil”, meaning a student or an eye’s part. But it can also refer to longer phrases. For example, if you want to get some information on the progress in the repair works of a hospital wing at the Banner University Medical Center in Phoenix and in the search engine, you enter: “Banner wing repair”, you might come across an article about the veterinary treatment for a damaged wing of a butterfly called Blue-frosted Banner!

source: https://giphy.com/

How to find LSI keywords

Finding LSI keywords is not that difficult! The easiest thing you can do is to ask yourself what are the most obvious associations to the subject of your article. Carrying on with the previously mentioned example of “fall”, if you write an article regarding the season, in order to differentiate it from the accident related to falling, the phrases you might try to place within your text should rather be related to an “autumnal” vibe, like “falling leaves”. You could also use other seasons’ names because that will clearly determine your text’s context. However, remember that people’s associations with a given concept may vary depending on their cultural background, origin, or experiences. For example – if you’re Canadian or American, one of the first fall-related things that come to your mind will be Thanksgiving, but it’ll not work the same way for your audience from, for instance, Italy or Spain, where the holiday is not celebrated. So, when applicable, try to keep the used semantically-related associations as general as possible!

source: https://giphy.com/

If you want to make sure that the words or phrases you use are the ones that search engines associate with the subject you touch upon, you should use some artificial help! You can check the autocomplete results in the search engine’s search bar – there you’ll find phrases that users often combine with your keyword. You can also pay attention to a section revealing similar searches to the entered query that many search engines provide (like Google’s “Related searches” or “People also ask”). Of course, there are tools designed specifically for finding LSI keywords, like LSIGraph; but also other SEO-dedicated ones can help you with that task (like the “Also rank for” section in Ahrefs).

Summing up

As we’ve seen, even if LSI keywords are not considered relevant nowadays due to their name’s originating from “ancient” technology, using them will do you no harm! The world constantly evolves, and so does SEO. Today, many factors influence the search engines’ rankings, which later have a significant impact on your traffic, and – when monetizing – your earnings. Remember that search engines’ goal is to provide people with the best answers to their queries, so they want your content to be as user-friendly as possible. Therefore, the best approach is to introduce into your text both: synonyms and semantically-related phrases. Use your main keyword’s synonyms (not to tire your readers with repetitiveness, which is also something that search engines generally don’t accept); and semantically-related phrases (to make the context of your content clear and better understood). Whatever you decide to weave in your texts, always ensure that they’re easy and possibly pleasant to read for your audience!

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