LSI Keywords: What are They and Do They Matter in SEO?

Keywords, which are an important part of LSI, have always been a part of the Google algorithm. However, long gone are the days when digital marketers obsessed over a single keyword and stuffed content with it in an effort to rank on top. Nowadays, the key to crafting amazing content is context.

SEO professionals use many tricks to aid this process, and one of those tricks is using latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords – a method that remains highly underutilized and frowned upon in the SEO domain despite it being quite effective.

Today, we’re busting myths. What are LSI keywords and do they really matter in SEO?

What Are LSI Keywords?

Google has been talking about the importance of LSI keywords since 2015. However, they haven’t spent a lot of time explaining exactly what they are. Latent semantic indexing, or LSI for short, is one of those terms that differ in meaning depending on which industry you’re in. For those of us in SEO, it’s one of those metrics, like domain authority, that sounds good and jargon-y. However, understanding what it does can be a different story.

LSI keywords are conceptual search terms that search engines use to deeply understand the content of a webpage related to the main keyword you are targeting. They help support your content and add more context to make it easier for both users and search engines to know what your content is about. Based on several mathematical equations, search engines use LSI to group text and content into topic categories.

Are LSI Keywords Synonyms?

While some LSI keywords can be synonyms, not all synonyms are LSI keywords. LSI keywords aren’t synonyms in nature, but words that are often found together because they have the same context. The majority of LSI keywords are words and phrases that are closely related to your main keyword. So, semantically-related terms are not synonyms, but terms that are closely tied to your target keyword.

LSI Keywords Examples

To get a better grasp on LSI keywords, a synonym for the word “jacket”, for example, would be “coat”. However, LSI keywords for “jacket” would include words like winter, feather down, warm, padded, puffer, and so on. They further describe the target keyword and provide more context around it.

Do LSI Keywords Make a Difference?

You can find some dissenting opinions on whether or not LSI is worth your money or time. So, what’s the deal here?

Does Google Use LSI Keywords in Their Algorithm?

LSI is an old technology, which actually outdates the internet itself. But, does that mean that Google doesn’t consider LSI keywords? Just because Google isn’t using LSI technology doesn’t mean that it isn’t using them another way.

Today, Google uses a more advanced approach to understanding the relevance of a page – one that takes much more than seeing if a page has a specific set of related words into account. But, although they’re technically not “LSI Keywords”, adding related words and phrases to a page is still worth it. Keyword-focused content is still an important part of SEO practices.

Why are related Words and Phrases Important?

It’s likely that Google does pay close attention to the non-keyword terms on your page and use it to evaluate (and rank) your page. The search engine will “read” your content because it must figure out the topic of a page to answer people’s questions — which means that the words you choose do matter. They use this information to go beyond exact-query matching and deliver more relevant search results.

This means that adding related terms to the page you want to rank can improve your site’s SEO, whether you refer to them as LSI keywords or not.

The Importance of LSI Keywords in SEO

In the early days of SEO, Google and other search engines would figure out a page’s topic based on the keywords they found on the page. That’s why keyword density was so important back in the day. Google has since made improvements to its algorithm to factor in context so that it can better understand related keywords. 

Today, search engines are much smarter – the goal is to figure out a page’s overall topic and they rely on semantically-related terms to understand content at such a deep level. So, incorporating LSI keywords into your content boosts the contextuality of your content and thus, yields SEO benefits.

Benefits of Using LSI Keywords

Why do these help pages rank for relevant terms? Simple – because they help Google and other search engines understand the overall topic of a page. Google uses this information to rank relevant pages for relevant queries. So, sprinkling LSI keywords that are semantically related to your main topic and keyword throughout your text helps search engines understand your page and boost its ranking power.

Adding related words and phrases also helps to ensure you don’t overload your content with keywords (aka keyword stuffing), and helps you provide a better search experience for users, which, in turn, translates into improvements in various ranking factors.

Best Practices: How to Find LSI Keywords and Use Them to Boost Your SEO

If you’re knowledgeable about a topic, you’ll naturally include related words and phrases in your content. But, sometimes it’s easy to miss out on important ones, especially with more complex topics.

With this in mind, here are some best LSI practices to help you get a groove on:

Use Common Sense

Before you look for automated help, use your own skills. Check your content to see if you’ve missed any obvious points closely related to the subject. For example, if the page is a biographical article about JFK and doesn’t mention his famous affair, it’s probably worth adding a section about that.

Google Autocomplete

Google’s instant search feature is one of the fastest and easiest ways to uncover terms related to your main keyword to sprinkle into your content. Simply type your target keyword into Google’s search box and you will get a range of predictions and ideas as to what you might type next. Look for the words that appear in bold as suggestions and choose the ones that are relevant to your topic.

Google Related Searches

This is similar to Google Autocomplete. But, instead of Google suggesting keywords as you search, they give you related terms at the bottom of the search results. Check out the listed terms to get more ideas for LSI keywords for your content.

Google Keyword Planner

Another convenient and effective way to find LSI keywords is using this tool. It generates results that present several keywords for related search terms, including search queries, phrases, and words. Some of these will be synonyms and variations of your keyword. But if you dig deep enough, you can gold-mine some sweet phrases.

Google Image Tags

This is a new feature inside of Google Images not many people talk about. Yet, it’s a goldmine for discovering related terms. Just pop your keyword into Google images and you’ll get a bunch of related terms above the image results.

„People Also Ask“ Section

Another amazingly effective yet free resource, the “People Also Ask” box in the search results page will provide you with tons more options to finding semantically-related words or phrases.

LSI Keyword Generators

Popular “LSI keyword” generators occasionally kick back some useful ideas. For example, LSI Graph is a free one that helps you quickly find all the terms related to your primary keyword. Simply type in your page’s main keyword and you’ll get a list of LSI terms to choose from.

The Bigger LSI Picture

LSI keywords don’t technically exist nor are they directly used by Google, but semantically-related words, phrases, and entities are, and they have the power to boost your SEO efforts and rankings.

Just make sure to use them sparingly and where it makes sense, instead of aimlessly sprinkling them whenever and wherever. 

Choose wisely!