What are LSI keywords? Put simply, they are words related to your core keyword. They give added context to your content and they help Google understand what your page is about.
In other words, LSI keywords help Google determine whether your content is relevant to a given search query.
In this article I'll show you what LSI keywords are, why search engines use them, and how you can use them to rank higher in the search results.
1. What Are LSI Keywords?
Latent semantic indexing (LSI) is a mathematical technique that detects the way words cluster together in predictable patterns. Search engines use these patterns to understand context.
It's often said that LSI keywords are synonyms for your main keyword. But this is not the case. They are simply words that are often found together with your main keyword because they share the same context. For example 'apple' and 'itunes' are LSI keywords, but they are not synonyms.
Here are some examples of LSI keywords.
Let's say your page or blog post is about 'brushes'. But 'brushes' has more than one meaning, as you can see from the following Google Auto Suggest options:
So how does Google know which kind of brush your page is about?
The algorithm uses latent semantic indexing. It looks at the other words in your web page. Those other words tell the algorithm what kind of 'brushes' your web page is about.
If Google finds these words, it knows your page is about 'hair brushes':
- hair dryer
- paddle brush
- boar bristles
- curly hair
But if Google finds these words, it knows that your page is about 'Photoshop brushes':
- digital art
- cs5 brushes
- custom brushes
On the other hand, if Google finds these words, it knows that your page is about 'brushes for electrical motors':
- carbon brushes
- rotating shaft
The words in the bullet lists above are all LSI keywords for (respectively) hair brushes, Photoshop brushes, and brushes for electrical motors.
2. LSI Keywords: An Example From The Movies
Let's say you're at a dinner party and someone is talking about a movie that made the phrase "if you build it, they'll come" famous. No one at the table can remember the name of the movie.
But you whip out your smartphone and type in 'movie if you build it'. And Google gives you the answer:
How did Google do that?
Latent semantic indexing.
The Google algorithm has learned that the words 'if you build it', and 'movie' cluster together in a pattern associated with the movie 'Field of Dreams'.
So why did Google start using latent semantic keywords?
3. Why Does Google Use LSI Keywords?
There was a time when the only measure Google had for relevancy of a page to a given search query was keyword density.
But keyword density was easily manipulated through the practice of keyword stuffing.
So Google moved away from keyword density and began looking at LSI keywords.
The reasoning was this:
A legitimate page about ‘Apple computers’ will likely contain a lot of other words that are related to Apple computers (such as 'apple stores', 'apple iphone 5', 'apple new ipad', 'apple stock price', 'discount computers').
On the other hand, a keyword-stuffed page about ‘Apple computers’ will probably just contain that one keyword, repeated over and again.
So latent semantic keywords provide Google with a way to differentiate between content that deals with a topic in depth, and content that has been optimized for the search engines by keyword stuffing.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an LSI keyword in SEO?
LSI stands for latent semantic indexing, which is the method that Google and other search engines use to study and compare relationships between different terms and concepts. These keywords can be used to improve SEO traffic and create more visibility and higher rankings in search results.
How do I find LSI keywords?
Just type your main keyword into Google search and note down all the words that Google displays. Those will be your LSI keywords. If not many keywords are displayed, repeat the process with the words that Google displays.
How do I use LSI keywords?
Use your main keyword and an LSI keyword in your meta description. Google will give you more priority, with the result that your search results will improve and you'll rank higher as well
What are semantic keywords?
Semantically related keywords are simply words or phrases that are in a related to each other in their meaning. They are not necessarily synonyms, but they are often found together in the same context. For example, 'iTunes' and 'Apple' are semantic keywords.
Will LSI keywords help my content to rank better?
Yes. Using semantically related keywords will signal to the algorithms that your content covers a topic well. For example, a page about ‘dogs’ that only contained the word 'dogs' and no other related keywords would probably not rank well. Why? Because the algorithms are looking for relevant content beyond the keyword ‘dogs’ – words such as 'diet', 'training', 'barking', or even a list of breeds.
4. LSI Keywords and Searcher Intent
But there’s another reason Google started using LSI keywords.
Latent semantic indexing helps Google better understand the meaning of a search query.
Just as LSI keywords help Google understand content (hair brushes vs. Photoshop brushes), those same LSI keywords also help the search engine understand the context of a search query.
And that allows Google to improve the match between what people search for and the content they find in the search results.
5. Hummingbird and Semantic Keywords
In August of 2013 Google introduced the Hummingbird algorithm, sometimes called the semantic algorithm.
The Hummingbird algorithm focuses on synonyms and improves Google’s ability to understand the context of a web page.
Hummingbird is particularly interested in searcher intent.
Whereas previous algorithms focused on individual words in a search query, Hummingbird looks at each word within the context of the whole search query.
In other words, the Hummingbird algorithm is trying to understand meaning – it helps Google match user intent with search results.
But how does this help you rank higher in the search results?
6. How To Use LSI Words To Improve Your Ranking
Here are three ways latent semantic words will improve your SEO:
Total Context vs. Keyword Density
Google now looks at total context rather than keyword density. LSI words will give more context to your article. This means your page will rank higher for your main keyword because Google better understands the context of your page.
You Reached Your Limit for Keyword Density
Let’s say you’ve reached the limit for keyword density on your page – anymore repetitions of your keyword and you risk a Google penalty.
With latent semantic keywords, you can safely keep adding closely related keywords.
Get Found for Keyword Variations
LSI keywords are closely related to your main keyword - they're 'keyword variations'.
That means your page is going to come up in the search results for your main keyword as well as for those keyword variations.
7. Using Google To Find LSI Keywords
The best place to find latent semantic keywords is in Google. That way, you know your LSI words are recognized by Google as being semantically related to your main keyword.
Just type in your main keyword into Google and look for LSI keywords in the SERP snippets.
Let's say you're writing an article about 'tendonitis'. Here are some LSI words for 'tendonitis' that you can extract from the Page #1 search results:
That exercise gave me 19 LSI words for tendonitis:
- microscopic tears
And I only looked at 5 of the SERP snippets in the search results.
Google Auto Suggest
As soon as you start typing a search query into Google, Google's Auto Suggest function suggests a number of related terms that people also search for.
These are LSI words - Google's algorithm has identified them as words that cluster together with your search term in predictable patterns.
Here are the Google Auto Suggest terms for 'tendonitis':
In this instance, I already have these words from the previous exercise. But what if I click on 'tendonitis wrist':
That gives me some additional LSI words. You can keep drilling down through the Auto Suggest entries and find more and more latent semantic keywords.
Google's 'Searches Related To'
Yet another way to extract latent semantic indexing words from Google Search is to look at 'Searches Related To' at the foot of the SERPs page:
8. Tools for Finding LSI Keywords
There are also a number of keyword research tools dedicated to finding LSI keywords.
LSIGraph is a free tool for generating LSI keywords.
Just enter your main keyword:
Then scroll through the results for more LSI keywords:
As with the previous tool, just enter your seed word and hit 'search'. This tool returns a massive list of over 1,800 keywords related to 'tendonitis'':
This is another great tool for finding latent semantic indexing words. In my case, it gives me over 300 of them:
9. Three Easy Ways to Add LSI Keywords to Your Blog Post
Adding latent semantic indexing words to your article isn't always easy, especially if you have to re-write parts of your article to fit the new words in.
But here are three super-easy ways to add LSI words to your blog post without having to re-write anything:
Add a Further Reading Panel Under Each Section
Under each section of your article, add a 'Further Reading' panel that lists three to five articles related to the topic of that section.
These articles will inevitably contain LSI keywords in their titles. Let's say I have a section in my article with the heading 'Cures for Tendonitis'.
I could add a 'Further Reading' panel at the end of that section, like this:
With that single 'Further Reading' panel, I've just added 10 LSI keywords to my page.
Add a Related Articles Panel
If you've written other articles on the same general topic, you can link to them in a 'Related Articles' panel. The titles of these articles will almost certainly contain latent semantic indexing words.
Here's an example:
The main article targets the keyword 'domain authority'. This 'Related Articles' panel contains five LSI words related to 'domain authority'.
Embed a Tweet
Go to Twitter's Advanced Search and type in the your main keyword in the field labelled 'All of these words':
Choose a tweet that has a lot of text - it should contain some valuable latent semantic indexing words. Then grab the embed code and embed it in your article:
This is also a great way to add an image to your article (two birds with one stone).
Latent semantic keywords are at the heart of Google's new approach to understanding content. That's why it's important to be aware of them as you optimize your blog posts for SEO.
By researching the LSI keywords associated with your main keyword, you'll get a better grasp of the geography of your topic. And that will help you write an article with high topical authority.
- What Is Latent Semantic Indexing? 7 Things That Will Surprise You
- How To Get Your Blog Post on the First Page of Google in 2019
- How To Find Seed Keywords In Your Niche & Increase Topical Authority
- How To Use Long Tail Keywords To Get More Traffic To Your Blog
- What is the Google BERT Algorithm and How Will it Affect SEO?
This post was most recently updated on July 11th, 2020