Latent semantic indexing (LSI) – it sounds like something that requires a computer science degree, but it's a concept you're likely already somewhat familiar with. It's what makes search engines smart enough to deliver answers to your questions, even when the questions consist of only a one or two word search query. This post will cover what LSI is, why it's important, and a few ways to "play nice" and use LSI to your advantage.
What is LSI?
At a high level, LSI is a concept that Google (and other search engines) use to determine how content on a website works together to mean something more than the sum of its keywords.In other words, LSI makes search engines smart enough to identify the context of content on your website. In addition to recording the keywords that web pages contain, LSI examines the page holistically, considering location, word variation, synonyms, concept matching, and natural language queries.
Google uses LSI to understand searchers' intent and match it with high quality content in the same context. Because of this, content that is natural and relevant is rewarded by LSI, and will continue to be valued as Google's PageRank algorithm puts big time emphasis on user experience with every update.
Why is LSI important?
The easiest way to understand the importance of LSI is to take a closer look at it working in action. A great example of this is the apple vs. Apple situation...
If content on a web page includes words like “Mac”, “iPhone”, or “iPad”, it’s obvious that “apple” in this context means the technology company. When a page includes words like “sweet”, “healthy”, or “pie”, it’s pretty clear the word “apple” in this context is referring to the fruit. LSI – it's what keeps news articles about the new iPhone out of search engine results pages for the Google search "apple pie recipes".
How to "play nice" with LSI
- Find your LSI keywords and use them – Tools like AdWords Keyword Planner and Moz Keyword Explorer can be excellent for this. If you don't have access to these tools, taking note of what's popping up as keyword suggestions in test Google searches can tell you a lot about what people are searching for, as well as how search engines are interpreting on-page content.
- Never sacrifice good writing for keyword density – With LSI, search engines are smart enough to understand synonyms and concept matching. Use this to your advantage – good writing is more important than the number of times your targeted keyword appears on a page. If a keyword sounds unnatural, leave it out of your writing.
- Use Google Search Console to track your success – Use Google Search Console to get insights on which search terms are leading people to your website, and if Google is interpreting your content in a way that's desired by you. Google Search Console even lets you monitor how Google views your site, and how their search bot crawls through the site.