LSI Keywords – Friend or Foe?

Benefits of LSI keywords

LSI keywords have been in the center of attention for a long time already. However, it is a matter of debate whether they help in terms of Search Engine (SE) ranking or waste time for no reason. Even though many argue otherwise, they are sometimes interchangeably used with semantic keywords and refer to the same thing. Let’s start with discussing the related terms to distinguish and use them appropriately.

What does LSI refer to?

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI), also known as Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA), is a technique that was developed in the 1980s. It is a natural-language processing technique that was implemented to deal with unethical SEO practices. Moreover, there are many words that might have entirely different and sometimes controversial meanings depending on the context. LSI deals with this problem by accessing the general idea of the content instead of the simple distribution of keywords.

SEO experts have always been looking for any glitches in the system to gain desirable Search Engine Results Page (SERP) ranking. Keyword stuffing was quite a useful method to include all the possible keywords multiple times and rank high. However, the quality of the content was deteriorating little by little, and inventing an LSI system became essential. It allows Google to find a correlation between seemingly random words and understand the whole meaning of the content.

How does LSI work?

Computers can accomplish unimaginable tasks, but only when they are told how they can do so. This is where the role of LSI comes in. It teaches computers to look for word combinations that indicate the purpose of the content. For instance, if you write an article about dog breeds, LSI will look for specific dog breeds in the text to make sure that your main keyword is not deceitful.

Search Engines can use the information that LSI gathers to access the relevance rate and the quality of the content and provide more relevant results to the search queries. Content optimization became only part of the equation as writers became eager to think about the readers’ satisfaction as well. They make good use of not only the main keywords but LSI keywords as well. However, writers use related terms to create valuable content with keyword optimization in mind.

What are LSI Keywords?

As the name suggests, LSI keywords are words and phrases that portray the idea of the content. Semantic keywords may sometimes be considered as different terms, but also refer to the words that are closely related to the main keyword. The synonyms and LSI keywords may intersect in certain cases but are not the same. Simply the fact that two words have the same meaning doesn’t mean that they are semantically related.

There are many polysemic words (words that have many different meanings) and Semantic keywords help to distinguish them from one another. However, they can be either synonyms or complimentary words for the main keyword. Synonyms can mean the same or nearly the same, but don’t necessarily have to be used in the content together.

When you add keywords multiple times, instead of getting all their benefits you may endanger SERP ranking because of keyword stuffing. Using synonyms in such a case may add fuel to the fire and worsen the situation even further. While LSI keywords have a positive influence on SEO unless used inappropriately. Be cautious with synonyms as they may rank your website well for similar terms, but can also favor competitors who use the exact match.

Benefits of Semantic keywords

LSI keywords are crucial for optimal search engine optimization. In this digital century, you will come across many Semantic keyword generators. However, it is essential to know what makes these seemingly useless words so important. Here are the main benefits that you have to know about.

Boost your website’s ranking

The whole point of SEO is to boost the ranking and aim for the top three on SERP. Most of the visitors are lazy and prefer visiting the first link without scrolling further down. Google uses multiple factors to determine the relativeness of each web page with all possible search terms. Including the main keyword and spreading it throughout the page is a rule of thumb that everyone follows. Hence, it is vital to do something extra to gain a competitive advantage. LSI keywords are crucial to make sure that you rank for the keywords that you implemented throughout the text.

Avoid keyword stuffing

Keyword stuffing was once the main leverage to rank high in Google. One could simply insert all the possible keyword variations and rank high in SERP. To fight this undesirable outcome, Google provided multiple algorithm updates and almost entirely eradicated keyword stuffing practices. Those who still use these practices sometimes get penalized and not only the page but rather the full website faces a downward trend in reach.

Semantic keywords are useful to use them time by time and portray the main idea without using the target keywords all the time. Look for semantic terms that you can spread throughout the article. Many argue whether LSI keywords truly offer the benefits or not but it never hurts to use them. Despite the role of content on its own, on-page SEO offers a plethora of benefits and is a vital part of content creation.

Improve content’s relevance

As you have already seen, more than SEO Google favors the relevance and the readability of the content. Semantic keywords above all are essential as they are relevant to the main search term of the content. If you don’t use the right terms, your content may look unprofessional and irrelevant. You can shed light on the vague parts of the content with the right keywords.

Moreover, such terms will keep visitors more engaged and improve the bounce rate (customers leaving the website promptly, without visiting another page) of the website. Look at the image below (Image 1) that shows the true purpose of LSI keywords. Even though the search term is not exactly the same as the title of the content it appeared as the first result on the search query. As you can see the exact words that I used are spread all over the text. These words in this case are semantic keywords that are closely related to the content.

Image 1

Clarify the true meaning of polysemic words

As you have already seen, polysemic words are words that can have multiple different meanings. For instance, if you include the word “mouse” in your article without any specifications, Google will interpret it based on LSI keywords. It will determine whether you talk about a mouse as an animal or a mouse as a PC component.

Simply searching with this one-word term you will get mixed content with both results (Image 2).

Image 2

However, if you use the LSI keyword with the main term you will get the precise results that you look for (Image 3). These images clearly portray the role of LSI keywords that you can use all over your text.

Image 3

However, Google also considers multiple factors and even polysemic words may show the same results if one of the meanings is more widely searched than others. For instance, if you searched for “corona” before you would get all the images of appealing beer bottles. Though, after the Coronavirus outbreak, the only results that you will get will be related to the virus. Well, a quite unfortunate development for the company, but that’s how the Google algorithm operates.

Rank for more keywords than you intended

We already discussed that search engines can access the semantics of each word and don’t derive results randomly. However, this is good news not only for visitors but for website owners as well. In the keyword stuffing era, one could include all the variations of relevant keywords and rank for all of them at once. The quite appealing outcome, however, all that glitters is not gold. It had a positive outcome for content writers, but definitely spoiled the positive search experience of visitors.

Nowadays, Google can extract the main keyword from the content with semantic keywords and will allow you to rank for all relevant keywords at once. Google has a big database of relevant keywords and sometimes you may rank for those search terms that you have not even included in the text. Is not that great? Content writers may not have the same power over search engines, but unless they provide useful content and follow algorithm updates, they can rank for all the relevant terms while providing useful content.

Does Google rely on LSI keywords?

If you surf the web you will find out that semantic keywords may be a thing of the past. LSI technology is quite outdated and Google doesn’t really use it anymore. According to Google’s John Mueller, such keywords don’t exist at all.

Does this mean that we don’t have to look for related terms anymore?

Not really. Google algorithm is not flowless and sometimes you may find out that outdated practices still work like a charm. For instance, you will still find the pages that use keyword stuffing practices but still outperform more ethical pages.

The same applies to semantic keywords. Yes, Google doesn’t use LSI keywords, but it keeps track of “words frequently occurring together”.  The research paper from Google states this clearly. The technology that almost entirely replaced LSI is the Word2vec method. This is a prediction-based model compared to LSI that is a count-based model (meaning similar terms may have the same count for various documents).

The bottom line is that no matter whether you call them semantic keywords, LSI keywords, or words occurring together, they do work and it is advisable to use them throughout the content.

How to find semantic keywords?

Now it is clear what is the main role of these terms and it is essential to know how to look for them. There are multiple approaches to find such terms. Some methods might be superior but they all derive similar results and you can choose those that you like the most. If you know how to look for the main keyword you will find similar practices in this list.

1. Find Google’s autocomplete suggestions

Besides a plethora of SEO tools, Google can also be used to get useful information. Probably you will agree that there is no more reliable source than this amazing search engine on its own. Research for your main keyword and have a look at autocomplete suggestions. For instance, if you intend to write about dogs you can use such words as, brands, advisors, and recipes (Image 4).

Image 4

2. Note down terms from “related searches”

Similarly to the previous example, you will get related searched suggestions at the bottom of SERP. Google may generate different examples based on your location, but you will always find useful LSI keywords there. For instance, the same search term from the previous example will give such semantic keywords (maybe you prefer to call them “words frequently occurring together”) as “best”, “worst”, “pedigree”, and so on (image 5).

Image 5

As you may have noticed, you may come across the same terms as in the previous method (“brand” in our example). Moreover, the most popular brand names can also become the terms that will be good to use in your content (e.g. pedigree).

3. Rely on the “People Also Ask” section

Another easy method that you can use is looking for the “People also ask” section. It usually shows the semantic keywords that come with your main search term. For instance, as you can see from the image (Image 6) such terms as “basic” and “commands” are closely related to the main keyword. Make sure that you use the LSI keywords that you notice in several places. As we will discuss later, you are restricted in the number of terms that you can use. Make sure that you choose the most relevant ones.

Image 6

4. Use an “LSI keyword” tools

There are a plethora of semantic keyword generating tools that you can use for finding the list of terms that you are going to use. The most popular one that you will come across is LSIgraph. Similarly, you can visit any keyword generator website and enter the main term. This will give you the long-tail keywords with LSI keywords after/before the main term.

This is the easiest and probably the fastest option that you will come across. However, the other methods that we have discussed directly show the results based on Google. While these suggestions might be not equally precise.

5. Use the google keyword planner

This is a unique and most importantly free tool that Google provides. It is meant to show the relevant search terms for your target keyword. Search volume can also show which terms you have to prefer over others. Look for the right semantic keywords and include them in your content to increase the relevancy score.

Similarly, you can use the landing page of the competitors who rank on the top three positions and search for the keywords that google associates with these websites. You may come across not only the ideas for LSI keywords but also the terms that you can use as major keywords for new content.

6. Google images & Pinterest Tags

As you can see from the image (Image 7), these are the categories that come up on the top of the Google images search page. Their purpose is to provide suggestions, especially for words that may have many different meanings. This is another important method for finding the semantic keywords as it is based on Google’s suggestions.

Image 7

You can use a similar method for finding the LSI keywords with Pinterest. As you can see from the image (Image 8), it displays similar results as Google Images. Use the suggestions, but don’t rely on them entirely. Common sense will help you to determine whether the suggestions are worth the attention or you can neglect them altogether.

Image 8

7. Use the power of knowledge bases

A knowledge base can become a big source of information. Even though many claim that it is not a trustworthy source, not only people but Google also relies on such knowledge base as Wikipedia. It extracts the details for the knowledge graph and you can get the same information if you know where to look for it.

You will not be able to find semantic keywords at the first glance and most likely you will need specific knowledge to find the right terms. Moreover, if you have already used any other step you can double-check if your LSI keywords are truly in line with your main search term. Writing a blog post is no easy task and it may sometimes require experimenting to see what works the best for you.

8. Use your knowledge of the industry

As we have already discussed, knowledge of the field is essential to find out the right semantic keywords. If you combine several methods you will come up with more terms than necessary. It is essential to know the purpose of your keyword to choose the most relevant LSI keywords.

Even if you don’t know what does the specific keyword truly mean, you can get the information without too much struggle. Nowadays, you can use any digital device to get the required information. This small research will give you the basic knowledge to choose the right supporting terms for your main keyword.

How to distribute LSI keywords?

Now we already know how to find these vital terms, but knowing how to distribute them is another important factor. Many SEO platforms, such as Moz and some others provide all-in-one services. However, the only step that you always have to accomplish on your own is using the suggested keywords appropriately.

If you have to be cautious when including the main keyword, semantic keywords give more freedom. It doesn’t matter how you distribute them in the body unless you use them at least once. You can use several of them in the same paragraph and this will not mess up anything.

What do I have to keep in mind?

It is essential to make sure that you use them close to the main search terms. Some words can be freely used in any context and may not have any value unless used close to the main keyword (at least in the same paragraph). For instance, to use the similar example let’s say someone searches for “Best dog breeds”. For “dog breeds” the word “best” is the semantic keyword. Hence, placing the word “best” in the same paragraph (preferably the same sentence) will give you the opportunity to rank for “best dog breeds” as well.

As you can see from the image (Image 9) even though the search term is “Best dog breeds” the article that is about friendly dog breeds still ranks for it on the first page. Even though the word “best” in this article refers to the friendly nature of dogs, it still helps to rank for more variety of search terms.

Image 9

The long-tail keyword “Best dog breeds” has 90,000 search volume per year. Hence, it is extremely hard to rank for. Besides a plethora of ranking factors, direct keyword match is a big advantage. Without the keyword “best” this article would not be anywhere close to 10th page of this search term because of its popularity. Such easy steps can help you to rank for much more long-tail keywords and improve reach significantly.

Do we include Semantic keywords only in the body?

Definitely no. It is vital to include these terms in the most important parts of the content. Here are the locations where you will need to include your pre-determined LSI keywords.

  • Title tag
  • First 100 words
  • Header 1
  • Content itself
  • Image alt text
  • Image file name
  • Meta description
  • H2 or H3
  • Conclusion

How many semantic keywords can I use?

Finding LSI keywords is an easy task. Whether you use keyword planners to get instant results or use more Google-based suggestions, you will come up with a plethora of terms. However, as you may have already guessed you cannot use all of them. Keyword stuffing doesn’t only apply to the main keyword. As a rule of thumb, you can use one semantic keyword per 300 words. Although, I would suggest trusting your knowledge and observation. Unless you go too far away from widely accepted distribution methods, you will be on the safe side.

Keep in mind that you write for visitors and not for Search Engines. If visitors don’t find your content appealing, Google will not favor you as well even if your page is optimized according to generally accepted rules. Moreover, Google never states the exact details about such restrictions, and these suggestions are based on assumptions. Trust your knowledge and instinct, but keep widely accepted tips in mind.

The goal of algorithm updates is to make it as human-like as possible. Hence, once in the close future content may truly become the unparalleled king, and those who emphasized mainly SEO will suffer. Imagine all the struggle that you put in the expansion of your business and imagine how would it feel to lose reach on your website because of such changes. It is always worth playing a little bit safe when it comes to the Google algorithm.  

Why do some posts still rank high without LSI keywords?

As you have seen, the importance of LSI keywords is always a matter of debate. Hence, many content writers don’t take into consideration such terms altogether. It is surprising but some of them may still write content that gets a good ranking on Google. Before you jump to the conclusion and question the importance of semantic keywords it is vital to remember what these terms truly represent.

When you have explicit knowledge of the field, it is highly likely that you may use almost all the LSI keywords that are required. Unless you have no idea what you are writing about, you will naturally use some of these terms without further search. However, if you miss the most relevant ones, you may lose the opportunity to rank for all the important variations. Research them, and include them in your content to make sure that you are on the safe side. Even if you have already included them without any research, the repetition will not harm SEO performance.


LSI keywords can make your content much relevant to the main keyword and increase the chances of ranking high in Search Engines. You may also refer to these terms as semantic keywords. However, Google uses the terms that usually come with the main keyword to rank the relevance of the content. You may include the desired word as many times as you want, but you will never rank high if the overall content refers to a different topic. Yes, content optimization matters but Google favors visitors over content creators. If they don’t enjoy your blog post, Google will not favor your web page. It truly doesn’t use Bounce rate as a determining factor, but there is still a correlation that we cannot neglect.

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