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Beginner's Guide to Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 7 28

Credit: http://www.sksservices.co.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/lsi-latent-semantic-indexing-seo.png

Latent Semantic Indexing or LSI can seem very confusing to beginners at first, I know this because I am an SEO beginner myself. One of the best ways to learn something and solidify it in your mind is to attempt to teach it to someone else. In this article I will attempt to teach the basics of what LSI is and what it means to writers - in as beginner-friendly a way as possible.

What is Latent Semantic Indexing?

The idea of LSI is not new, in the past it has applied to the study of thought and understanding of language, however, it's more modern application is in the functioning of search engines. This application is why LSI has become so interesting to writers recently.

Essentially LSI is a method of bundling words and phrases that have a similar meaning together.

Why LSI?

In the past search engines have favoured keyword comparisons to find relevant results for a users search. The limitation of this is that sometimes relevant content won't use the same word or phrase that the user searched for. For example: A Google search for 'PC prices' would return results that contained the keywords 'PC prices' but wouldn't show results for 'Computer prices' even though they are relevant to the users interests.

To simplify:

When we compare words to find relevant content we really want to compare the meanings behind the words. The shortfall of purely keyword searching is that different words with similar meanings wont be displayed.

The goal of LSI is to pick the result that a human would select if they were trying to find the most relevant site to their search terms. A human would know that someone looking for 'PC Prices' would also be interested in a page for 'Computer Prices'.

What Does this Mean for Writers?

Google and other search engines are already shifting their focus away from keyword density and on to LSI relevance. This trend is only going to continue into the future until keyword density is irrelevant.

This means that you should be writing as naturally as possible in order to achieve the best SEO. Since it is natural for humans to use LSI when they are explaining something you will automatically achieve a decent balance of keywords and LSI phrases if you write naturally.

It also means that you can potentially improve your SEO by making sure that you cover as many of the appropriate LSI phrases for your topic as possible. Not including the phrase 'Computer Prices' in an article about 'PC Prices' could actually negatively affect your SEO.

InfoBarrel Success story JCMayer777 mentioned in an interview that the best way to 'LSI'ify' your writing is to begin by thinking about the idea or topic you are writing about carefully and to make a list of what type of words would be used to explain that topic. 'LSI'ified articles will generally have most of those word in them.

Here is my attempt to write an LSI list for the topic 'Gaming':

  • Video games
  • Gamer
  • Games
  • PC games
  • Console games
  • Console gaming
  • Interactive entertainment
  • Xbox 360, PS3 etc

I need a bit more practice but this feels like a good start. Now if I were to write an article on 'Gaming' I should include as many of these LSI phrases as I can while keeping the article as natural sounding as possible. Doing this should make my article very search engine friendly.

A Good Future for Online Writing

Writers who have been doing their SEO based on ethical and quality writing principles will now finally come out on top thanks to LSI. Irrelevant, keyword-stuffed content will soon be a thing of the past. This bodes well for the future of online writing. I'm glad I am starting to write in what looks set to be a bit of a golden age for the medium.


Did you find this article helpful or accurate? If you have any questions, comments or any suggestions on how I can improve my explanation of LSI please leave a comment below!



Jan 16, 2012 8:37pm
pretty decent go at explaining the concept of LSI. Using synonyms is critical, and not just one word=another word, but phrases that have similar meanings to other phrases. It is only really important in the main topic of the article, don't sweat LSI on other portions of the article.
Jan 16, 2012 9:09pm
Thanks JadeDragon, thats a helpful comment!
Jan 16, 2012 8:41pm
I think you did a good job of explaining it. The one question that I have is when you wrote "Essentially LSI is a method of bundling words and phrases that have a similar meaning together." Would it really be words with similar meanings or words that have a "relation" to the main topic? Or would that be the same thing lol. Shoot think I just confused myself :) Anyway, great article.
Jan 16, 2012 9:11pm
You are more correct in saying that they have a 'relation' to the main topic. Although words with similar meanings can be LSI phrases it appears that it is the relation that is important.
Jan 16, 2012 11:09pm
That was fast. Thanks a ton ZiggyD for explaining that. Now it all makes more sense to me!
Jan 19, 2012 3:05pm
This was a great article. Lots to think about. Thanks!
Jan 19, 2012 3:20pm
Thanks for the comment Valerie! I tried to make it as beginner-friendly as possible so that I would understand it!
Jan 24, 2012 3:05am
Really good introduction, thanks. Writing with the user in mind rather than KW density should up the quality of content across the web. A bit ambition of me I think.
Jan 24, 2012 2:23pm
Thanks. I think all good writers should position themselves this way. After all, good quality never goes out of fashion!
Feb 1, 2012 10:13pm
I needed this, thanks Ziggy. Hope to put some of this in action in my upcoming articles.. oh and thanks for your friendship. I just found it!
Feb 2, 2012 12:02am
My pleasure, I plan on using this same method on each new SEO technique I learn so be on the lookout!
Feb 2, 2012 1:12am
Fabulous job on the explanation of LSI for new people who are wondering what all the writing jargon is about.
Feb 6, 2012 3:11pm
Now I know a bit more. Awesome, thanks for taking the time...:)
Feb 6, 2012 3:36pm
More than happy to! Writing this article really helped cement my understanding of LSI.
Feb 10, 2012 6:03pm
Thanks for breaking a complex topic on keywords and LSI down to something really understandable.
Feb 11, 2012 4:26pm
I'm really glad it was able to help. Breaking it down in a way that beginners can understand was exactly what I wanted to do! Thanks for the feedback Miravu.
Mar 5, 2012 2:29pm
Lots of good information about LSI here. Thanks for explaining the basics
Mar 5, 2012 7:53pm
Thanks InfoJunkie! Since I wrote this article and started actively using Latent Semantic Indexing in my articles I have seen an increase in their performance - even this article which was written with a basic level of LSI has been earning well which was a nice surprise! I mostly just wrote it to help out the other writers here!
Mar 16, 2012 8:10am
This is a great "starter for 10" on LSI which I am going to have to start getting used to. Every time I think I weigh something off it changes.
Mar 18, 2012 2:09pm
A great informative article. I'd only learned what SEO meant in the past couple of months, but hadn't seen LSI. Now I know and thank you for explaining it so well.
Apr 27, 2012 9:17pm
Wow!! Ziggy, that's really interesting. Never heard of LSI before. I definitely have to read this one over and over again. Really an eye opener!
Apr 27, 2012 9:21pm
Thanks Shivon! Writing this article really helped me learn it for myself. Teach to learn!
Jun 25, 2012 10:39am
I read the interview with JCMayer777 and although I had a pretty good idea of what SEO was, had no idea what LSI was. I check with Wikipedia did not make things more clear. This, however, makes a lot of sense. Thanks Ziggy.
Jun 25, 2012 6:20pm
Awesome! I am really happy to help out. Researching and writing this helped me to really learn it well too and it has been of huge benefit to my writing. LSI is even becoming in high demand in freelance writing now!
Apr 27, 2013 7:54am
Good info, ZiggyD. I needed that explained to me.
Jul 25, 2013 7:00am
You did a really good job at explaining the concept. As a beginner also, I am very clear about it right now. Thank you!
Jan 21, 2015 12:09pm
Excellent explanation
Apr 15, 2015 11:51pm
Good article, thanks mate!
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