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What are semantic keywords: definition & context in your posts

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

Sometimes they go by the name LSI keywords. Other times you'll see “semantic search” written somewhere. A proper semantic keywords definition can get pretty complicated.

A bowl of dates, confusing without latent semantic keywords to help explain context
"A date? They must really like me!" (Photo by VD Photography)

But the thinking behind them is actually simple:

Latent semantic keywords are the phrases you use to give search engines a helping hand when it comes to the context of your content.

After all, these are machines we're talking about here.

You or I might be able to tell the difference when someone writes “fire” and they mean something that is hot and useful for cooking food. Or when they write “fire!” and it's an instruction to shoot your acme cannon.

You'll certainly know when they write “fire” and they're referring to someone who's not been working so well recently and might be getting Alan Sugar-ed in the near future...

But to a search algorithm, it's all just words (well, values I suppose?). You need to give them a helping hand to determine search intent.

Enter, stage left, LSI keywords.

What are Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords?

LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing. This sounds all technical and jargon-y. It doesn't have to be though. Just think of them like this:

Semantic keywords are related phrases that help you show search engines what your content is really about.

LSI keywords help search engines with the meaning behind your content, such as of this computer mouse
"It's got four legs, a tail and it loves cheese."

Don't worry. It's essentially the way you write more than fifty words on any given subject anyway.

Have you ever played that game where you have to talk about, say, sausages for a minute straight?

Did you stick to the actual subject for that whole time? Or did you sort of talk around it?

I'm probably stretching that, but it's sort of the same idea here.

Google uses the LSI keywords in your content to decide on its context and relevance.

This helps the Google algorithm decide where your position on the Search Engine Results Page when it's fielding any given search query.

What does LSI keywords mean for your SEO?

It essentially boils down to another step in your copywriting process:

Semantic keyword research involves making another list of keywords that are related to your original keywords.


But actually, it can be pretty easy. I'll explain where to find a keyword list generator and other simple tricks below.

Armed with your research, you'll use your shiny new list of keywords in your content to:

  1. Identify the questions people are actually asking about your keyword

  2. Answer them as completely as you can

  3. Indicate to search engines that your content is highly relevant to the query while you do

Latent semantic keywords – advantages and why use them?

Apart from the obvious “Google says jump” rule, you actually get some pretty nifty advantages by using phrases like these:

1) You'll be more relevant

This will lead your pages to develop higher quality scores (this is a good thing for getting search engines to display your content more often).

2) You'll sometimes pay less

Higher quality scores can mean you may pay lower costs for Pay Per Click advertising (PPC – Google Ads, Bing Ads, and the like). It can mean lower bids on well-chosen semantically relevant phrases.

3) People will click on your content

Because it will actually answer the question they are typing in.

Even if that question is, for example, “freelance content writer” and what they're really asking is, “Is there one near me? Do they look reliable? Can I afford their services?”

By working to hit some semantic phrases, you should be able to tell them everything they want to know.

4) They give you good ideas

Struggling to come up with good blog post topics? Here's a solution.

Check out the semantics of the situation. They'll often give you some intereresting ideas for what to write next.

What are semantic keywords good for?

Stressed man showing semantic keyword research can feel like a chore
"I swear, if they add much more I need to do I'll hire a professional copywriter. I'll do it! Don't think I won't!"

Well, actually, I think semantic keywords are a good thing. Let me explain:

When I first started working as a freelance copywriter, keyword stuffing was already technically dead.

Nevertheless, written obituaries to that effect were still occasionally required by clients:

No, we can't do that anymore. Yes, I'm sure. Okay, we can take a look. Oh, what's that? It looks terrible? No, I had no idea that would happen.”

No doubt most copywriting agencies still field irregular requests that the technique be resurrected, Frankenstein-like, from beyond the grave.

Thankfully, Google continues to run away from the idea of keyword stuffing as a valid technique SEO copywriting services can employ.

And it's doing so at top speed. Screaming loudly. With its fingers in its ears pretending it was never a thing anyway.

You'll still find the odd website where stuffing is obviously present. This often comes with a blast of weird nostalgia akin to accidentally coming across a movie that terrified you as a child.

Being “forced” to use latent semantic keywords in your copy actually makes them much easier to read for machines and for us poor humans.

And, while we all must bow to our Google overlords in any case, this time we do so in the knowledge that we're enabling ourselves to write better while we do.

You win this round, Google. You win this round.

Women finishing a race, suggesting Google's continued focus on promoting human-first writing is a good thing
Pictured: Google, front right.

Are there any good semantic keyword research tools?

Actually, yes. There are loads of them. One of the easiest involves using Google itself. Here are three super-simple methods:

Method 1: "Related searches"

  1. Type your target keywords or search phrase into Google, as if you were searching for it yourself.

  2. Hit search.

  3. Scroll down the page.

  4. There you'll find a box that used to be called "Searches related to semantic keywords" and is now "Related searches" (a.k. hint hint we like these).

That's it. Those are some really good, Google-approved LSI keywords right there.

Method 2: "Autocomplete"

There are also some easy ones to be found using the instant-complete function Google offers.

  1. Type your original keyword into the search bar.

  2. Stop. Do not hit “search”.

  3. Google offers you a drop-down list of suggestions for what you might be looking for.

There you are. Served on a platter.

Method 3: Free tools

You can also use a tool like LSIGraph.

As you'll come to expect with most tools like this, this is free to use up to a certain number of searches each day after you sign up.

Do semantics replace my other keywords?

Hold your horses there, keyword fans. The whole point of using semantically pleasing keywords is to show Google and other search engines what your target keywords are all about.

You'll want to use them sensibly in the normal places alongside your main keywords:

Using them, you should find it's actually easier to make everything look less keyword-dense. Which, as we discussed, is always a good thing.

These days, that's as true for Google as it's always been for the eyes of your human readers.

Helping define your context and meaning

Semantic keywords give your content meaning. This is what Google wants you to do to help it serve up more useful information to searchers. It's also what your customers want.

They had a question in mind when they came online. Using LSI keywords in your SEO helps you give them the answer.

Someone once said that “content is king, but context is god.

They weren't far wrong.

Are you struggling with what semantic keywords are and how to use them?

Let's chat. The Maiden Standard has been providing friendly and helpful SEO copywriting services to businesses in Bristol and much further afield for over ten years.

Get in touch with me at Let me know where you're at. I'll let you know how I can help.

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