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.
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 being 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.
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 which help you show search engines what your content is really about.
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 where it should place you in terms of your position on the Search Engine Results Page when its fielding any given search query.
What does LSI keywords mean for your SEO?
It essentially boils down to another step in your writing process:
Semantic keyword research involves making another list of keywords which 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:
Identify the questions people are actually asking about your keyword
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:
You'll be more relevant – which leads your pages to develop higher quality scores (this is a good thing for getting search engines to display your content more often).
You'll sometimes pay less – for Pay Per Click (PPC – Google Ads, Bing Ads and the like) bids on well-chosen semantically relevant phrases.
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?”
They give you good ideas – struggling to come up with good blog post topics? Check out the semantics of the situation.
Isn't this a major pain in the behind?
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 are 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, too.
Thankfully, Google continues to run away from the idea of keyword stuffing as a valid technique which 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 still obviously present. This often comes with a blast of weird almost-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.
And, while we all must bow to our Google overlords in any case, this time we also do so in the knowledge that we're actually allowing ourselves to write better while we do.
You win this round, Google. You win this round.
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 incredibly complicated (kidding!) methods:
Semantic keyword research method 1:
Type your target keywords or search phrase into Google, as if you were searching for it yourself.
Scroll down to the bottom of the page.
There you'll find a box which Google has helpfully renamed to “Searches related to semantic keywords" (hint hint: we like these).
That's it. Those are some really good, Google-approved LSI keywords right there.
There are also some easy ones to be found using the instant-complete function Google offers.
Type your original keyword into the search bar.
Stop. Do not hit “search”.
Google offers you a drop-down list of suggestions for what you might be looking for.
There you are. Served on a platter.
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:
The catchy, definitely-not-clickbait headline you've created for your article
Meta title and description
Alternate image descriptions
The main body of your content
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.
Defining 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? Or do you have tricks of your own to find the best ones?
Comment below or get in touch!