SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the practice of optimizing a website in order to increase its visibility on search engine results pages. (Which geeks call SERPs). Not a lot has been said about what is latent semantic indexing in SEO. Nonetheless, this post is all about it and we will find out how important it is, in today’s context.
Although LSI has an enormous background in theoretical aspects and research, our discussion will be solely focused on how it helps in SEO and what you can do to improve the same. And I promise to use the least jargon possible.
What exactly is latent semantic indexing?
Let me quote a definition from Wikipedia,
“Latent semantic indexing (LSI) is an indexing and retrieval method that uses a mathematical technique called singular value decomposition (SVD) to identify patterns in the relationships between the terms and concepts contained in an unstructured collection of text.”
To be frank, even I get puzzled reading such definitions. Well, let me give a simple explanation for this.
In a Latent Semantic Indexed database, the search engine will take in account similar values (or synonyms) of a keyword to find its context. That is, instead of merely counting the number of appearances that a word makes, the search engines will look upon its synonyms to exactly figure out the keywords or main subject of that page.
Learning with an example:
For instance, if I’m focusing on a keyword like “winter dresses”, I may hardly use the keyword more than 3 times for an article of 400 – 500 words. If I use it quite often, it leads to the infamous practice of keyword stuffing. Moreover it sounds unnatural. Instead, I can use synonyms of the keyword like “winter apparel”, so that the search engines understand that my article is completely focused on winter dresses.
For instance, I searched for “winter apparel” on Google and found these two results at third and fourth positions respectively.
Although I have searched for “winter apparel”, Google knows that “Winter Jacket” is an apparel related to winter. This is the power of latent semantic indexing!
Now, take a look at the second result. “Winter sports” seem to have less relation to “winter apparel”. But the page has got information that best suits “winter apparel”. This way, we can take advantage of latent semantic indexing.
An obvious question – Is Google using latent semantic indexing?
Although we cannot directly ascertain that Google uses latent semantic indexing, it is quite obvious from the results that LSI is a part of their algorithm.
There are mainly two reasons why Google would use LSI
- To reduce the spam that shows up on SERPs due to practices like keyword stuffing
- To improve the quality of search results and let users find relevant results
That said, it is quite clear from the results that Google is using LSI for AdSense too. On the flipside, Google may be using a variety of semantic indexing techniques in its algorithm to determine the context of the content.
What can you do to streamline your content for LSI?
Since LSI can be a crucial aspect in deciding where you rank in the results, I have some interesting tips to share
- Do not stuff Keyword – This may be one of the foremost things that we learn in SEO. But let’s take it to the next level. Stuffing keywords is not just using a keyword so many times. Suppose if you have a content that is 500 words long, yet you use your main keyword thrice in the first paragraph, you’ve stuffed keywords pretty well there ;).
- Find out synonyms or similar words for your keyword. Use the most appropriate ones, so the content is like a natural conversation.
- Keep the scratch line on say, 4 – 5 synonyms at most.
- Experiment with the different semantic usages and find out the best words that suits your context.
- Make use of Google webmaster Tools. Find out what queries are coming toward your website. Make a list of the incoming search terms and use synonyms of the same in existing content to improve their rankings.
- Use different styles and elements. You can think of making your keyword stand out by highlighting it. (say, making it bold or italics, underlining it and so on) Make sure that you don’t overdo it.
There is an example I would love to share for LSI usage,Topic – How to write title tags by Kristine Schachinger on search engine watch in 2012. There was a checklist on title tags, quiz for the readers and many more semantic signals for an optimized content.
Well, that’s it. Now you know what is latent semantic indexing in SEO, it is time for some action. Try to include this in your SEO strategy so that you can improve your ranking. If you have some thoughts on this, why not share it in comments down below? 🙂