When Google released Hummingbird back in 2013, everyone was talking about long-tail keywords. Now, in the age of RankBrain, there’s a new keyword trend in search marketing, which caters for a smarter, machine learning Google.

They’re known as LSI keywords. And, despite being around for quite some time already, marketers have been taking them far more seriously since RankBrain rolled out in 2015. So let’s take a closer look at LSI keywords and why you should be using them.

What are LSI keywords?

LSI keywords are related to the queries users type into Google, but we’re not simply talking about words with similar meanings. These also include keywords that are related to each other in a broader context, based on all of the search patterns and behaviours Google is able to collect on a daily basis.

Google uses this in a number of ways.

LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing – but don’t let that painfully dull name put you off. By using this technology, Google is able to pair up related keywords and search queries, making it less dependent on exact matches. You can see this technology in action when you get autocomplete suggestions in Google Search:

More importantly, from an SEO perspective, this is one of the technologies that allows Google to return relevant results for searches, even when you don’t use the exact same keyword. We’re talking about Google’s ability to contextually understand user queries and then match it to the most relevant content, rather than relying on the old keyword model.

Why should I care about LSI keywords?

As we say, LSI has been around for years but it has only really taken off in SEO over the last year or so. There are a number of reasons for the recent rise of LSI keywords, which means it must be time for a handy list of bullet points:

  • LSI keywords give Google more context about your content
  • They give you more control over which queries you rank for
  • You reach a wider audience of people using different search queries
  • You hit 2-3% keyword density without repeating the exact same word
  • LSI keyword research uncovers a lot of longtail and negative keywords for PPC
  • LSI keyword research also helps you better understand what your target audience cares about

There are plenty of good reasons in that list, but the key thing is Google uses LSI to deliver relevant results. Which means you can use LSI keywords to give Google vital information about your content. At its most basic, this helps Google understand whether you’re talking about – for example – retinas in the human eye or Apple’s HD screen technology. At a more complex level, it helps Google determine which pieces of content are most relevant to searches, even when they cover the same broader topic (eg: iPad screens).

How can I use LSI keywords?

The great thing about LSI keywords is they’re very easy to use. You can start with Google’s keyword planner and there are also specific LSI keyword tools available, which can make the process even faster.

Type in the keyword you want to rank for on any given page and you’ll get a list of potential LSIs to use. They won’t all be relevant or useful, so you’ll have to pick out the best options and create a list of LSI keepers for each of your target search terms.

Now this is the important part. To get the most out of LSI keywords, you’ll need to produce long-form content to naturally fit them into your work. Using LSI keywords is not a justification for keyword stuffing and Google will be able to catch you out if you go too far. The good news is longer content performs better in search results anyway, partly because it naturally uses more LSI keywords, giving Google a better contextual understanding. It also tends to answer user questions in more detail, which is the whole point of searching in the first place.

So use LSI keywords as another reason to create longer content for your users while giving Google the information it needs to see it is relevant. Google wants this information to help it return the most relevant results it possibly can and LSIs also give you more control over which kind of queries your content ranks for.

Who ever said keywords are dead?