A ladder depicting how seo rankings can climb with latent semantic indexing

Using LSI for Better Search Engine Placement

My first “real” job out of college was as a search engine copywriter (according to my parents, being a full-time cashier at what used to be Borders doesn’t count). At first, I couldn’t believe I was going to get paid to do the only thing I have ever been told I am good at, besides procrastinating: writing.

510328408_b10d0c9cb1I’ll never forget my first assignment: writing about electrical fastening equipment. 50 pages. I had to use three keyword phrases per page. Verbatim. Sure, there were minor variations, like “buy fastening equipment” and “fastener equipment online”. But verbatim?

I had to ask my supervisor if there was any wiggle room at all and the answer was a resounding “No.” I could use punctuation to break them up, but they had to appear in order. As is.

Oh, if only Google (and Bing/Yahoo! too) were as advanced then as they are now. I slaved and slaved over that first page; then I read what I had written and I could barely recognize the voice. It certainly wasn’t me; it was a voice more robotic than HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Although researchers at Google had been hinting at it for some time, Panda, with its forceful focus on quality content finally had to be unleashed on SEOs. The content being produced was spammy, seemingly automatic and impersonal. Maybe the spiders’ intelligence was insulted. But the release gives one the ability to write in a tone that’s more inviting and natural.

Why Using Latent Semantic Indexing is Important

While LSI sounds intimidating, especially since it consists of derivations such as Hidden Topic Markov Models and Latent Dirichlet Allocation amongst others (to be covered in depth during a future post) it simply allows search engines to reference a body of words for similar context and meaning. In a nutshell, you can write like a person!

It’s a boon tactic optimization specialists everywhere should use to not only increase their ranking by making it more likely to be shared, but—more importantly— improve the readability for the end-user.

Don’t get me wrong. You should still try to use the main keyword phrase you are targeting once in the text and using stop words will also make your writing seem natural. Search engines still place an emphasis on relevancy. But relevant no longer means compulsively repetitive.

For example, if I wanted to rank for The Empire Strikes Back (and who wouldn’t?) it takes more than mentioning “The Empire Strikes Back” specifically. I would also want to use elements or other items synonymous of the film itself, like:

    • Episode V
    • Hoth
    • Tauntaun
    • Dagobah

How to Conduct LSI Keyword Research

Coming up with a list of related Empire Strikes Back phrases was easy for me, considering I’ve only seen the movie 24 times – yes, I keep track.

But what if you’re tasked with coming up with LSI phrases for your own product/service/idea?

I’ve found that the Beta version of the ’ad group ideas’ portion within the Google keyword research tool is a decent place to start. since it already somewhat themes phrases for you.

Another free tool I’ve found that has some merit, at least as a starting point, is appropriately named www.lsikeywords.com. By typing in a query, the results display additional keyword phrases that appear within content that rank within the top 5 listings on Google.

Ultimately, when writing, write for people- not for rankings. Practicing LSI results in text that flows better, adds to the understanding and enjoyment of the reader. It’s also way more fun to write.

After all, regarding SEO Copywriting, Matt Cutts himself has stated it should be done “…in natural ways where regular people aren’t going to find it stiff or artificial. That tends to be what works best.”

Happy writing.

-Brian Reinhardt

Image via Hopefoot

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