What Is Latent Semantic Indexing (And Why Should You Care)?

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While you should most definitely be exploring any number of other possible traffic sources for your website, it is positively undeniable that search traffic is both one of the most valuable and one of the most elusive. Every time that you think you’ve got Google’s algorithm figured out, they push out an update that throws your plans straight into the dumpster.

This serves to teach you two key lessons. First, you should never write content with purely the search engine bots in mind. The content you create should be created for the readers and visitors to your site. Good content will always be good content. Second, trying to “game the system” is ultimately going to backfire and blow up in your face, so just don’t do it. Again, good content will always be good content.

All this being said, there are some fundamental principles that you should keep tucked away in the back of your mind as you do create content for your website. These types of principles outlast pandas and penguins with the best of them, and one of these principles is called latent semantic indexing.

The basic idea behind latent semantic indexing, or LSI for short, is that it is used to figure out the relationship between the different concepts and terms included in the content. It puts all those words in relation to one another to come up with a better overall picture of what the content is about and, by extension, for whom the content will be most relevant.

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On some level, you could say that latent semantic indexing addresses the previous problem where so many website owners would simply stuff high value keywords in the meta tags and meta descriptions of their pages. They’d literally have hundreds of them in there in hopes of getting ranked for anything remotely related, even if many of these keywords had nothing to do with the subject matter on the page at all. With LSI, the spiders and bots are looking specifically at the on-page content and not so much at the meta tags. The content needs to be there.

Just like Google’s search algorithm, the specifics of how it leverages LSI remains shrouded in mystery. What we do know is that it looks for relevant synonyms to the title of the page or article, as well as the terms that you use in headers (h1, h2, h3, etc.), bold text, italicized text, and so on. Putting it all together, the algorithm can figure out what you’re trying to say and who should read it.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re writing an article about Tesla. That’s already a fairly specific topic, but it’s not really specific enough. Is the article talking strictly about the vehicles and, if so, which model in particular? Is the article talking about Elon Musk and his involvement at Tesla? Is the article discussing the business of Tesla from an investment standpoint? These types of articles approach three very different types of audiences and Google (and other search engines) need to know this difference.

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Think about what other synonyms or related keywords would work their way into those three different topics. While you certainly shouldn’t shoehorn in relevant keywords in an unnatural way and you definitely should not use article spinning software, it is useful to keep the concept of LSI in mind when you go about writing content for your website. Getting to the top of those coveted search engine results pages (SERPs) isn’t easy. Remember that keyword stuffing could get you flagged.

Yes, as John has stated so many times before, if you live by the Google, you’ll die by the Google. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be friends with the Google in the meantime. It’s an open kind of relationship anyhow.

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