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Has LSI Killed Long-tail Keyword Effectiveness?

Updated on March 19, 2015

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User Searches Are Starting to Result in Semantic Variations Instead of Exact Matches; Is LSI Killing Long-tail keywords?

This page on LSI is a work in progress as I continue to learn the best methods, so bear with me.

I have one main goal over which I muse: I want to find the definitive answer as to whether a person wanting to learn optimum SEO practices should focus on long-tail keywords and terms, semantic variants, or both given the changing landscape of Google's search algorithms with Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, etc. paving the road towards less diversity in exact search terms.

As a person who is sick of finding super outdated references (hint: search engines aren't the same as even a year ago, nonetheless 5 years ago), I decided to strike out on my own fast-track adventure into figuring out what helps search rankings the most.

As a quick tip, use the advanced search options to weed out older posts with ranking tips. Essentially, anything more than a year old is probably not going to give you advice that is relevant for the search engines now. I have been ardently, extensively researching this topic myself using the age search function to gather as much information as possible that is actually actionable and relevant to 2015, 2016, and beyond.

While doing so, I inadvertently created a forum post that almost magically skyrocketed to the top of Google search. I don't have an exact explanation for how this happened, but I have realized that this case marks an important step in understanding how search engine indexes work these days.

Read on to find out more about my specific forum post and how I discovered it ranking #1 in Google.

What is Latent Semantic Indexing? The Basics Explained

New Algorithm Changes Mean Semantic vs Long-tail Information Is Sparse

I am in the process of digging up every bit of research I can to try to build a definitive answer.

Unfortunately, because some of these changes are new (or perhaps because the Latent Search Index is growing to include more and more long-tail phrases that get funneled into a results page with semantically relevant results instead of an exact match), it seems that there isn't a great deal of information available on this topic that isn't super outdated and plain bad advice.

I mean, some sites are still advising a minimum keyword density of at least 4%, while others are advising that going much over 2% is putting you in danger of a keyword stuffing penalty by the search algorithms.

It seems like wading through the bull when it comes to finding search terms and SEO strategies is going to become my life for a long time while I try to figure this all out.

Search Engine Optimization Secrets Often Kept Quiet

To an extent, I imagine it is in large part because the newest wave of top SEO secrets are rather hush-hush. I mean, the gurus of search engine optimization obviously want to keep their own salaries high instead of giving away all their tips and secrets.

I find it amazing, though, that sometimes an odd forum post can miraculously become a top contender in a pretty broad search that it wasn't exactly targeting. I just had an experience with this issue after making a forum post on Hubpages with the same title as this hub asking this same question.

Today's Case Study Example with an LSI and Semantics Relevant Forum Post

Basically, while searching for more information to use to build a hub based on LSI vs. long-tail methods, I found several searches where my forum post was the top result. Now, at first, I was searching for relevant results within the last month.

However, amazingly, for one search term (that I randomly found during researching) my forum post was actually #1 (while showing "about 98,000 results (0.50 seconds)" in the result information). The term I searched was "LSI semantic variant long-tail" (without quotes in the search box, though).

At the time of my original search, I hadn't used that exact term at all!

Unfortunately, I only took a screenshot after I went back to the forum and commented about finding my forum post ranked highly for this specific term. Therefore, it then showed up exactly in the text when I went back to take a screenshot.

I promise, though, it originally ranked just like this before I went back and commented on it ranking with the exact keyword. Previously, the various words "LSI", "semantics", "variants", and "long-tail" were in my original forum post, but the exact term wasn't.

Take a look at the screenshot below to see what I mean.

Screenshot of Search Results for LSI Semantic Variant Long-Tail

My original search term was "LSI semantic variant long-tail", but this screenshot was taken after I mentioned the search phrase in the forum post. Both times were #1, though!
My original search term was "LSI semantic variant long-tail", but this screenshot was taken after I mentioned the search phrase in the forum post. Both times were #1, though!

Still Relevant and Appearing in Semantic Latent Indexing Results

Even now when I search, that forum post shows up as the #1 result while being less than a day old. Amazingly, I didn't mention that exact phrasing in my post, at all. It was all in the Latent Semantic Indexing.

This is an amazing case study to use to help direct your application of semantically similar terms for search engines.

I am going to continue to update this post while I dig up some more great information. I am hoping to get some screenshots and other useful information to add.

Stay tuned for more future adventures in LSI, readers!

Edited: I have added some screenshots below that give a great picture of how different search terms still result in different Google rankings and search results. This would imply that exact long-tail terms still make a difference in search, to a certain degree.

However, these exact phrases don't necessarily show up on the given pages exactly. So, this means you may be competing with more competitor sites for visitor traffic than you think for a given specific key phrase compared to what you may see listed as the volume of traffic and competition in Google AdWords Keyword Finder tool (and other similar resources).

It truly is quite the conundrum!

Screenshot of Search for Long-Tail Semantics Lsi

Screenshot of the term "long-tail semantics lsi" showing the forum post I madeat #1!
Screenshot of the term "long-tail semantics lsi" showing the forum post I madeat #1!

Screenshot of Search for LSI Long-tail Semantics

A screenshot of a search using the phrase "LSI long-tail semantics" at #2!
A screenshot of a search using the phrase "LSI long-tail semantics" at #2!

Tools for LSI Keyword Research

Gleaning Free Information from Paid LSI Keyword Researching Tools

One of the best ways I have found to gain information in a market that wants to keep its secrets is to figure out exactly what data is being utilized by some of the top SEO tools. Take a look at some sales or demo videos for these sorts of various phrase finding products, and you will be able to glean important details that you can then use free tools to find yourself.

A lot of different "gurus" out there want to give you a taste of their "groundbreaking" content in order to get you to buy their books. Instead, search those pitches from lots of different gurus and piece the nuggets of information together to start building a picture of the best practices for free.

This may include a lot of information like which alternative terms are the most relevant for related keywords, how you can optimize your site based on this information, and other important details.

Check out this demo, for example, that has a lot of great overall strategies that you can also potentially use with free tools elsewhere:

Lots of Great Information for Free in a Paid Demo Video

My Optimizing Journey Continues

I am going to continue searching for the best SEO practices until I get it right.

I also want to continue sharing the information I learn to help increase the knowledge of LSI, long-tail keywords, and other information about semantic variants and ranking strategies. I will definitely be making more hubs addressing these topics soon.

Let me know your thoughts and current practices in the poll, ratings, and comments.

What Do You Think of My Semantic Keyword Musings?

Cast your vote for Optimizing for Search in 2015, 2016, 2017?

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