LSI Keywords Affect SEO for SERPS

This one is going to shock a lot of SEOs.

Google’s John Mueller recently fielded a question about best-practices for anchor texts. During his answer, he took a shot at the concept of latent semantic indexing (LSI).

Mueller flat-out said that Google doesn’t recognize LSI.

So, once again, it looks like the conventional wisdom is wrong.

In this article, I’ll cover the concept of LSI keywords and go into more detail about what Mueller said.

LSI Keywords

Another SEO Myth Busted: LSI Keywords in SERPS

What Are LSI Keywords?

Let’s step into the Wayback Machine and revisit the late 1990’s. Titanic became the first film to gross $1 billion at the box office, Seinfeld made us laugh, and the European Central Bank was born.

Also: a couple of guys from Stanford started this company called Google. It was a search engine on the Internet.

Back then, Google determined which pages to surface in the results list by looking for keyword matches on web pages.

Those were the easy days of SEO. All webmasters had to do was stuff their pages with keywords.

Well Google got wiser with age and caught on to that “keyword stuffing” trick. So the company updated its search algorithm.

But not in the way a lot of SEOs think.

According to the narrative that’s still prevalent to this day, Google uses LSI to determine context and match search terms to web pages.

LSI keywords are words and phrases that conceptually relate to the search term. But they’re not necessarily synonyms.

Take, for example, the search term “saltwater fishing reels.” Now think of words related to that subject: “ocean,” “jigging,” “sportfishing,” and “boating.” Those are LSI keywords.

Unfortunately, they don’t mean anything for SEO.

At least according to John Mueller. Who has some knowledge on this subject.

The Question

Mueller made it clear that LSI isn’t a thing when he answered a question about anchor text.

Anchor text, by the way, is the text used in a hyperlink. It’s the word or phrase that people click to visit the linked site.

Here’s what the questioner asked: “What’s the best practice for anchor text wording on internal links as well as external links? For example, using the website name, the blog post title, exact match or LSI keywords?”

The fact that a search strategist on a Google Search Central hangout would even mention LSI is pretty solid evidence that quite a few SEOs still cling to the concept.

Mueller addressed that part first: “Um… First of all, we have no concept of LSI keywords. So that’s something you can completely ignore. I think it’s interesting to look at LSI when you’re thinking about understanding information retrieval as a theoretical or computer science topic. But as an SEO you probably don’t need to worry about that.”

So there it is. Another SEO myth busted.


It’s hard to believe that related words and phrases have absolutely no impact on SEO. But I don’t think that’s what Mueller was trying to say.

Google will evaluate the whole page for context then let its algorithm determine whether or not it’s a match for a specific search term.

But you don’t need to stress over LSI keywords.

Just write naturally. And when you cover a subject thoroughly in your native language, the related words and phrases will emerge throughout the content.

Wrapping It Up

Google doesn’t recognize the concept of LSI keywords. That’s just one more reason to write for humans, not search engines.

And when you do that correctly, you’ll get rewarded with a good rank.